Choral work to kick-off year of events at All Saints Clifton

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The festival events will celebrate the anniversary of the Victorian Clifton church

The world premiere of a major new choral work written in Bristol will be the first in a year-long programme of festival events celebrating the 150th anniversary of the consecration of the original Victorian church of All Saints in the Clifton area of the city.

The church commissioned the new cantata – The River of Life – with words by Julie Nicholson, a writer, public speaker and Anglican priest, and music composed by John Marsh, director of music at Bristol’s Lord Mayor’s Chapel.

Tipped to be the highlight of a Community Choral Concert on March 8, The River of Life was inspired by the full height window of that title designed by John Piper – the English painter, printmaker and designer of stained-glass windows – which is a feature of the baptistery of All Saints Church, rebuilt following devastation during the Blitz in 1940.

The concert on March 8 will be performed by more than 150 voices drawn from All Saints Church Choir and members of other local choirs as well as singers from Clifton College Senior School and Preparatory School, the Bristol Cathedral Consort and the St John’s Junior School choral speaking group. (Choral speaking is defined as a group of people narrating a poem or a dramatic piece.)

Included in the concert programme will be Benjamin Britten’s cantata St Nicolas which relates stories of the life of the saint. He is possibly the most popular of mediaeval saints and patron of children, merchants and sailors. The key solo role will be taken by local tenor John Bacon.

"Both these works are tailor-made for All Saints, using a gallery choir as well as other aspects of the building, including its fine organ," explains the church’s director of music, John Davenport. He reports that both works contain roles for the audience.

Admission to the concert on March 8 at 7pm is free but the expected demand for seats means that tickets must be obtained in advance from the Parish Office at All Saints Church, Pembroke Road, Bristol BS8 3ED, open from Tuesday to Friday from 9am to 2pm or call 0117 974 1355. Tickets will be available from February 1.

At the end of the concert a retiring collection will help to defray expenses.

Image: Fr Charles Sutton, vicar of All Saints, is pictured with the River of Life window (left) designed by John Piper and the inspiration for a new cantata to be performed at the start of a year-long programme of festival events in the Clifton church

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