The Edington Festival of Music within the Liturgy (the Edington Music Festival) is marking its 65th birthday with the launch of a new annual award to support choristers at cathedrals, colleges and greater churches that have applied to the Friends of Cathedral Music (FCM) for grant help.

The Edington Festival Award has been made possible by a recent bequest to the Edington Festival Music Association (EMFA), which has been ethically invested. Working in collaboration with the Friends of Cathedral Music’s Diamond Fund for Choristers, the award will be allocated typically for choral training or other support for choristers. The EMFA executive committee has agreed to support boy and girl choristers at choral foundations whether or not they have an existing relationship with the festival.

The inclusion of greater churches as potential beneficiaries of the Edington Festival Award means that funds will also be available to support a grassroots level of choral training within the rich and historic tradition of music inspired by religious texts. This sacred music is at the heart of the eight days of services which comprise the Edington Music Festival, exploring the full panoply of composition from plain chant through to new commissions.

Richard Pinel, Director of the Edington Music Festival and Director of Music at Jesus College Cambridge, comments, “We know that sometimes for financial reasons talented young singers and choirs are unable to undertake professional vocal training to enable them to progress within the particular niche that is church music.”

He continues, “The Edington Music Festival has been a launch pad for both junior choristers and senior musicians for 65 years; a large number of the UK’s most respected and talented oratorio and operatic soloists and organists, and members of the most well known vocal ensembles have participated in the eight day festival since 1956. Our three choirs are selected annually from cathedrals and collegiate choirs all over the UK, and provide an opportunity for more than 80 musicians from the age of 9 or 10 upwards to sing new and familiar music from this complex and beautiful repertoire. We hope that the Edington Festival Award will enable more talented musicians and choirs to experience the joy and fulfilment of singing this extraordinary music.”

The world-famous vocal ensemble The King’s Singers has included many singers over the years who have come through the Edington Festival. Julian Gregory, tenor, and Pat Dunachie, counter-tenor, are two of their latest Edington Festival alumni, and have added their support for the initiative: “Church music is in the blood of The King’s Singers, and so we are delighted to hear that the Edington Music Festival, through this new award, will be working to increase access to training at all levels of church music-making. The Edington Music Festival has been a formative experience for many members of The King’s Singers, past and present, and the more people who are able to experience the kind of music celebrated by this wonderful festival, the richer the world of choral music will be.”

The nearby Wiltshire parish of St John’s, Devizes, where former Assistant Festival Organist Chris Totney is Director of Music, has added its support to the scheme.  “The benefits of singing have been well documented in recent years.  As well as being good for physical and mental wellbeing, it has all sorts of wider benefits such as the development of reading, mathematical and leadership skills to name but a few – and you make friends for life,” says Chris. “The English Choral Tradition is the envy of the world and the Edington Music Festival is one of the most iconic snapshots of this every summer.  In an age where we hear all too frequently about cuts in arts funding, it’s wonderful that this new award scheme will empower choral foundations to provide more sustainable support for future generations of choristers.”

More information and details of how to apply are available here.