World’s oldest choral festival to return after two-year break

The Festival Service, now in its 367th year, will return to St Paul's Cathedral following a pandemic hiatus
The world’s oldest choral festival will return to St Paul’s Cathedral after a two-year pandemic hiatus.

Bringing together three of the UK’s cathedral choirs – St Paul’s, Southwark and Liverpool – the Festival Service, which is free and open to the public, will take place from 5pm on Tuesday 24 May, with a procession of the choirs, cathedral clergy, Masters of City Livery companies, Stewards of the Festival and other dignitaries down the central aisle of St Paul’s.

The Festival was originally set up in 1655 by a group of City merchants and clergymen’s sons as a fundraising event for destitute clergy and their families. The charity now called Clergy Support Trust was born at that service, and nearly four centuries later, is still supporting thousands of people here and abroad each year.

In 2021 the Clergy Support Trust supported more than 1,600 individual clergy households (benefiting over 4,865 clergy and their family members) with over 3,500 grants and support services totalling over £3m.

As usual, this year’s event will include individual choral performances from each of the choirs, culminating in a joint anthem, under the direction of Andrew Carwood MBE, the Director of Music at St Paul’s, who says:

‘I have enjoyed the great privilege of leading the St Paul’s Cathedral Choir at services of international and national significance, but there is nothing quite like the Clergy Support Trust Festival. It is a rare and wonderful joy to be able to work with such incredible choirs each year, and even more so when you are part of an almost unbroken line of choirs singing together under the dome of St Paul’s stretching back over almost 370 years. It is always a special service in the treasured space of St Paul’s, but after recent restrictions this year’s event will be particularly important.’

The Revd Ben Cahill-Nicholls, Chief Executive of Clergy Support Trust, says, ‘The Festival is an extraordinary event, but it is also a moment to reflect on the equally extraordinary ministry of so many people. The last two years have been tough for all of us, and clergy have been no exception, many working tirelessly to meet the additional need the pandemic has created. Clergy Support Trust exists to serve those who spend their lives serving others, and this year’s service is a much-needed chance to come together, to give thanks for their ministry, and to look forward to the better days to come.’

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