Sherborne Abbey Festival welcomed globally-acclaimed stars of music to its 5-day event over the May Bank Holiday weekend. World-class violinist Nicola Benedetti CBE wowed a capacity audience of more than 820 in Sherborne Abbey while fans of BBC’s Pointless got to see another side to entertainer Alexander Armstrong who demonstrated his superb singing skills, accompanied by four truly accomplished musicians. As a complete contrast, Claire Martin OBE and Ray Gelato, the UK’s ‘Godfather of Swing’, entertained in their own inimitable style at Sherborne School with an evening of jazz while vocal ensemble Tenebrae made a very welcome return to the Festival. A much anticipated highlight was the performance by Sherborne Festival Chorus, a non-auditioning community-based choir of 140 people, with Mendelssohn’s Elijah, with bass David Soar as Elijah.

These stellar performers were joined by other hugely talented musicians and singers throughout the Festival – including, to name but a few, organist James O’Donnell (Director of Music at Westminster Abbey), baritone Benjamin Hewat-Craw and pianist Varvara Tarasova.

A group from Dorset Opera Festival ran the Festival’s popular Saturday morning workshop and then performed an outdoor ‘Pocket Performance’ of La Traviata in front of around 200 people enjoying the sunshine outside Waitrose; while a relaxed screening of Fantasia, Disney’s 1940 animation set to classical music, and a Guitar Workshop for ‘Kids That Rock’ gave a lot of bank holiday fun for young people of the town.

We were delighted to be one of the first events to use the brand new Arts Centre at Sherborne Girls with a moving performance The Pity of War, with BBC Radio 3’s Petroc Trelawny, and a magnificent piano recital by Ana Laura Manero. 

Liturgical elements of the Festival, always a very important part of the event, included a new anthem, commissioned especially for the anniversary from locally-born composer David Bednall, which was played by David for the first time at Sherborne Abbey’s Choral Evensong on Sunday 5th May. As always, local young musicians, bands and singers had a major role with jazz, close harmony and barbershop, madrigal, choral and chamber ensembles from Sherborne School, Sherborne Girls, Leweston and The Gryphon School.

An after Festival wine-pairing dinner event at The Eastbury Hotel on May 8th offered a contrasting wind-down to a busy week, when guests enjoyed French cafe-style entertainment by the Terry Quinney Trio, along with a talk from award-winning organic & biodynamic winemaker Caro Feely and a delicious menu by chef Matthew Street of Seasons Restaurant.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank the hundreds of talented performers who entertained us, the staff of Sherborne Abbey and all of our Festival venues, our sponsors, local business supporters and suppliers, patrons, organising committee and volunteers (without whom the Festival would simply not be possible) and especially to all of you who came to concerts and enjoyed what the Festival is all about – great music and performance for ALL the community to enjoy!

We are grateful to the many thousands who shared our programme of musical experiences with others in the local community, while flying the flag for Sherborne and Dorset to all those Festival-goers from further afield!


Please enjoy some amazing photographs from our 20th Season, by our resident photographer LEN COPLAND:

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Copyright Notice: Photographs are free to download, share and re-publish but please credit Len Copland and Sherborne Abbey Festival

Also see our social media and events gallery by Liz Murray:

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