Stepping into my local south London tube station and out again half an hour later at Hampstead feels like a considerable cultural voyage, in an upmarket direction. And there couldn’t be any grander Hampstead sight than Church Row, leading to the Parish Church, and the lovely adjoining graveyard wherein some very interesting people are laid to rest. My visit was to the start of this year’s London Festival of Contemporary Church Music. This exceptional festival takes place in churches all over London, but happens in a busy May week for colleges and teachers, so I have sometimes missed it by mistake in previous years. This time I was glad to be involved, as composer and pre-concert-talker, in the opening performance by Il Suono.
I hope that more of our festivals and cultural locations will one day copy LFCCM’s accessible model. Basically, if you are in London (a wide definition) and are following the psalmist’s injunction to “sing unto the Lord a new song” – ie performing some modern church music – you can include yourself under the Festival banner. And meantime, numerous talks, workshops, broadcasts and commissions are taking place in some beautiful London spaces. Christopher Batchelor, who founded LFCCM in 2002, has had a remarkable career as musician, scholar, educator and organ professional (until recently MD of Harrison & Harrison.) His festival seems a remarkable gift to a wide community of singers, composers and listeners, as well as to churchgoers.