Celebrate Shakespeare’s 400th Anniversary

Celebrate Shakespeare’s 400th Anniversary

Much Ado at the Festival to celebrate Shakespeare’s 400th Anniversary

With nationwide excitement building for the 400th Anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, and cities around the country planning major events, Sherborne is playing its part on Tuesday 3rd May when one of the world’s most accomplished and innovative early music vocal ensembles, Stile Antico, performs The Touches of Sweet Harmony (The Musical World of William Shakespeare) at Sherborne Abbey.

Working without a conductor, Stile Antico’s twelve members have thrilled audiences throughout Europe and North America with their fresh, vibrant and moving performances of Renaissance polyphony. Its bestselling recordings on the Harmonia Mundi label have earned accolades including the Gramophone Award for Early Music. The group enjoys a particularly close association with the Wigmore Hall, and has appeared at the BBC Proms, Buckingham Palace, the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, the Cité de la Musique, the Palais des Beaux-Arts and the Luxembourg Philharmonie.

Assembling a centenary programme in honour of The Bard presents more challenges than one might expect: given the extent to which we can assume Shakespeare was well acquainted with the leading musical figures of his day, there are surprisingly few surviving contemporaneous settings of his words. The programme includes just two such rare works by Thomas Morley and Robert Johnson, composers with whom Shakespeare very likely collaborated. These pieces survive only as solo lute songs but they have been arranged into four vocal parts from the lute tablature for this programme – a practice which was in fact commonplace at the time.

These are complemented by works by leading contemporary composers Nico Muhly and Huw Watkins, commissioned especially for Stile Antico by Wigmore Hall, which also set Shakespeare’s words. The remainder of the programme is structured around Shakespeare’s two royal patrons, Queen Elizabeth I and King James I; the first half is devoted to works from Elizabeth’s reign, and the second to Jacobean music. Each half includes a pair of works demonstrating loyalty to the monarch. Byrd’s well-known anthem O Lord, make thy servant Elizabeth finds him at his most lush and ingratiating, alternating between five-part and even more colourful six-part counterpoint, before concluding with one of the most sublime ‘Amen’ settings of the English renaissance. Dowland’s good-natured, madrigalian tribute to the Virgin Queen is a touch more irreverent, if affectionately so; nonetheless, his relationship with Elizabeth’s court was not always a happy one. The pair of anthems by close contemporaries Tomkins and Weelkes (Be strong and of good courage and O Lord, grant the King a long life) were almost certainly performed at James I’s coronation.

This is a unique opportunity to join in the nation’s excitement for Shakespeare’s anniversary, by experiencing the music and lyrics of his time – the performance starts at 7.30pm on Tuesday 3rd May and tickets are available from £10 online at www.sherborneabbeyfestival.org or from Sherborne Tourist Information Centre

“…an ensemble of breathtaking freshness, vitality and balance” New York Times

‘The singing is staggeringly beautiful’ Sunday Times

Stile Antico 2010 Photo: Marco Borggreve

Photo: Marco Borggreve

STILE ANTICO ORIGINS: The term ‘stile antico’, pronounced STEE-lay an-TEE-co, literally means ‘old style’. It was coined during the seventeenth century to describe the style of Renaissance church composition epitomised by the music of Palestrina – polyphonic and imitative in texture, even in rhythm, strictly controlled in its use of dissonance – as opposed to the modern developments in the works of Monteverdi and his contemporaries. Over the centuries, the ‘stile antico’ came to be seen as an ideal of musical purity, and composers such as Beethoven, Schumann, Liszt and Bruckner studied it as part of their training. It is still taught in universities today.



War Horse Joey in Sherborne photo call

War Horse Joey in Sherborne photo call

By special invitation, award-winning Sherborne Abbey Festival has arranged for National Theatre puppeteers and the magnificent life-size horse ‘Joey’ to make a guest appearance at the performance of War Horse Only Remembered, taking place on Saturday 7th November at Sherborne Abbey. Poignantly, this special performance takes place during Remembrance weekend. Although the evening performance has largely sold out, restricted view tickets are still available at just £8.

Earlier that day, at 3.30pm, globally acclaimed Joey will make a photo call at Sherborne Abbey. This is a unique opportunity for fans of War Horse, locals and young people to meet him close up.

Festival Artistic Director, John Baker, said: “It is such an honour for the Festival, and for Sherborne, that the National Theatre has accepted our invitation to visit the town with Joey and his puppeteers. The photo call, and Joey’s guest appearance later that evening with Michael Morpurgo, is our way of saying thank you to all our supporters, and we especially hope that as many young people as possible will come along at 3.30pm for what promises to be a memorable occasion”.

During the main performance of War Horse Only Remembered, which starts at 8pm, author Michael Morpurgo tells the powerful and deeply-moving story of young Albert and his beloved horse Joey. Seen through the eyes of Joey, who witnesses the pity of war on both sides of the trenches, as he moves from life on a farm in peaceful Devon to the devastation of the Western Front in the First World War.

Michael is joined by acclaimed musicians John Tams and Barry Coope, who accompany him with the rousing yet haunting songs specially composed by John Tams for the National Theatre’s award-winning production of War Horse.

Michael Morpurgo says: “War Horse the book was inspired by a fireside chat in a Devon pub, over 30 years ago, with a veteran of the First World War. It has since been a National Theatre play, a symphony concert piece, a radio play and the Spielberg movie. But this concert version adapted by John Tams (the song-maker of the NT production, now four years into its London run) and sung by John Tams himself and Barry Coope, is the closest of all the adaptations to the original book, in which the voice of the storyteller is the voice of Joey, the horse on a Devon farm, sold away to the army to go to the front in 1914. And it’s the version in which, as the reader of the story on stage, I am most involved. Every time I read it, with John and Barry’s glorious music interwoven with the words, I feel as if I’m telling it for the first time, as if I was there, as the old soldier in the pub was, all those years ago.”

Joey, along with the evening’s cast and the author of War Horse, Michael Morpurgo, will also be available for the audience to meet after the performance.

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For more information or photos for this press release and other Festival events, please contact the Press Officer, Liz Burt liz@sherborneabbeyfestival.org t: 07795 298781

General event enquiries 07724 396470 – Box Office enquiries only 07528 144292

Buy last minute tickets at Sherborne Tourist Information Office, Digby Road, Sherborne.

Samantha Muir launches ‘Alma Apaixonada’ CD

Samantha Muir launches ‘Alma Apaixonada’ CD

Festival performer Samantha Muir has just released a sample video with excerpts from her new CD, ‘Alma Apaixonada’.

Samantha will be launching the CD at her Festival concert in Castleton Church on May 4th. The video features photos by RHS Photography of the Year (2012), Josie Elias.


Dominican Convent School Choir to launch Festival

Dominican Convent School Choir to launch Festival

Get a flavour of the Dominican Convent School Choir, who have traveled all the way from Johannesburg and will be launching the Festival with a performance in Sherborne Abbey at 11am on Friday 1st May. Here’s their latest UK Tour images on Flickr

Arrive early to secure a good seat for what promises to be an outstanding event!

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