St. John’s Smith Square and Tenebrae Announce Virtual Holy Week Festival 2021

By Logan Martell

St. John’s Smith Square and Tenebrae have announced the online Holy Week Festival 2021, featuring choral music written for Lent and Easter.

The festival will run from March 28 (Palm Sunday) to April 5 (Easter Monday). The concerts will be free to watch, though donations are encouraged, and will be available to watch for 30 days after airing. Founded in 2017, the festival is meant to provide a moment of stillness and reflection in the city of Westminster, a sentiment which has taken on new meaning in light of the ongoing pandemic.

The performances will include works from Tallis, Byrd, Poulenc, Bach, and more. Among the soloists are violinist Lana Trotovšek, Bojan Čičić, Steven Devine, and The Revolutionary Drawing Room.

The Palm Sunday concert will include works such as Weelkes’ “Hosanna to the Son of David,” Poulenc’s “Vinea mea electa,” Tallis’ “O sacrum convivium,” Casals’ “O vos omnes,” Victoria’s “Astiterunt reges terrae,” Stainer’s “God so loved the world,” and more.

The following night, Tenebrae Associate Artists will be joined by Trotovšek for a program devoted entirely to Bach. The selections include “Ach Herr, laß dein lieb Engelein ,” “Christ lag in Todesbanden,” “Den Tod niemand zwingen kunnt,” and “Wenn ich einmal soll scheiden.” Between these selections will be the movements of his “Partita No. 2 in D Minor.”

The festival will conclude with a re-imagining of Handel’s “Messiah,” which comes in collaboration with the London Handel Festival. Conducted by Laurence Cummings, the performance will feature the London Handel Orchestra, as well as soprano Lucy Crowe, countertenor Iestyn Davies, and bass-baritone Edward Grint.

“We’re delighted to be working with St John’s Smith Square again, taking our annual Holy Week Festival online for 2021,” festival Artistic Director Nigel Short said in a press statement. “While we can’t wait to perform for live audiences again, in the meantime we’re excited to make the most of new opportunities to use this wonderful space a bit differently, and for the festival to reach a global audience for the first time. While some of the events in our programme are liturgical in nature, they’re certainly not exclusive to those of the Christian faith. Music by composers including Byrd, Poulenc and Tallis, as well as Allegri’s celebrated Miserere, will be performed by candlelight in this beautiful venue. We hope to provide people all over the world with a vital moment of serenity as we look forward to brighter times ahead.”