Thursday, 16 October 2008

Sacred Music by the Sea

Want to learn to whirl like a dervish? To chant with Japanese Buddhists? Or just search for some spiritual inspiration from major world religions?

All this and more can be found in Brighton this week, hosting its fifth Annual Festival of World Sacred Music, a programme which aims to contribute towards greater understanding between people of different cultures and belief systems, through five days of sacred music from around the globe.

As well as the aforementioned whirling and chanting workshops, there are also performances from a wide range of religions; including Buddhism, Sufism, Judaism, Hinduism, and Bulgarian Orthodox Christianity, to name just a few. There are concerts, workshops, musical art installations and musical dance dramas.

The festival started off with a specially-commissioned piece of bell ringing at the ancient parish church of Brighton, St Nicholas, one of the pieces to come from a Christian background: there are also some spiritually-inspired pieces by Haydn and Mendelssohn from the Solstice Quartet, as well as the and mezzo-soprano Alessia Mankovskaya and violist José Gandia performing early Christian music from Spain and Eastern Europe. This will include the 13th-century Cantigas de Santa Maria, 16th-century Belarusian songs for family celebrations, and early Russian Orthodox Christian chants.

Last Sunday the London Bulgarian Choir (Winners of the BBC Radio 3 Open Choir of the Year 2006) performed an acclaimed repertoire of Bulgarian folk music and orthodox religious chants, in the wonderful setting of St Bartholomew's Church. A number of other churches and religious venues are hosting the programme, including the Chattri Memorial, high up on the windswept setting of the South Downs.

The memorial, which commemorates the Hindu and Sikh Commonwealth soldiers cremated there during World War I, hosts a daily performance organised by environmental arts group Red Earth. Each performance (by a different artist each day) will take place amidst sacred arts installations created specially for the festival.

So, broaden the mind and free the spirit - or just enjoy some live music that you might not otherwise get to hear...

The programme runs until Sunday 19th October. See website for details.

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