How could I have reached the great age I am without ever having visited the Cathedral City of Lichfield, Staffs ? Conveniently perched on the edge of Birmingham’s rail map, there’s no excuse to miss it. Thanks to Lichfield Festival, I was able to repair the omission with an extremely integrated day of music programmed by this year’s director, Damian Thantrey.
Entering the Cathedral precincts through Erasmus Darwin’s back garden (the town is self-deprecatingly historical) I gasped at the amazing structure crouching there; three spires in blackened red brick, the front covered with suspended life-size statues. Fortunately I was going to be spending the next ten hours at the Cathedral (interspersed with a brief dash up the street to a nearby Baptist chapel, for an interview with brilliantly polymathic Kate Romano) and there would be plenty more time to look at it, inside and out.
My musical day ended around 11.30pm, having attended a beautiful Compline service (with girl choristers on duty in the Cathedral Choir for this evening). The sense of repose, taking deep breaths after a busy day, was genuine. Before this had been a typically poised programme by The Cardinall’s Music, combining renaissance church music with contemporary composers, including myself, represented by Vertue, written for this transcendent group some years ago. I was glad to hear some fascinatingly original music by English-Californian composer Paul Crabtree. In an earlier, well attended organ recital, Tim Wakerell had played my challenging solo The Wild Reeds with elan and seeming ease, amidst some fantastic Bach preludes. A day in my life that genuinely deserved the word ‘Festival’.