Wells Cathedral's innovative music festival is now in its eighth year. A retrospective of sacred choral and organ music of the previous forty years during all services, together with world premiere performances by Wells Cathedral Choir and organists of music by internationally renowned composers, local composers, and composition students from Wells Cathedral School, there are also concerts and a public masterclass with the featured composer of the year. The festival’s President is British composer, Judith Bingham, following on from the late Jonathan Harvey.
The 2016 new music wells festival took place from Sunday 16 – Thursday 20 October. This year’s distinguished featured composer was Judith Weir CBE, Master of the Queen’s Music. Her new choral work, Leaf from leaf christ knows was premiered by Wells Cathedral Choir on Thursday 20 October at the 5.15pm service of Choral Evensong (see the Choristers' Blog for their thoughts on the performance). Judith was also in conversation with fellow composers at 'An Evening with the Master of the Queen’s Music' on Wednesday 19 October, at the cathedral, and gave a public composition masterclass in Cedars Hall on the afternoon of Thursday 20 October. Admission to all of these events was free.
The festival also included world premiere performances of a new setting of Psalm 23 by established British composer, Brian Chapple; works by local composers Stuart Beer, William Drakett (a former choral scholar), and Matthew Owens; and a piece by Thomas Carling, who was a student at Wells Cathedral School up until July of this year.
Premiering six pieces of music in a week would be a daunting prospect for any choir! Needless to say, our choristers and the vicars choral stepped up to the mark and surpassed themselves once again.
In the closing reception, Matthew Owens quoted the late Sir Peter Maxwell-Davies, sometime President of Wells Cathedral's Cathedral Commissions initiative, who said: 'The Church must always be abreast of developments in the cultural life of the society she serves. Her spiritual involvement in all aspects of this – philosophical, scientific, and artistic – is essential to ensure that, while steadfastly maintaining the eternal values for which she stands, she renews herself at the deepest levels, to make her meaning and relevance clear to each successive generation.' A wonderful and important thing of which our choristers are an integral part.