Monday 30 August 2021

Boxgrove Choral Festival 2021, concerts and sung services at the 12th century church on the South Downs

Joseph Wicks and the Beaufort Singers at Boxgrove Priory Church
Joseph Wicks and the Beaufort Singers at Boxgrove Priory Church

The village of Boxgrove on the South Downs has had a monastic priory there since the early 12th century and the present day parish church is based around the chancel, central tower, transepts and easternmost bay of the nave of the 12th century monastic church, surround by the ruins of the medieval priory The village was also the site of the discovery, in 1993, of Boxgrove Man, a female or male Homo heidelbergensis, an extinct relative of modern humans (Homo sapiens), and dated to roughly half a million years old, thus the oldest human remains to be found in Britain.

This weekend 2-5 September 2021, Boxgrove Priory is the site of a music festival being presented by The Beaufort Singers, conductor Joseph Wicks (who sings tenor with the Gesualdo Six). There are seven live performances across the four days, with three sung services and four concerts, and all events will be filmed and available on-line later in September via OnJam.

The Beaufort Singers is a chamber choir formed at the University of Cambridge in 2016 under the direction of Joseph Wicks.  Named after Lady Margaret Beaufort who founded St John’s College, Cambridge, the choir’s raison d’être has become the Boxgrove Choral Festival, which was founded in 2018.

Things begin this year with Choral Evensong featuring the music of Gibbons, Howells, Stanford, Rachmaninov and Philip Moore, and the festival ends on Sunday morning with a live-streamed mass with music provided by a festival choir consisting of The Beaufort Singers and Boxgrove Priory Choir, conducted by Christopher Robinson in RVW's final Te Deum.

In between, there is a chance to hear the first performance with a live audience of The Isolation Songbook [see my review], a group of newly commissioned songs created during 2020 for mezzo-soprano Helen Charlston, baritone Michael Craddock and pianist Alexander Soares who will perform a selection from the songbook. Festival director, Joseph Wicks, is giving an organ recital on the Priory's fine 2-manual Hill organ, including music by Dupré and Hindemith. 

There is a a short Renaissance Late concert from The Beaufort Singers performing music from the Spanish renaissance by Lobo and Victoria, which will be immediately followed by an atmospheric candlelit service of Compline, featuring music by Owain Park, Neil Cox, Sheppard and Harris. The festival concert features Howells' Take him earth for cherishing, James MacMillan's Christus Vincit and music by Philip Moore, Neil Cox, Peter Philips, Holst, and Naylor.

Full details from the festival website, and the online festival begins on 12 September, see the OnJam website.

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