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!

International Music & Dance Fest

International Music & Dance Fest

In 2016 the Douzelage Organisation marks 25 years since its founding.  The intervening years have provided opportunities for thousands of people to join in educational, cultural, sporting, tourist, social, volunteer management and environmental projects, events and exchanges with partner towns across Europe. The Douzelage has organised many projects in Sherborne and regularly taken part in ones abroad.

There will be a celebratory Music and Dance Festival in Sherborne, Dorchester and surrounding villages from 19 to 21 August 2016. The programme of events will include Folk Groups from three European countries, plus Wessex Morris Men, Treacle Eater Clog and the Yetminster Irish Dancers and many more.

Outline Programme

Friday 19 August: FREE EVENTS

Dance Lessons for Children, folk culture discussions, Live performances in Sherborne and villages, evening Open Mike sessions in Sherborne Pubs, The Crown and The White Hart.

Phone Mary 01963 251255 to reserve places on Dance Classes.

Phone Kevin 07825 152251 for information on Workshops

Saturday 20 August: FREE EVENTS

Dance lessons for adults, Workshops, Discussions, Live performances around Sherborne, an afternoon Fair in Pageant Gardens (food and drink stalls, bring a picnic), Gala concert (Tickets for Gala from TIC & Winstones)

Sunday 21 August:

Discussions, workshops, touring and social

The Three Day Programme can be found at this link: Programme summary


Opera in Oborne 2016

Opera in Oborne 2016

Friday 12th – Sunday 14th August 2016



Opera in Oborne began out of a chance meeting between Oborne residents, Sir Robert and Lady Susan Corbett and Gill Ford, the musical director of a group of opera singers, Classical Connections. A lasting friendship between the whole merry band ensued. They often speak wistfully of the night that Sir Robert Shimmied to La Bayadere!

Some years later, St Cuthbert’s was looking for a fund raiser and Sir Robert and Lady Susan had the wonderful idea of hosting a concert at St. Cuthbert’s Church performed by Classical Connections. On a very cold January evening in 2012, four singers and a pianist gave a breath-taking performance of popular arias to Oborne’s residents. Such was the success of the evening that they were immediately press-ganged into returning. 2013 saw another wonderful performance, but the unreliable church heating and the icicles on the pulpit persuaded the villagers that this should be a summer event.

In 2014, to refresh the format, it was decided to produce an abridged opera. With the help of Gill and the singers, Mozart’s The Magic Flute was decided upon and a version was arranged by Stephen Brown. On a balmy August weekend, the inaugural Oborne Opera Weekend took place. The Magic Flute was a triumph, and the Sunday concert was as good as ever. All three evenings were sell-out performances.

2015 saw an abridged version of Mozart’s Don Giovanni along with a few new faces.  We were very lucky to have had Susanna Stranders, Head of Music Staff at Garsington Opera as accompanist; later in 2015 she arranged Don Giovanni for the Royal Opera House’s tour to the Far East.

2016 will see the fifth Opera festival in Oborne and we will be following a similar format, with an abridged version of Le Nozze di Figaro on the Friday and Saturday evenings and a gala concert on the Sunday.  We are delighted to welcome back Susanna Stranders back as musical director, along with the regular singers Eleanor Ross, Stephen Anthony Brown, Florian Bonneau, Maribeth Diggle and special guests.

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 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.



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