The Edington Festival of Music within the Liturgy
Sunday 17 August to Sunday 24 August 2014
This year’s festival is, more than ever, one of celebration and, with the completion of the appeal and the installation of a new organ by the Durham-based firm Harrison & Harrison, there is much to celebrate. This most generous of gifts to the Priory Church from supporters of the festival and parish from both near and afar should turn our minds to the importance of gifts throughout our lives. Our week’s worship takes for its structure the gift of word in the poetry of George Herbert, and the spiritual gifts which are The Seven Sacraments. Within this framework, we celebrate the completion and dedication of the new organ and the gift of music not only in the choice of choral works, but also through near daily organ recitals.
Edington has a history of commissioning new music, and this year is no exception: three world premières are to take place. Et organo by Alec Roth, this year’s festival commission, has been written for choir and organ and will be performed during Choral Matins on Friday 22 August, and Joseph Phibbs (commissioned by the Edington Music Festival Association) and Guy Bovet (commissioned by Harrison & Harrison) are writing short organ pieces which will be heard in the recitals during the week. The pieces are to be included in the Orgelbüchlein Project (www.orgelbuechlein.co.uk), a major international composition project to complete J S Bach’s Orgelbüchlein or ‘Little Organ Book’ from which 118 pieces are missing. As ever, we are extremely grateful to the Edington Music Festival Association for continuing to commission important new works that bring the festival to the notice of choirs and congregations across the communion.
These commissions mark the immense achievement that we celebrate with the dedication of the new organ following the successful two-year appeal undertaken by the Edington Music Festival Association. You will notice that there is a most enticing festival lecture to given by The Reverend Canon Jeremy Davies on Friday afternoon, some five additions to the programme for the week, and a change to the normal order of events for Saturday. Preceding each evening service there will be a short organ recital given by former Festival Organists, Peter Wright, Stephen Farr and Julian Thomas, and this year’s Festival Organist Daniel Hyde.
A crescendo is reached on Saturday afternoon. The Friends of the Priory Church will hold their AGM as usual, but have most kindly extended an invitation to those of us who are not yet members of that body to join them for a celebratory lunch at 1.00pm in the marquee in the Parish Field at the west end of the churchyard. Tickets for this two course lunch cost £12 per person, to include a glass of wine or soft drink. Numbers will be limited on a first come, first served basis, so please apply in good time and certainly by 16 August, by sending a cheque made out to The Friends of Edington Priory Church and a stamped, addressed envelope to Mrs Susie Hancock, Dunge Farm, West Ashton, Trowbridge, Wiltshire BA14 6AX. Tickets will not be available on the day and parking will be controlled in the usual manner for those with both a Disabled Blue Badge and a Festival Parking Pass that has been obtained from Mrs Joanna Robertson (for details, see the leaflet).
At 2.30pm, the Friends’ Talk, open to all at no cost, will be given in the Priory Church by Mark Venning, Chairman of Harrison & Harrison, who will explain how they designed and built the new organ. It is quite simply an occasion not to be missed, and a clear indication of the value of joining the Friends of the Priory Church which has, since its inception in 1956, done so much to preserve and improve the fabric of our most beautiful building and has been such a generous contributor to the Organ Appeal.
Following on from this, Evensong will take place at the earlier than usual time of 5.00pm and will include the dedication of the organ by the Bishop of Ramsbury. After Evensong and a short toast to our good fortune, former Festival Organist and Director Ashley Grote will give the Dedication Organ Concert which will include both pieces for solo organ and for accompanied choir.
Of course, one of the great joys of the festival is that, whatever special occasions may arise, the daily round of worship and music making gives us the opportunity to pause a while and reflect on the gifts from which we all benefit. We will be aided in this by hearing beautiful Mass-settings by Tallis, Victoria and Haydn, Fauré’s Requiem, Langlais’s Messe solennelle and settings by Judith Weir of George Herbert. As usual, there will be a live broadcast of Choral Evensong on BBC Radio 3, which this year will feature music by Victoria, Howells and Matthew Martin, our Nave Choir Director.
Many of you will have learnt the most sad news that Joy Cooke, after many years of stoical struggle against bad health, died in the late Autumn of last year. Perhaps the most stalwart of supporters of the festival over so many decades, she will be fondly remembered for her generosity of spirit, indefatigable nature and simple love of all that is best in the Anglican choral tradition. Her role as one of the founding forces of the Association, her friendship, and her years of service to the festival in so many guises, allow us feel her loss most keenly. It is thus doubly fitting that the first time a congregation was accompanied by the new organ was on the occasion that her ashes were interred on the North side of the Priory Church, and that there is an opportunity to remember Joy and all others of those who hold a special place in our thoughts at a Requiem Mass featuring Gabriel Fauré’s setting on the Friday of the week.
The festival’s personnel will otherwise be largely unchanged this summer, save that Daniel Hyde, Informator Choristarum and Organist of Magdalen College, Oxford, will be filling the role of Festival Organist, a rare treat and most serendipitous of occurrences in this year focused so much on the new organ.
To hear music in the context for which it was written and for the instrument for which it has been written is truly a special gift. I do so very much hope you will join us for what will be an unforgettable and joyous week of worship this summer.