From Mozart to Morpurgo – Sherborne gets ready to be famous for its music!

It’s been a remarkable year for the arts in Sherborne, Dorset; already the historic town has provided film sets for Far from The Madding Crowd (release May 2015), The Imitation Game and the recently acclaimed BBC adaptation of Wolf Hall. Previously famous for its role in Goodbye Mr Chips and The Browning Version, Sherborne is fast becoming a ‘must-visit’ destination for film lovers (not to mention being just down the road from ‘Broadchurch’!). Now it’s the turn of music, as the town prepares to welcome the sixteenth Sherborne Abbey Festival in May; acclaimed for its musical excellence and even flying the flag for the South West in this year’s VisitEngland Excellence Awards.

The 2015 Festival takes place over the bank holiday weekend, Friday 1st to Tuesday 5th May. Celebrating an award-winning year, the newly-released Festival programme offers an exceptional line up of  local musicians and schools, alongside renowned international performers. With 70% of all concerts free entry, the Festival is uniquely accessible to all. It offers events to suit all ages and tastes in musical performance, including a special appearance by Author Michael Morpurgo with ‘War Horse, Only Remembered’.

Festival Director John Baker, who founded the Festival in 2000, and last year collected a Silver in the Tourism Event of the Year category of the 2014 Dorset Tourism Awards, is excited by the prospect of further awards this year.  He announces: “We are immensely proud that the Festival has been recognised as a finalist in the SW Tourism Excellence Awards and will also represent the South West in this year’s VisitEngland Excellence Awards – a huge achievement for a voluntary-run Festival where all profits are reinvested in community music projects and future festivals.  Our 2015 event  is a celebration of music in historic Dorset locations, with a varied programme offering a unique platform to talented local musicians and schools alongside acclaimed international performers”.

The 2015 Festival includes what promises to be a moving highlight with readings by Author Michael Morpurgo and songs performed by John Tams and Barry Coope, in a concert version of ‘War Horse, Only Remembered’.  The Festival also welcomes two exceptional choirs of international acclaim: Tenebrae, with a breathtaking unanimity of sound and dynamic range, performs ‘Russian Treasures’ featuring two of the greatest names in Russian music, Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky; while British vocal ensemble VOCES8 presents ‘Devotions’, with masterworks from five centuries, creating beautiful music and pitch-perfect harmonies in an inspiring and atmospheric candlelit concert presentation.

In this centenary year of Edith Piaf’s birth, the Festival showcases multi award-winning vocalist, Tina May, who brings to life the music and song of France’s most beloved entertainer, national icon and musical legend with ‘A Celebration of a Legend’. A gifted lyricist, consummate vocalist and sparkling entertainer, Tina May’s astonishing vocal ability and hypnotic stage presence has won her worldwide acclaim.

As always, local young musicians and singers have a major role with concerts by jazz, madrigal, choral and chamber ensembles from Sherborne School, Sherborne Girls (introducing its new String Orchestra), Leweston and The Gryphon School, along with a guest appearance by the Dominican Convent School Choir performing a heady mix of African spiritual and secular music. Sherborne School’s Swing Band moves to a larger venue at The Powell Theatre to accommodate its popular repertoire covering everything from Sinatra to Bublé, while The Gryphon School has teamed up with Bournemouth Sinfonietta Choir for what promises to be a lively performance of composer Alexander L’Estrange’s acclaimed choral piece ‘Zimbe!’.

Local chamber group Rossignol presents ‘Music from the Court of Frederick the Great’ while the Sherborne Festival Chorus and Chameleon Arts Orchestra, conducted by Paul Ellis, brings together two great composers of the late nineteenth century with performances by Brahms and Wagner.  Guitarist, Samantha Muir, performs ‘Legends and Laments’ from Brazil while Margaret Phillips, Professor of Organ at the Royal College of Music and recognised as a leading interpreter of Bach’s music, presents a concert in Sherborne Abbey that concludes with a brilliant toccata.  For a ‘hands-on’ experience, recorder enthusiasts will enjoy the musical workshop with iFlautisti, offering a unique opportunity to learn about recorder music from the Renaissance period to modern day and then perform with London’s leading Recorder Quartet.

Information on the full Festival programme, with more than twenty five events, along with artists’ biographies, sound and video excerpts and details on buying tickets can be found at General booking for Sherborne Abbey Festival opens on 28th February 2015. 70% of all performances are free entry.

Editors’ Notes:

Sherborne Abbey Festival is entirely run by volunteers. It was founded in 2000 to celebrate music within the inspiring and historic setting of Sherborne Abbey, and now other local venues, and presents an exciting programme with international performers and top music scholars from local schools. 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 its profits to support future events and as much free access to concerts as possible. The Festival also supports and encourages music in the community including music lessons at a local youth centre,  providing a new piano for the Abbey Choir Vestry, maintenance of the organ at Sherborne Abbey and funding of the Abbey Choir itself, including music lessons for choristers.

For more information about the Festival’s Awards visit

See the 2015 full Festival programme

For information on ticket sales visit

To book for ticketed events visit or in person at Sherborne Tourist Information Centre, Digby Road, Sherborne.

Press enquiries/image requests/journalist visits: contact Liz Burt 07795 298781 e:

General event enquiries: 07724 396470, Box Office enquiries only 07528 144292.

Follow the Festival on Twitter @abbeyfestival

Pin It on Pinterest