Sherborne Abbey Festival 2023

Sponsored by Porter Dodson

This year’s Festival attracted some of its largest audiences to date and featured a diverse range of musical performances from world renowned musicians, including Steven Isserlis, Julian Bliss, Gabrielle Ducomble, Ruth Rogers, Iuventus Chamber Orchestra, and internationally acclaimed choir, The Sixteen.

Full Festival highlights below…

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World Class

One of our principal aims is to host world class performances alongside local musical talent, so who better to open this year’s Festival than the marvellous Sherborne Festival Chorus! Conducted by Paul Ellis, this enthusiastic choral society of 75 local singers raised the roof of the Abbey alongside 4 professional guest soloists and a guest orchestra.

Sherborne Abbey Festival Chorus

In a completely full Abbey, the Sixteen were rapturously received performing their sumptuous programme of choral music through the ages. One of their singers was heard to say after the concert that the Abbey is her ‘new favourite venue’ – we couldn’t agree more! Welcoming back our wonderful Artistic Advisor Ruth Rogers with the Iuventus Orchestra is always a joy! Their performance with cellist Stephen Isserlis has gone down in many people’s minds as the best concert ever to be heard in the Abbey.

The Sixteen playing in Sherborne Abbey

Giving back

Another of our fundamental aims is to support local music initiatives, especially those involving young people. In keeping with this ethos, we incorporate something for all age groups during the festival and tickets for all concerts are half price for under 18s. Following its huge success last year, we held another free ‘Drum Runners Workshop’ which moved inside to the church hall because of weather conditions, nevertheless, a great deal of fun was had by all!

Money raised during the Festival contributes towards charitable causes, scholarships, grants and support of the music at Sherborne Abbey. The Abbey’s stunning Yamaha grand piano was bought for the Abbey following last year’s Festival and it’s been an absolute joy to hear it featured in so many of this year’s concerts, and indeed, throughout the year. We were therefore thrilled to welcome John Lenehan, one of the most versatile and respected pianists on the classical scene today – he really put the new piano through its paces with an eclectic and impressive recital! Advanced pianists from local senior schools were offered complimentary tickets to this concert, and about 20 students were able to chat with John about their own playing after the concert.

We were also delighted to host composer and conductor, Elliott Park, who was awarded a grant towards his studies as a post-graduate composition scholar at The Royal Academy of Music. It’s always such a pleasure to welcome grant recipients to perform at the Festival and for audiences to be able to enjoy their music, knowing that by supporting the Festival, you are also supporting these talented young people with such promising musical careers ahead of them.

Elliott Park at The Sherborne Abbey Festival

Community and celebration

We are fortunate to be part of such a strong musical community and this is something we celebrate during every Festival. This year was no exception, with concerts from ensembles such as Wessex Strings, local choirs, Sherborne Town Band and the incomprehensibly talented young people from the local schools in and around Sherborne.

It is also a time to celebrate our magnificent Abbey, renowned for its architectural beauty and superb acoustics, which provides such a stunning backdrop for so many of the concerts and services. The festal eucharist and festal evensong were incredibly well supported and wonderfully sung by the Abbey Choir. Just across the road from the Abbey, The Plume of Feathers has hosted the much anticipated Dinner & Opera for several years now, with these evenings always amongst the first to sell out!

Festival Firsts

It was indeed a year for gently pushing forwards as we strive to provide the best Festival experience for all who attend. This year saw the introduction of the first Festival Souvenir Brochures which were packed full of musical literature, pictures and programme information; and so in-demand that unfortunately we sold out!

Sherborne Abbey Choir, led by the Abbey’s Director of music, Jamie Henderson, made a very welcome Festival debut with a beautiful programme of music celebrating the 400th anniversary of Byrd.

Wine was sold at pop-up bars during the interval of the evening concerts in the Abbey for the first time, and as suspected, was very well received!


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