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New Festival of Sacred Arts

Monday June 4 2018

An Edinburgh chapel is introducing a new element to the month-long festival fringe this summer: a week-long focus on the sacred arts.

The Edinburgh Festival of the Sacred Arts, showcasing sacred music, iconography, floral art and religious poetry, will take place in St Vincent’s Chapel, an Episcopal church in Stockbridge.

The week will open on Sunday August 12 with a celebration of 1929 Scottish Liturgy, using William Byrd’s famous four-part Mass, at which the Rev Professor David Fergusson, Principal of New College, will be the preacher.

The Chapel will be open throughout the week. An exhibition of icons, curated by Basia Mindewicz, Director of Edinburgh School of Icon Painting Exhibition, will run from Monday to Saturday, with icons on sale, and two practical demonstrations to introduce this highly distinctive art to potential iconographers.

Two evening recitals will offer audiences a chance to hear rarely performed works by major composers.  On August 12 the Edinburgh Quartet will play Joseph Haydn’s ‘Seven Last Words from the Cross’ in Haydn’s own arrangement for quartet. A special feature of this performance is the interspersing of newly commissioned poems by the young American poet Jennifer Rawson.

On August 16 Coro Vincenzo, under the direction of Leslie Shankland, will perform The Resurrection Story by the 17th century German composer Heinrich Schütz, along with music by Bach and Byrd.

An especially unusual contribution to the Festival is a celebration of floral art. ‘Floral Art for the Feast Day of St Mary’ is a one-day event on August 15 involving six of Edinburgh’s Flower Guilds. Floral arrangements will reflect events in the life of the Virgin Mary, viewed in the context of recorded Marian music.

In conjunction with the Cornerstone Bookshop at Edinburgh’s West End, the congregation of St Vincent’s Chapel will provide the readers for an afternoon session devoted to ‘The Anglican Tradition of Poetry’. This long tradition includes many of the greatest names in English poetry, from John Donne in the 17th century through Christina Rossetti in the 19th to T S Eliot and R S Thomas in the 20th.

The Chapter House Singers will close the Festival on Saturday August 18 with Choral Evensong, a centuries old Christian liturgy that has inspired a large number of gifted composers, from the 16th century to the present day.

Edinburgh’s churches have long played a central role in the Festival Fringe every August and St Vincent's Chapel, across the road from St Stephen's Church, is in its third year as an official fringe venue.

Full details of the weeklong programme, which is directed by Professor Gordon Graham of Princeton Theological Seminary, can be found at


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