By Vatican News staff writer
The UK based Genesis Foundation has announced a special concert inspired by the life and writings of Cardinal John Henry Newman, who was canonised by Pope Francis in 2019. The concert, called Newman: Meditation & Prayer will take place at 19:00 (UK time) on Thursday 10 June at Farm Street Church in London’s Mayfair (The Jesuit Church of the Immaculate Conception).
Access to the concert in times of Coronavirus
In a press release, the Genesis Foundation writes that the concert will be live streamed on Classic FM’s Facebook page and will then be made available available on demand for a month afterwards. The concert will feature the world premieres of two new Genesis Foundation choral music commissions by Sir James MacMillan and Will Todd, for Harry Christophers CBE and The Sixteen. Joining them will be Classic FM’s flagship morning show presenter Alexander Armstrong, reading the words of Cardinal Newman and the poet and churchman John Donne.
The Sixteen is a choir and period-instrument orchestra: interpreters of Renaissance, Baroque and modern choral music, acclaimed worldwide. It was founded by Harry Christophers CBE.
Classic FM is the UK’s most popular classical music station, reaching 5.5 million listeners every week.
The Genesis Fondation
The Genesis Foundation was founded by John Studzinski CBE in 2001. In the press release the Genesis Foundation explains that “over the past 20 years the Foundation has donated more than £20million to the arts. Through its funding and partnership model, it has enabled opportunities for thousands of young artists in theatre and music, building both their experience and their resilience”.
On John Henry Newman
The new commissions draw on the words of a meditation that Newman wrote in the late 1840s and which begins “God has created me to do Him some definite service.” MacMillan and Todd have already composed a number of works for the Genesis Foundation which, over its 20-year history, has commissioned more than 25 pieces of sacred choral music. “In April 2018, in a world first, Classic FM, the UK’s most popular classical music station, live streamed MacMillan’s 50-minute Stabat mater – a Genesis Foundation commission performed by The Sixteen and Harry Christophers – from the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican”, reads the statement.
Saint John Henry Newman is a figure of global importance in the Catholic church and much respected by the Anglican church. A clergyman, theologian, educator and poet, he started life as an Anglican, but became a Catholic in 1845 and was made a Cardinal in 1879. Born in London, he subsequently lived in Oxford and in Birmingham, where he spent 30 years and established the Birmingham Oratory and Oratory School. When Newman became the first English person to be canonised in nearly 50 years, HRH The Prince of Wales described him as “this great Briton, this great churchman and, as we can now say, this great saint”, and as man who bridged “the divisions between traditions”. In the world of music, he is celebrated as the author of the epic poem The Dream Of Gerontius, set to music by Sir Edward Elgar in 1900, and of the hymns ‘Praise to the Holiest in the height’ (to words taken from Gerontius) and ‘Lead, kindly light’.
The Genesis Foundation says the concert will also include sacred music by composers active in the 16th Century, the period of the English Reformation (Robert Parsons, Christopher Tye), and in the 20th Century (William Harris, an Anglican musician, and Fernand Laloux, who was organist at Farm Street Church). Armstrong will read Newman’s original Meditation and an extract from John Donne’s ‘A Sermon preached at White-hall 29 February 1627’.
“The socially distanced performance will take place in front of a small, invited audience in the beautiful Gothic Revival surroundings of Farm Street Church, thanks to Fr Dominic Robinson, parish priest of the Jesuit Church of the Immaculate Conception. Farm Street is known as a community which actively advocates social justice and nurtures music and art”.