Celebrating Sir James MacMillan’s 60th birthday year

Artistic Director Nigel Short

Palm Sunday 14th April – Holy Saturday 20th April 2019


Returning for a third successive year, St John’s Smith Square and Tenebrae are delighted to announce the Holy Week Festival 2019 running from Palm Sunday 14th April – Holy Saturday 20th April 2019.

Curated in partnership with Tenebrae and Nigel Short, St John’s Smith Square will host workshops, ticketed concerts and free late-night liturgical events exploring a vast range of sacred music in celebration of Holy Week. Nigel Short and Tenebrae will perform a moving sequence of devotional settings and responses on Spy Wednesday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. The festival will also include opportunities to participate in workshops.

The 2019 festival will also mark Sir James MacMillan’s 60th birthday year by celebrating his extraordinarily beautiful and evocative music.

Sir James MacMillan said: “With the growing interest in, and popularity for sacred music this is an event which is making a timely appearance, especially at a liturgically charged time of year. It appeals to the religious and non-religious alike, in that its cherished repertoire is central to our great classical musical culture, which is now a universal language and heritage. Nigel Short is one of the great choral directors of our time and has established Tenebrae as one of the most significant vocal groups in the land. They provide a crucial popular core and focus for the festival which will have enormous reach and attraction, bringing in other vital and esteemed musical collaborators. St John’s Smith Square is the perfect co-curator for this endeavour and remains one of the most attractive venues in the centre of London. I am delighted and flattered that the curators are programming my music for their 2019 festival to mark my 60th birthday."

Distinguished headline performers in this year’s festival include the Brodsky Quartet, Ex Cathedra, The Marian Consort, Polyphony and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and The Tallis Scholars. Alongside this are leading amateur (Etcetera Choir), collegiate (Choir of Clare College, Cambridge) and young professional ensembles (SANSARA and Siglo de Oro). Tenebrae is also delighted to collaborate with the Britten Sinfonia for MacMillan’s groundbreaking Seven Last Words from the Cross and the BBC Singers, conducted by Sir James MacMillan, will perform a selection of the composer’s a cappella works including movements from The Strathclyde Motets and A Choral Sequence from the St John Passion.

Nigel Short, Artistic Director of the Festival said: “Our Holy Week Festival is a celebration of glorious music from composers inspired by the greatest devotion and faith, who were moved by the compelling narrative of Holy Week. From the late-night Offices of Tenebrae sung by candlelight to J.S. Bach’s powerful St John and St Matthew Passions, there will be something for everyone. The festival will also mark the 60th birthday year of one of the UK’s finest living composers, Sir James MacMillan, by celebrating his extraordinarily beautiful and evocative music. Once again, we are delighted to welcome some of the UK’s finest vocal ensembles together with their astonishingly talented directors. When you have made the journey to St John’s Smith Square to join us, sit back, relax and let this musical feast transport you away from the everyday strains and stresses of our hectic modern day lives. Stay on to immerse yourself in our re-enactment of some of the most atmospheric and spiritually intense liturgical events of the Christian calendar. I hope that this festival fulfils all your musical needs for the season.”

Richard Heason, Director of St John’s Smith Square said: “We are delighted to welcome back the Holy Week Festival and Tenebrae for such a rich programme of music for Passiontide. St John’s Smith Square is the perfect setting for this music and we look forward to welcoming audiences and performers alike for such an evocative and resonant series of events. The Holy Week Festival has fast become one of the star events in our calendar.”


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