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Review of the year 2021: Arts

17 December 2021

Michael Whitefoot

The Three Choirs returned at Worcester in 2021, despite many uncertainties up to the last minute

The Three Choirs returned at Worcester in 2021, despite many uncertainties up to the last minute

THE lockdown after Christmas 2020 meant a quiet start to the year in the arts. Exhibitions that had been scheduled to open were postponed, although some were available for online viewing; live performances were cancelled; and choral services and events remained particularly vulnerable even after other restrictions began to ease.

For art-lovers, the Raphael Cartoons at the V&A were made available for detailed study online before it was possible to visit the refurbished display.

Exhibitions reviewed during the year included “Raphael: Prince Albert’s Passion” (The Lightbox, Woking); “Tracey Emin/Edvard Munch” (Royal Academy); “Thomas Becket: Murders and the Making of a Saint” and “Nero: The Man Behind the Myth” (British Museum); “Pre-Raphaelite Drawings and Watercolours” (Ashmolean, Oxford); the Galloway Hoard exhibition (National Museum of Scotland); “Turner’s Modern World” (Tate Britain); “Treasury Objects of the Middle Ages” (Sam Fogg); the tercentennial “Grinling Gibbons”, part of a wider programme (Bonhams, London); “Love, Art, Loss: The Wives of Stanley Spencer” (Spencer Gallery, Cookham); “Gustave Moreau: The Fables” (Waddesdon Manor); “Global Images of Christ” (Chester Cathedral); “Tudors to Windsors: British Royal Portraits” (National Maritime Museum, Greenwich); “Elizabeth and Mary: Royal Cousins, Rival Queens” (British Library); “Poussin and the Dance” (National Gallery); “Rossetti’s Portraits” (Holburne Museum, Bath); and “John Nash: Landscape of Love and Solace” (Compton Verney).

An appeal for the restoration of Kitty Milroy’s church murals at Upper Hale brought this little-known artist to wider attention. St John’s, Waterloo, held the event “A Jewish Jesus: Art and Faith in the Shadow World War II”.

Among the art stories of the years was Spain’s blocking of the sale of the Crowning of the Thorns, a possible Caravaggio. Apostle George de la Tour’s Saint Andrew was auctioned at Christie’s for a record amount, £4.28 million; and Francis Bacon’s Pope with Owls was sold for $33 million in another record-breaking sale at Phillips in New York.

Lichfield CathedralPeter Walker’s new sculpture of St Chad for Lichfield Cathedral was unvield

The work of contemporary artists was exhibited. Among the exhibitions and installations covered in the Church Times were: “Genesis Tremaine: Evidence of Grace” (Almine Reich, Brussels); “Tears of God” by Hannah Rose Thomas (online); Peace Doves (Liverpool Cathedral), The Leaves of the Trees (Southwell Minster), and One Small Step (Peterborough Cathedral) by Peter Walker; “God is . . . (Chaiya Awards group exhibition, Gallery@OXO); “Call to Holy Ground” (St Andrew’s, Upper Leytonstone); “Making Paradise” (Agha Khan Centre, London); “Last Sunset/New Sunrise” (St John on Bethnal Green); “Michael Armitage: Paradise Edict” (RA); Michele Griffiths’s “Darkness into Light” (Chichester Cathedral); Jacqui Parkinson’s “Threads through Creation” (Salisbury Cathedral); “Against the Odds” by Micah Purnell (Wembley Park); “Farewell to All That” by Peter Eugene Ball (Southwell Minster); “After the Storm” by members of the Norwich 20 Group (St Stephen’s, Norwich); Museum of the Moon by Luke Jerram (Wells Cathedral and other venues); and the Little Amal puppet pilgrimage.

Also seen this year were the new statue of St Chad by Peter Walker for Lichfield Cathedral; a maquette of a Black Madonna & Child of Lockdown by Kate Egan for St Mary’s, West Hampstead; and Roger Wagner’s and Oliver Budd’s memorial to William Clarke in St Matthew’s, Bayswater.

The most publicised film of the year was the new James Bond film, No Time to Die. Among those reviewed in the Church Times were I Am Mary, Faith, This Gun for Hire, Il Mio Corpo, Mayor, Body of Water, “Shakespeare on Smartphones” (Intermission Youth Theatre), Soul, MLK/FBI, IWOW: I Walk On Water, The Sinners, Martyr, T. S. Eliot: The Search for Happiness, Ammonite, Wander Darkly, Malmkrog, The Banishing, Minari, The Last Photograph, We Still Say Grace, Servants, Bonds & Other Broken Things, The Auschwitz Escape, Son of the South, Charlatan, Fatima, The God Committee, I Am Samuel, Limbo, Sabaya, The Lost Leonardo, Respect, Redemption of a Rogue, The Green Knight, You Will Die at 20, Antonio Gaudí.

The BFI London Film Festival returned. Among re-releases for home viewing were Light Sleeper, Defending Your Life, Viy, and A Holy Place.

When live theatre returned, shows included Lola Chakrabati’s Hymn (Almeida, London); Riding Lights’ Breaking Day by Les Ellison; Bach and Sons by Nina Raine (Bridge Theatre); Into Battle by Hugh Salmon (Greenwich Theatre); 100 Nights by Shahid Iqbal Khan (Bush Theatre); and Intermission Youth Theatre’s Juliet and Romeo (adaptation of Shakespeare by Darren Raymond) (Chelsea Theatre).


© The Chapter, Canterbury CathedralA detail of the Canterbury Cathedral miracle window. For the first time, a complete window from the cathedral was loaned for an exhibition, at the British Museum: “Thomas Becket: Murders and the Making of a Saint”

Opera restarted. Heroic efforts enabled the staging early in the year of Weber’s Der Freischütz, in Munich. Also on the Continent, James MacMillan’s Christmas Oratorio had its world première in Amsterdam.

The Music in Country Churches live-concerts season returned. Biber’s Rosary Sonatas were part of the Holy Week Festival at St John’s, Smith Square. Again, much trouble was taken with Covid precautions to enable the Southern Cathedrals Festival to return. It was followed in the summer by the return of a full Three Choirs Festival, at Worcester, including The World Imagined by Gabriel Jackson, and a revival of Odysseus by Cecil Armstrong Gibbs.

The Proms included Bach’s St Matthew Passion and James MacMillan’s When Soft Voices Die (a special commission), and paid 600th-birthday tribute to Josquin. Christian Forshaw was composer-in-residence at the Cumnock Tryst.

New recordings included London Oratory Schola Cantorum’s Sacred Treasures of Christmas and Sacred Treasures of Spain; Kim Andrew Arnesen’s Holy Spirit Mass; Roxanna Panufnik’s Heartfelt; Echoes by the Fron Male Voice Choir; and Isata Kanneh-Mason’s Summertime.

A “Gee Seven” song by Sir Tim Rice was led by Truro Cathedral Choir to mark the G7 summit. The RSCM held a seminar, “Harnessing the Power of Music for Mission”. Printed music included John Carol Case’s Requiem for an unknown soldier, and new sacred pieces by Russell Heppelwhite, Thomas Hewitt-Jones, and Alex Patterson.

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