Matthew Swan: Great British Choral Anthems
Matthew Swann, CLS Chief Executive, looks ahead to our National Cathedrals Tour – from Truro on 30 September to Chester on 21 October via Hereford, Lichfield, Southwell and York.
City of London Sinfonia’s most recent Cathedrals Tour in 2013 was a reminder to us, and our Artistic Director Stephen Layton, of the incredible music making that our cathedrals produce, day after day, across the length and breadth of the country. You might argue (and I would agree with you!) that an orchestra that regularly performs at services and concerts in St Paul’s and Southwark Cathedrals in London should need no reminder of this astonishing music-making. Nonetheless it was a delight to perform all around the country with organists and choirs who were producing world-class music, often on scant resources. As soon as this first tour was finished, our thoughts turned to something bigger and better for next time.
This autumn’s tour – Great British Choral Anthems – will journey from Truro all the way up to York. We will visit some friends from last time, as well as making new ones who were inspired to get involved with the tour after hearing about the success of 2013. All of them are relishing the opportunity for their boys and girls to have the life-shaping experience of performing with a world-class professional orchestra, under the baton of one of our outstanding choral conductors. The Directors of Music, those inspirational stalwarts of cathedral music making, will get the chance to conduct CLS, and each cathedral’s organist will perform one of Handel’s concertos with us too.
I’m pleased to say that as well as the invaluable partnership we have with Friends of Cathedral Music, who support so much church and cathedral music making up and down the country, we have the financial support and encouragement of Arts Council England to make the tour possible (and keep ticket prices down). For all the political and economic turmoil we face (not least ever-decreasing funding for the arts), it is pleasing that Arts Council England still consider music-making in our cathedrals to be relevant and vibrant, as well as valuing the contribution they make to the nation’s musical heritage.
This is all good and worthy, but we should not forget that cathedral music-making should lift the spirit, and when it comes to concerts, entertain! Our Great British Choral Anthems programme is sure to do both. In each cathedral we have the resounding pomp of Handel’s Coronation Anthems, and a thrilling new anthem by James MacMillan (I have seen a sneak preview of the score, and it promises to be a tour de force for choir and organist alike). Each cathedral will also present its own choice of music, with Byrd and Tallis, Elgar and Walton, and the present day equally represented.
I, for one, am thrilled to be travelling around the country to experience fine singing and playing this September and October, and hope that as many of you as possible will join us on our journey.