Tell us a bit about Edington Music Festival and it’s 68-year history

The Edington Festival was founded in 1956 when the then Vicar, Canon Ralph Dudley, invited a recently graduated Cambridge Choral Scholar and some friends to sing the weekend services in the beautiful 14th Century Priory Church in Edington where he had just taken the reins. David Calcutt, later to become a QC, Chairman of the Bar Council and Master Treasurer of the Middle Temple, had been a choral scholar at King’s College, Cambridge and had met Ralph when he was a vicar nearby. David brought 4 trebles from King’s and a few friends and over the course of one extended weekend they sang one service a day, establishing the principle of music sung within the context of the liturgy for which it was written.It was the first time Edington Priory Church had had daily sung services for generations, and was a resounding success. The following year, 1957, the exercise was repeated, with more personnel, a guest clergyman, a choir director and a cook/housekeeper. From there things grew and along with it so did Canon Dudley’s ability to bring the Priory Church back to life: a Society of Friends was formed and much needed funds raised for the restoration of the building. As the music flourished, so did friendships,and lifelong allegiances to the beauty of Edington were formed. Fast forward six decades and the alumni of the festival reads like a who’s who of church music featuring such luminaries as Simon Preston, Richard Seal, Andrew Carwood, Carolyn Sampson, Dan Norman, David Hurley, James Bowman, John Mark Ainsley, two of the current King’s Singers, Julian Gregory and Pat Dunachie, Michael Chance, Sally Dunkley, Simon Carrington, John Eliot Gardner, Sophie Daneman… the list could go on and on…

Tell us a little bit about your role at Edington Music Festival, and what you like most about it.

I have been involved in the running of the festival since 1998 when I was a young barrister who, like our founder, needed to keep in touch with singing. Having been a choral scholar and worked in the summers of my undergraduate years as a counsellor in American Summer Camps it was thought that I might enjoy looking after the 16 visiting trebles and sorting things out. That involved helping set up our overarching charity, the Festival Association, writing and implementing a Safeguarding policy, and getting things on a more predictable footing. Fast forward 25 years and we now have a very secure future. We have raised funds for and built a new organ for the Priory Church and now are able to fund an annual Edington Festival Award to support singing lessons at a deserving Cathedral or church with an established choir around the country. My role involves anything and everything from typesetting the 48 page Companion Booklet, visiting host families, organising safeguarding checks, cutting grass, organising outings for the visiting children, changing microphone batteries, filling in for missing singers or sourcing wood for a bonfire. I am so lucky that I now have a fantastic team of friends around me with whom many things can be shared such as publicity, catering arrangements, host recruitment and looking after the children. It is hard to pick out something that I enjoy the most – I think the truth is that it is the friendships formed and camaraderie that I love the most. So much so that I have gone native and am moving into the village somewhat earlier than planned, this summer rather than when I retire!

Tell us what people can expect from when they attend the festival.

Peace and beauty: the festival is a space and a time for friendship, renewal, excitement and a time to be both amongst much activity and yet able to be alone with one’s inner self. Above all, it offers the opportunity to hear music of the highest quality sung by many of the country’s leading musicians. It is a small taste of heaven on earth where one can become part of a very special community and then return to the world refreshed and ready to face all that the world has to throw at one.

What will be the main highlights of this year’s festival?

There are too many to begin to pick them all out... But… the Thursday Sequence of Music and Readings promises to be stunning with Leighton’s ‘Crucifixus pro nobis’ being sung in its entirety along with only the second performance of Macmillan’s ‘When one man dies’. There are many wonderful mass settings being sung (Jonathan Dove’s ‘Missa brevis’, Tallis ‘Missa Puer natus est nobis’, Mozart’s Coronation Mass) and oodles and oodles of Byrd in this the 400th anniversary of his death. I am a fan of Sir William Harris, or Doc H as he is known in Windsor, and his ‘Faire is the heaven’ will be special… And if you like Howells, or Gibbons, or Dyson in D…. There are too many fantastic pieces all linked by our Director, Robert Quinney’s, inspired choice of theme for this year, John Donne’s La corona, a seven-sonnet sequence charting the Church year from Annunciation to Ascension. It promises to be very special indeed.

Where are your favourite places to visit in Wiltshire and why?

Bizarrely, it’s not necessarily the gems and masterpieces such as Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral, as breathtaking and globally significant as they may be but rather the small things… The road from Erlestoke to Coulston has a very special place in my heart as one drives West: the road opens up and the plain appears from behind the trees to one’s left, looming over the patchwork of fields to the North and in between there are the most beautiful undulating fields with wheat swaying in the breeze. It was always a sign that I was nearly back in Edington after months or even a year away. And now it is a sign that I am almost home. (But if you push me – Erlestoke & Coulston Cricket Club, Edington’s Priory Church, the top of the Plain with my dog in tow, and Boscombe Down Aviation Collection where we have taken the visiting children for the past few years…)

Do you have any hidden Wiltshire gems that you’d like to share with our readers?

See above re Boscombe Down Aviation Collection… I’ll get back to you once I’ve had a chance to venture beyond Edington and its environs… There’s a lot of Wiltshire to explore and I cannot wait to do so. For the moment, I’m just happy that this amazing festival and all its participants have proved Wiltshire at its finest and allowed me after a 25 year apprenticeship to become a trainee local. I don’t think you could ask for a bigger testament to the power and beauty of a community and what it can achieve than that! We look forward to seeing you in Edington between 20-27 August.

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