Coronation starts festival

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A re-enactment of The Coronation of Henry VIII, no less, will get the Petworth Festival off to the grandest of starts.

Friday July 15 at 7.30pm is the date; St Mary’s Church, Petworth is the venue.

The singers and musicians of the Armonico Consort, directed by Christopher Monks, will recreate the ceremonial complete with plainchant, vespers and antiphons by John Taverner and Robert Fayrfax. The performance features trumpeter Crispian Steele-Perkins and actor Jeffrey Dench.

Contemporary instructions set the scene: “First there is to be prepared a stage somewhat raised between the high altar and the choir of the Church of St Peter of Westminster near the four high pillars in the cross of the said church. In the midst of the said stage there shall be prepared a lofty throne, that the prince may sit in it and be clearly seen by all the people....”

As Crispian says, a good deal about the event is known, simply because the payments were written down: “We know that there were quite a lot of trumpeters. It was something like 20. But they are whittled down to me for this!”

The payment details are fascinating, giving the names and prompting comparisons with recent big royal events.

“We are so used to things being televised where they reach audiences of millions, but when it was a popular monarch or great relief that another one had gone, I imagine there was a lot of interest, particularly in the city of London.”

As Crispian says, things have changed hugely in his own lifetime with regards the inclusion of women. He well remembers the days when the key orchestras were all male. Now they are probably half-female - though perhaps with no obvious difference in sound.

“But the barriers have gone - and probably good riddance to them!

“But I do wonder what the performers would have been like at the coronation of King Henry VIII. Would they have been smart like the military people at the wonderful Royal Wedding a few weeks ago or would they have been shuffly? I expect they would have been shuffly actually - and probably as tight as ticks!”

More details on www.petworthfestival.org.uk.