About the Festival
“ ‘Sing to the Lord a new song,’ says the psalmist. Our hope is that the Festival of Contemporary Church Music will make a significant contribution to ensuring that there are new songs that can be sung…”
Prebendary Paul Hawkins, former vicar of St Pancras, 2003 Festival address
The London Festival of Contemporary Church Music was founded in 2002 by its Artistic Director, Christopher Batchelor, to promote the living tradition of liturgical music for choir and organ. Since then, it has grown from a handful of events at St Pancras Parish Church to a week-long, annual celebration at St Pancrastide, featuring collaborations with some of today’s best-known composers, a regular Choral Evensong broadcast on BBC Radio 3, and encompassing services, concerts and education work all over London.
Now in its 12th year, the Festival has resulted in the commission of over 30 new works, and played host to at least 40 UK premieres and over 80 world premieres. Many of these are submitted through our Call for Scores, which gives composers at the start of their careers a chance to have their works performed by a professional choir in a liturgical context. In addition, the Festival enjoys close links with today’s more established composers, resulting in commissions by such well-known artists as Michael Berkeley, Michael Finnissey, Gabriel Jackon and Cecilia McDowall, to name but a few.
Every year we devote concerts to contemporary composers such as Richard Rodney Bennett, Judith Bingham, Diana Burrell, Bob Chilcott and Howard Skempton, often welcoming them to talk about their work, and marking important anniversaries for them. The works of these and other renowned composers have been performed at the Festival by many of today’s top artists and vocal ensembles, including James Gilchrist, the Dmitri Ensemble, Gothic Voices, Tonus Peregrinus, the Vasari Singers, and the choirs of Clare and Gonville & Caius Colleges, Cambridge.
Education is a key concern for the Festival. We enjoy links with several local primary schools and with music departments in various London universities and conservatoires, who often host workshops and concerts of contemporary church music during the Festival. We also encourage interdisciplinary collaborations with educational institutions beyond the field of classical music, such as museums and dance schools, to ensure that the Festival reaches a wide range of students. More information about our education work can be found here.
Aside from our educational and concert commitments, our focus remains the introduction of contemporary liturgical music to today’s church services. We are grateful to be supported in our aims by many important places of worship in London and the South-East, including the Chapels Royal (St James’s Palace and the Savoy Chapel), the chapel of King’s College, London, Lincoln’s Inn, St George’s Chapel Windsor Castle, St Paul’s Cathedral, St Paul’s Covent Garden, Royal Hospital Chelsea, Southwark Cathedral, the Temple Church, Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral.
We have been fortunate to have had the support of the Bishops of London and Edmonton since the Festival was founded. Over the years our list of Patrons has grown, as we have garnered interest from many of today’s leading composers, such as James Macmillan and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. A full list of our Patrons can be found here.