The Edington Festival of Music within the Liturgy 20 – 27 August 1995
The Festival Director’s Introduction
Welcome to the fortieth Edington Music Festival. As we greet again friends from past years and new visitors to the Priory, I hope that the very special nature of Edington will inspire and uplift your hearts.
Edington, set in such beautiful countryside, must have been an obvious choice for the Augustinian Bonshommes and the feeling of peace which they knew remains here still. Yet once a year that peace is shattered by the arrival of sixty musicians and many more visitors from all over the country who meet together, renew acquaintances with the village, rehearse, discuss and socialise. But by the most wonderful paradox when all of these people are met together in one place the peace returns. For during the daily round of services the liturgy takes pride of place: it is through this peace that we may draw a little closer to God.
Some would say that liturgy and music can be a distraction. I remember being amused by the instructions in a missal curtly reminding the worshipper that ‘the bell rings three times to draw your attention back to the sacrifice’. But such ‘reminders’ can be useful tools in our worship. No one would claim that music is essential to all worship, no more is a building with stained glass and tall columns. Yet as human beings who are all too easily distracted by life these symbols can be so helpful. That is why art, if not essential to worship, is a vital part of it. How helpful it can be to gaze on a beautiful painting or statue, or to listen to a mass by William Byrd or a motet by Poulenc. It is these stimuli that Edington seeks to provide. To gaze at the tracery of the ceiling, to feel the quiet of the Chancel or the silent worship of a piece of music. These aids focus the mind, prepare the mind and raise the mind to a level where one can receive the gift of God’s spirit.
There is always a worry in my mind that Edington can be a form of escape: it should never be that. It is rather a form of regeneration and preparation. Regeneration after our hectic lives when it is sometimes so hard to find time for our thoughts and preparation for our return to normal routine. During the week we will have the opportunity to concentrate on some elements which are very germane to our modern life: materialism, gratitude, hatred, prejudice and making time for God. The example of Mary and Martha on the last day is to remind us I hope of the central place that Christ must have in our lives. The peace of Edington should allow us to reflect in a calm light and not to forget.
We are fortunate to have the presence of a string orchestra on Tuesday evening this year courtesy of BBC Religious Broadcasting. This allows us to celebrate both the anniversary of the death of Henry Purcell as well as our own more modest achievement of forty years. There is as always a wide range of musical styles represented throughout the week, including one of the first modern performances of A Lobo’s ‘Missa Beata Dei genetrix’ edited by David Trendell. On Friday night there will be a Requiem for members of the Festival and village community, whilst on the Saturday the Schola will be singing parts of the proper for the Feast of a Dedication throughout the day making a marvellous juxtaposition with the Poulenc Mass and ‘Lobet den Herren’ by J.S. Bach.
I am also delighted that John Barnard (who is celebrating his twenty-fifth Festival) and Paul Wigmore have been able to collaborate on a new hymn which will be sung for the first time on the live broadcast on Wednesday evening.
It is a particular pleasure to welcome the Reverend David Belcher to the Festival. I hope that it will be the first of many. David will be preaching and celebrating on Sunday and following in the splendid line of parish priests with which we have been blessed.
My thanks go to all of the people who have helped and discussed the Festival with me but especially to Patrick Elwood and Janet McMullin, Michael Jones and Pat Didcock, Paul Rose, John Barnard, Christine Laslett, Gilbert Green and John d’Arcy, David Trendell, Jeremy Summerly and Peter McCrystal and as usual the host families of Edington and the surrounding areas.