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Review of the Year 2020: Arts

18 December 2020

Tristram kenton © DWA LLC

A look back to the West End before social distancing: this was the spectacular Moses musical The Prince of Egypt which opened at the Dominion Theatre on the eve of the pandemic

A look back to the West End before social distancing: this was the spectacular Moses musical The Prince of Egypt which opened at the Dominion Theatre ...

IN A year that was disastrous for many people, the pandemic was a sudden blow to those who made their living as musicians and other performing artists, as well as the support staff for live events, particularly freelancers. Concerts were generally cancelled, though a few went online; opera houses and theatres were darkened; even church and cathedral choirs were silenced for much of the year. Regular events were either cancelled (Edinburgh Fringe) or reimagined (the Proms and the Three Choirs).

Nevertheless, resourcefulness was widely shown with technology, enabling freshly performed music to be heard across the range of styles to be assembled from performers sited remotely and carefully synchronising their performances.

Help seemed to be slow in coming, until, in July, a £1.57-billion rescue package was announced by the Chancellor. It provided urgently needed funding for the institutional infrastructure of the arts around the country. Nevertheless, the sector and those who work in it still faces serious challenges.

Exhibitions were the area of cultural life to reopen most quickly after the first lockdown. Among those that were covered in the Church Times this year were “Greco: 1541-1614” (Grand Palais, Paris); “Barbara Hepworth: Divided Circle” (The Heong Gallery, Downing College, Cambridge); “Awe” by Peronel Barnes (Sarum College, Salisbury); “Van Eyck: An Optical Revolution” (Museum vor Schoone Kunsten, Ghent); “Andy Warhol” (Tate Modern); “Raffaello 1520-1483” (Scuderie del Quirinale, Rome); Helaine Blumenfeld’s “Looking Up” (Canary Wharf, London); “Impact”, responses to the pandemic (online in place of postponed Chaiya Awards); Susie Hamilton’s “C-19” (Paul Stolper Gallery, London); “We Will Walk: Art and Resistance in the American South” (Turner Contemporary, Margate); “Young Rembrandt” (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford); The Leaves of the Trees by Peter Walker (Exeter Cathedral and elsewhere); “Christian Rohlfs” (The Red House, Aldeburgh); “Ancient Deities” (Arusha Gallery, Edinburgh); “The Stars are Bright”, paintings from the Cyrene Mission in what is now Zimbabwe (Theatre Courtyard Green Rooms, Shoreditch); “Rubens, Van Dyck and the Splendour of Flemish Painting” and “The Age of Dürer” (Museum of Fine Art, Budapest); Niki Gorick’s “Faith in the City of London” (photographs, Paternoster Square, Aldgate Square); “Tales from the Colony Room” (Dellasposa, London); “Dreamsongs” (Colnaghi); and “Titian: Love, Desire and Death” and “Sin” (National Gallery).

Among permanent acquisitions in ecclesiastical art were Salisbury Cathedral’s Nativity installation by Jacquiline Creswell and Ash Mills; and the Florence Nightingale memorial window for her bicentenary, The Calling, by Sophie Hacker for Romsey Abbey.

Films covered in the Church Times during the year included: Cats; A Hidden Life; The Personal History of David Copperfield; Talking about Trees; Camino Skies; The Uncertain Kingdom; Outside the City; My Mother (Omé); Guest of Honour; Joan of Arc; Little Women; Fanny Lye Deliver’d; Dark Waters; Love Reaches Everywhere; Clemency; Saint Frances; Blanche Comme Neige/Pure as Snow; Burden; Papicha; The Vigil; Yes, God, Yes; Hope Gap; The Secret Garden; Saint Maud; The Painted Bird; Pixie; Relic; The Other Lamb; About Endlessness; Cowboy and Preacher; A Christmas Gift from Bob the Cat; and A Christmas Carol.

The oratorio Il Diluvio Universale by Michel’Angelo Falvetti was revived at Holy Trinity, Rotherhithe (Musica Antica Rotherhithe). Choral tours were hit hard. But “From Darkness to Light” (Musica Secreta) was also a CD, and other new recordings covered during the year included Handel’s Brockes Passion (Academy of Ancient Music); “As a seed bursts forth” (Christ’s College, Cambridge); music by Ben Parry and Iain Quinn (Selwyn College, Cambridge); Bliss’s Mary of Magdala (BBC Symphony Orchestra); Herbert Howells’s Missa Sabrinensis (on Hyperion); music by Sweelinck, Harris, and Duruflé (on Priory); Michael Finnissy’s “Pious Anthems and Voluntaries” (St John’s College, Cambridge); Ethel Smyth’s The Prison (first recording, by the Experiential Orchestra and Chorus); and Requiem by Ian Venables (Gloucester Cathedral Choir).

Theatre coverage included the West End musical The Prince of Egypt (Dominion Theatre, London); and Pass Over (Kiln Theatre, Kilburn).

Musical publications included the historical Lord, Have Mercy Upon Us: Songs and hymns in time of plague and They that in Ships unto the Sea down go (music known to have been aboard the Mayflower) (Rondo Publishing). The latter was also recorded by the group Passamezzo.

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