From Venice to Paris in Sherborne | The FTR

From Venice to Paris in Sherborne | The FTR


Thank you to the FTR for previewing what’s on at the 2017 Festival | Read more


SHERBORNE Abbey Festival 2017 brings two former BBC Young Musicians to Dorset, and a series of concerts that will transport the audience from Venice to Paris, from the sassy jazz clarinet of Sidney Bechet and Benny Goodman to the mystical majesty of The Dream of Gerontius.

Artistic director John Baker has programmed five days of magnificent music spanning five centuries, bringing outstanding national and regional musicians to Sherborne from 28th April to 2nd May.

The BBC Young Musicians are  the 1984 winner, clarinettist Emma Johnson, in an exciting jazz programme, with pianists John Lenehan and percussionist Paul Clarvis, and Nicola Benedetti, the 2004 winner and twice Classical BRITS best female artist, who will play Beethoven’s violin concerto at the festival finale with the Iuventus Chamber Orchestra, founded and led by Shaftesbury-born violinist and chamber musician Ruth Rogers.

The first day features concerts by Sherborne School chamber groups and swing band, Ragtime Rediscovered at the Cheap Street Church with Mike Denham, and Jane Austen at Home, readings from letters, poetry and novels by the author of Pride and Prejudice, marking the 200th anniversary of her death. The reader will be Emerald O’Hanrahan, better known to many as Emma Grundy in The Archers.

The evening concert in the abbey is A Hymn of Heavenly Beauty, choral and meditative masterpieces from the Renaissance, Russian Orthodox repertoire and 21st century, performed by the chamber group Tenebrae.

Saturday’s programme includes a samba workshop and concert, Sherborne School close harmony and barbershop group, Sherborne Youth Band, local professional ensemble Rossignol playing music by Scarlatti the Elder, and Emma Johnson’s Clarinet Goes to Town at the abbey in the evening.

Sunday begins with Gryphon School Choirs and Bournemouth Sinfonietta in the abbey at 1.30pm, performing Velorution by British composer Alexander L’Estrange, commissioned to celebrate le grand depart of the 2014 Tour de France from Yorkshire. this is followed by Twenty Years of Sherborne Young Singers and a double bill of jazz at Sherborne School’s Big School Room with the gypsy-klezmer sounds of Gypsy Carnivals and the seductive Gabrielle Ducomble and her trio singing Parisian style jazz and tango.

On Bank Holiday Monday, 1st May, Robert Sharpe will play works from Bach to 20th century French composers on Sherborne Abbey’s magnificent organ, the Greentrees Quintet will delight with A Cornucopia of Wind at Castleton Church and Sherborne Early Music will offer a string of Venetian Renaissance Pearls, also at Castleton Church.

At the abbey at 7.30pm, Paul Ellis conducts Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius, with Sherborne Festival Chorus, Chameleon Arts Orchestra, mezzo Frances Bourne as the Angel, tenor Toby Spence as Gerontius, and Peter Savidge, baritone, as the priest and the Angel of the Agony.

The final day of the festival is as varied as you could wish – John Bryden is The Light Fingered Pianist at Cheap Street Church, playing works by Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, Leighton and Schubert, the Madrigal Society of Sherborne Girls School will be in the abbey, the girls school string orchestra will be at Castleton Church and there is a first Sherborne concert, at the Digby Church Hall by Musicians in Black, the classical duo of soprano Olivia Lewis, a former Sherborne Abbey chorister,  and guitarist Felix Strickland, who went to Sherborne School.

The finale event is Bold and Beautiful Beethoven, featuring Nicola Benedetti, one of the world’s leading violinists, playing Beethoven’s violin concerto. The Iuventus Chamber Orchestra, founded and led by Ruth Rogers, will also play Beethoven’s 2nd Symphony, and the concert, in the abbey at 7.30pm, will be conducted by Leonard Elschenbroich.


Please support The Paddock Project

Please support The Paddock Project

Sherborne Abbey Festival wholeheartedly supports The Paddock Project

Uniting local and international art and craft in a world class gallery that would place Sherborne at the creative, cultural and commercial centre of Dorset and the region.

A place where people could meet, create and explore. Featuring an exciting programme of changing exhibitions, from historic to contemporary, with something for everyone.

Please come along to the Public Consultation on 13th March to find out more.

Stop Press: Tickets on general release 1st March!

Stop Press: Tickets on general release 1st March!

From Bold and Beautiful Beethoven to Gypsy Carnivals, Sherborne Abbey Festival offers something for everyone!

With an eighteenth season in 2017, and many awards for tourism under its belt, there can be no doubt that the first May weekend in Sherborne means only one thing – Sherborne Abbey Festival and wonderful music of all kinds!

This year’s programme, taking place from 28th April – 2nd May is no exception; full of exciting and adventurous performances, with something for all tastes and ages. The Festival is unique in that seventy percent of all performances are free entry, making it one of Dorset’s most welcoming and accessible music events.

This year welcomes back one of the world’s most acclaimed vocal ensembles, Tenebrae, under the direction of Nigel Short with A Hymn of Heavenly Beauty celebrating some of the finest choral works from the Renaissance through to the present day.

Audiences also get the chance to see acclaimed violinist Nicola Benedetti, winner of Best Female Artist at both the 2012 and 2013 Classical BRIT Awards. One of the most sought after violinists of her generation, Nicola will perform Bold and Beautiful Beethoven, accompanied by the Iuventus Chamber Orchestra led by Ruth Rogers.

