Wren Tercentenary Festival at St Stephen Walbrook
20-22 April 2023
With the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and St Stephen Walbrook join forces to present a three-part festival of music commemorating the church’s architect, Sir Christopher Wren.
The festival offers a snapshot of musical life at the point of Wren’s death, three hundred years ago in 1723. This was the year of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and the year Bach was appointed cantor in Leipzig; it was also a time of rebirth for London following outbreaks of bubonic plague and the Great Fire, with Henry Purcell at its forefront.
St Stephen Walbrook was the first church exclusively designed by Sir Christopher Wren of the 52 that were built by him following the Great Fire of London in 1666. Its design became the blueprint for the great dome of St Paul’s Cathedral, completed three decades later. Key to the major restoration of the church completed in 1987 is Henry Moore’s marble altar placed centrally under the Dome. 2023 also marks the seventieth anniversary of the founding of The Samaritans at St Stephen Walbrook, by then Rector Dr Chad Varah.
Stephen Baxter, the present Priest-in-Charge said:
“Like The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, St Stephen Walbrook has a history of throwing out the rule book and pushing the boundaries. I am delighted that the OAE, one of the world’s most talented and imaginative orchestras, will help us celebrate this year of globally significant anniversaries connected to this special place.”
On Thursday 20 April (18:30-19:30) the OAE presents a 60-minute recital of music by Purcell, interspersed with atmospheric readings from the period. After bouts of bubonic plague and the Great Fire of London in 1666, Wren rebuilt the city whilst Purcell composed the music for its reviving theatre scene and newly opulent church and royal court.
On Friday 21 April (19:30-20:30) the OAE performs Vivaldi’s Four Seasons played by Kati Debretzeni, one of the OAE’s leaders. The Guardian writes of her, ‘Debretzeni’s joyful, spirited playing, precise but free, gives endless pleasure.’ Vivaldi’s cycle of four violin concertos, each depicting a season with visceral energy, is believed to have been completed in 1723, the year of Sir Christopher Wren’s death.
On Saturday 22 April (19:30-21:30) the OAE presents one of their signature Baroquebusters concerts. From fellow-Londoner Handel to Bach, Albinoni and Pachelbel, this engaging and interactive concert of much-loved Baroque favourites offers a snapshot of musical life at the end of Wren’s life, exploring why these works are still so popular today. There will be an opportunity for the audience to meet the players and learn about their historical instruments.
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment:
The OAE is a pioneering orchestra of specialists on historical instruments founded in 1986. Performing repertoire on instruments (or replicas) from the time the music was written, they are not aiming to recreate the past, but to create something that is exciting now, using historical information. With no music director, the musicians call the shots, offering trailblazing performances of music from throughout history.
Tickets: £22.50/£36.50 from:
St Stephen Walbrook’s website and tickettailor.com