‘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 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 nine-day annual celebration across Easter and St Pancrastide, featuring collaborations with some of today’s best-known composers, a regular choral evensong broadcast on BBC Radio 3, and liturgical services, concerts and outreach all over London.
Now in its eighteenth year, the Festival has commissioned nearly 80 new works and hosted hundreds of premiere performances. Many of these are submitted through our Call for Scores project, 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.
Education is a key priority 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.
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.