As a complete contrast, a double-header evening performance features Parisian Moods with the Gypsy Carnivals band and their lively upbeat sounds of 1930s Paris Gypsy Jazz. Followed in the second half by Gabrielle Ducomble with her special blend of Gallic charm, putting a fresh jazz spin on iconic chansons by Edith Piaf, Michel Legrand, Serge Gainsbourg and Astor Piazzolla.

The Clarinet Goes to Town as Emma Johnson, former BBC Young Musician of the Year, and one of the most popular figures on the concert scene, brings the Festival an irresistible new programme paying tribute to some of the greatest clarinettists of all time including Sidney Bechet, Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw.

Fresh from the radio, Emerald O’Hanrahan (better known as Emma Grundy in the Archers) presents Jane Austen at Home – a one-woman show consisting entirely of Jane Austen’s words. Celebrated with extracts from letters, poetry and novels and capturing her warm-hearted and affectionate nature.

Robert Sharpe, Organist of York Minster, showcases Sherborne Abbey’s magnificent Tickell organ with Sounds Majestic a programme of music by 19th and 20th century French composers as well as the most famous composer for the organ, J S Bach.

As always, local young musicians, bands and singers have a major role with jazz, close harmony and barbershop, madrigal, choral and chamber ensembles from Sherborne School, Sherborne Girls and Leweston while The Gryphon School (with Bournemouth Sinfonietta) performs Vive la Vélorution!  by British composer Alexander L’Estrange, commissioned to celebrate the grand depart of the 2014 Tour de France from Yorkshire. Sherborne School’s Swing Band performances are now legendary, attracting such a huge audience that they have moved to a larger venue at Sherborne School Chapel to accommodate fans.

A much anticipated highlight is the performance by Sherborne Festival Chorus, a non-auditioning community-based choir of 140 people. Together with The Sherborne Chamber Choir and Chameleon Arts Orchestra they will present Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius featuring international star tenor Toby Spence, who performed the role of Gerontius in the 2015 Proms with Sir Simon Rattle and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

Festival Director, John Baker, says “The Festival is an exciting celebration of contrasts in music and performance – from an improvisation carnival music workshop, poetry and close harmonies to Gypsy jazz, madrigals and rousing choral works. The programme offers a unique opportunity to experience a wide range of musical performance, from home-grown young talent to international musical stars, and we look forward to welcoming everybody again this year”.

Information on the full Festival programme, with more than twenty five events, and details on buying tickets can be found at

General booking opens on Wednesday 1st March 2017 and 70% of all performances are free entry!

Editors’ Notes:

Multi award-winning Sherborne Abbey Festival is entirely run by volunteers, led by Festival Director John Baker. It was founded in 2000 to celebrate music within the inspiring setting of Sherborne Abbey, local historic churches and schools, and presents an exciting programme with international performers and top music scholars. The Festival Chorus was founded in 2006; conducted by Paul Ellis; it is a community-based non-auditioning choir, which gives local singers the opportunity to perform major works with professional musicians. Each year the Festival reinvests profits to support future events and offer as much free access to concerts as possible. The Festival also supports and encourages music in the community all year, maintaining the organ at Sherborne Abbey and funding of the Abbey Choir itself, including music lessons for choristers.

See the full Festival Programme at

Follow the Festival on Twitter @abbeyfestival

To book tickets online visit or in person at Sherborne Tourist Information Centre, Digby Road, Sherborne. Tel 01935 815341

Press enquiries contact Liz Burt e:

Download high res press images via Dropbox at

2017 Programme is launched

2017 Programme is launched

Award-winning Sherborne Abbey Festival takes place over five days from Friday 28th April – Tuesday 2nd May 2017. See what’s on and download our 2017 Sherborne Abbey Festival Leaflet.

70% of all performances are FREE entry, making it one of the most accessible events of its kind. Where tickets are paid for the price ranges from £8-£25.

Now in its seventeenth season, there can be no doubt that the first weekend in May means only one thing for Sherborne – wonderful music of all kinds. This year’s programme is no exception, and is full of exciting performances including Tenebrae’s Hymn of Heavenly Beauty; Clarinettist, and BBC Young Musician of the Year, Emma Johnson; the Gypsy Carnivals Band, Parisian-style jazz singer Gabrielle Ducomble, Violinist Nicola Benedetti – and even a guest appearance by Emerald O’Hanrahan (better known as Emma Grundy in The Archers) with her one-woman show ‘Jane Austen at Home’.

Sherborne Festival Chorus and The Chameleon Arts Orchestra brings us The Dream of Gerontius (the title role performed by Toby Spence of 2015 Proms fame), while musicians, singers and choirs from local schools will have starring roles, performing every style of music from Chamber and String to Swing and Samba.

There truly is something for everyone and all ages! Browse the 2017 Sherborne Abbey Festival Leaflet and get ready to book when general ticket sales open on 1st March!

Songs of Shakespeare | 18th November

Songs of Shakespeare | 18th November

Don’t miss this wonderful performance in Sherborne’s Cheap Street Church on Friday 18th November.  It promises to be a stunning performance by Benjamin Hewat-Craw, Kieran White and Caroline D’Cruz.  Featuring music by English Composers: Finzi, Quilter, Purcell and many more.

Both singers are studying at Music Colleges in London and Cologne respectively and returning to Sherborne for this special concert. We do hope you this fabulous night of music inspired by the Bard himself.



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