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The Journey of the Mayflower

2020 marks the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Pilgrims on the Mayflower. Their epic voyage in search of religious freedom was to have profound consequences for America and the wider world.

Our project ‘The Journey of the Mayflower’ uses the music from the time of the Pilgrims to explore this fateful journey. Europe was in the midst of a turbulent period in 1620, with much of the continent on the brink of war. But this was also a time of great musical flowering, particularly in England, where composers such as Gibbons, Tomkins and Weelkes composed some of the finest music ever written on these shores.

Some of the music in our Mayflower programme would have been familiar to the Pilgrims themselves – John Dowland’s Shout to Jehovah was included in a metrical psalter that was carried on the ship by one William Brewster – while other pieces set texts particularly appropriate to the dramatic story of the voyage.

The motets and madrigals will be tied together by a script by Katharine Armitage telling the story of the travellers on the Mayflower. The first-hand account of William Bradford, who became the colony’s Governor, forms the basis of the narrative, but other voices and stories are interwoven, providing contrasting versions of events.

We are thrilled that our events celebrating this anniversary have received funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England, and form part of the official Spirit of the Mayflower 400 programme. The project includes performances in Beverley (not far from Scrooby in Lincolnshire, from where some of the Pilgrims originated), in the Southampton and Plymouth areas (where the Mayflower made stops), and around the UK. It also includes the creation of short videos exploring themes from the programme, a newly commissioned work setting Bradford’s words by the acclaimed American composer Nico Muhly, an education project for secondary schools, a specially devised programme for primary schools, and a number of other outreach events. We hope to see you at one of these events this year!

Mayflower 400 Logo.     

Youth Polyphony showcase

We are firmly committed to introducing the wonderful repertoire of Renaissance choral music to the next generation, and are thrilled that we are able to expand our work with secondary school students through the Journey of the Mayflower project. Our ACE funding has enabled us to work with three London state schools – Holland Park School, West London Free School, and Bishop Thomas Grant School. We will be working with the schools’ choirs in multiple sessions over two months, focusing on ensemble skills and an in-depth appreciation of the repertoire. The project will culminate in a gala performance on Thursday 19th March. As part of the performance, the schools will each perform works from the English Renaissance, including pieces featured in our Mayflower programme, to showcase what they have learned. To finish, all three schools will join together for a performance of Victoria’s joyful triple-choir motet Laetatus sum, conducted by Graham Ross (Director of Music at Clare College, Cambridge).

2020 Mayflower events

For full details, see our concerts listings.

19th March: Youth Polyphony Showcase 2020

29th May: Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival

30th May: Workshop for Beverley & East Riding EMF

5th July: Harwich Festival

16th July: Budleigh Salterton Festival

30th July: Dartington International Summer School

15th September: Solent Music Festival, Lymington

8th November: Wigmore Hall, London

18th November: Bath Mozartfest

Further dates to be announced shortly.