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Review of 2018: arts

21 December 2018

Westminster Abbey

David Hockney in front of his window in Westminster Abbey, unveiled in September

David Hockney in front of his window in Westminster Abbey, unveiled in September

THE centenary of the Armistice was the year’s most potent anniversary, which brought forth musical activity in abundance, as well as exhibitions and installations, many of them in churches and involving poppies, although few were as mind-boggling as Rob Heard’s heartbreaking The Somme 19240 (Shrouds of the Somme) project.

Thanks to the centenary, Stanford’s Mass Via Victrix finally received a full première, in Cardiff.

It was not the year’s only centenary. In the musical world, those of Parry and of Holst’s The Planets were widely marked. The centenary of votes for women gave the Suffragette composer Ethel Smyth’s work more outings than usual — including her Mass in D at the Three Choirs’ Festival at Hereford, which emphas­ised women composers, and then at the Barbican Hall.

The new Diamond Jubilee galleries at Westminster Abbey were greeted with fanfares; but The Queen’s Window, a commission for the Abbey from David Hockney, divided opinion. New galleries elsewhere included those of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich and the Islamic World galleries at the British Museum.

In Bristol, people were possibly as pleased by the restoration of the cathedral’s Victorian rose window as the people of York were about the restoration of the Minster’s great east window. The bells were finally rehung at All Saints’, Little Cornard; and the Lyghfield Bible at last returned to Canterbury Cathedral.

Additions to churches included Christopher Gollon’s St Ethelflaeda diptych, Romsey Abbey, the faculty for which was contested; the Harworth Colliery memorial window at All Saints’, Harworth, by Graeme Willson; and community art by children, The Great Troon Wall-Hanging, at St Ninian’s, Troon.

Exhibitions included “Monochrome”, Van Eyck and the Pre-Raphaelites, “Murillo: The Self-Portraits”, “Monet and Architecture”, “Mantegna and Bellini”, and “Lorenzo Lotto Portraits” (National Gallery); “Nature Morte” (Guildhall, London); “Designing English” (Weston Library, Oxford); “Charles I: King and Collector” (Royal Academy); “The Last Caravaggio” (Gallerie d’Italia, Milan); “Journeys with The Waste Land” (Turner Contemporary, Margate); “Patron Saints” (Stanley Spencer Gallery, Cookham); two Edward Bawdens (Fry Gallery, Saffron Walden, and Dulwich Picture Gallery); “Late Medieval and Renaissance Textiles” (Sam Fogg); “Beneath the Tapestry” (Coventry Cathedral); “Apparelled in Celestial Light” (Indar Pasricha); Ribera (Dulwich Picture Gallery); “Black Mirror” (Saatchi); and “Mirabilis” (Palais des Papes, Avignon).

Neil KendallNoah and Mrs Noah on their ark in the Chester Mystery Plays, performed in Chester Cathedral in July

Contemporary artists who exhibited included Amy Cushing and Diane Maclean (Chichester); Paul Wager (Dadiani); Arabella Dorman, and Philip Baldwin and Monica Guggisberg (Canterbury Cathedral); Mark Cazalet (Serena Morton); Alice Watson (Cuddesdon); Jonathon Brown (Severn Benefice); Giorgio Griffa (Camden Arts Centre); Michael Pendry, Suzie Gutteridge, and Stephen Farthing (Salisbury Cathedral); Liviu Mocan (Cambridge); Helaine Blumenfeld (Ely Cathedral); and Dan Metcalfe (Ripon Cathedral). Among group exhibitions were “Crossings” at Southwell Minster; the Artists in Recovery show at Newcastle Cathedral; and the shortlisted Islamic art entries for the Jameel Prize at the V&A.

Music by contemporaries included Gabriel Jackson’s Stabat Mater (première, Marian Consort, Merton College, Oxford); works by Paul Giger (vOx Chamber Choir, St John’s, Iffley Road, Oxford); Sir Karl Jenkins’s Dewi Sant (English première, Birmingham); Anna Meredith’s First World War-themed Five Telegrams (première, Edin­burgh Festival and BBC Proms); Hannah Kendall’s Baptistry (prem­ière, Three Choirs, Hereford); All the Hills and Vales Along, also a war work, by James MacMillan (premières, Cumnock and Barbican Hall, London); Requiem by Ian Venables (Gloucester Cathedral); and 3 Psalms by Andy Mackay (première, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London).

Russell Heppelwhite’s children’s opera Shackleton’s Cat was revived (English Touring Opera).

Revivals of older music included Biber, Missa Salburgensis (Armonico Consort) and other Renaissance music (Gesualdo Six), both at St Mary’s, Warwick; “The Battle between Shrovetide and Lent” (Passamezzo, St John’s Wood); the Berlioz Requiem (Cathedrals Group Choirs, Birmingham); works by Carissimi (Ex Cathedra, Birmingham Cathedral); Sullivan’s Festival Te Deum and Vaughan Williams’s A Song of Thanksgiving (St Laurence’s, Frodsham); The Sealed Angel by Rodion Shchedrin (King’s College, London), West Gallery music by William Billings (Skylark), and motets by Pawel Lukaszewski (St John’s, Smith Square, Holy Week); Stanford’s The Princess and Hamish MacCunn’s The Wreck of the Hesperus (Leicester Bach Choir, St James the Greater, Leicester); Elgar’s The Apostles (Merton College Choir, Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford); Salieri’s Requiem (North London Chorus, St James’s, Muswell Hill); Bruckner’s Mass No. 3 in F minor (Danesborough Chorus, St Mary’s, Woburn); at the Three Choirs, Out of the Deep by Lili Boulanger (also at the BBC Proms), These Things Shall Be by John Ireland, King Olaf by Elgar, and Brahms’s Requiem (also BBC Proms); Handel’s Solomon (Edinburgh International Festival) and Theodora (BBC Proms). The ENO staged Britten’s War Requiem.

The Orlando Consort furnished music for the classic silent film The Passion of Joan of Arc (St Mary’s, Edlesborough). New films included Walk with Me, Darkest Hour, Last Flag Flying, Makala, Mary Magdalene, Edie, The Man Who Built Peace, The Children Act, The Guardians, Pope Francis: A man of his word, Whitney, First Reformed, Path of Blood, The Apparition, Apostasy, I Can Only Imagine, Lucky, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, The Nun, Climax, The Gospel according to André, Kler, Evelyn, Nativity Rocks!, and Dis­obedience.

DVD releases included The Ornithologist, The Limehouse Golem, mother!, Thaxted: I vow to thee . . ., The Magic Flute (Bergman), and They Came to A City (restored).

Theatre included Summer and Smoke by Tennessee Williams (revival, Almeida); Gracie by Joan MacLeod (Finborough); The Chester Mystery Plays (Chester); Allelujah! by Alan Bennett (Bridge Theatre); The York Mystery Plays (York); Holy Sh!t by Alexis Zegerman (Kiln Theatre); short plays by Paven Virk, Ola Animashawun, Marcia Layne, and Alan Pollock (Belgrade Theatre, Coventry Ruins); and A Thing Mislaid (Maison Foo, tour).

Miscellaneously: the Russian activist-artists Pussy Riot were featured at Greenbelt; there was a new U2 album, Songs of Experience; Multitude of Voyces appealed for women’s contributions to a special anthology of music; and an online Visual Commentary on the Bible was launched.

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