Poland’s sacred music extravaganza returns to
St Martin-in-the-Fields

‘Joy & Devotion’ Festival 2023

7 – 11 November 2023 | St Martin-in-the-Fields, London

The Joy & Devotion festival, celebrating the great tradition of sacred choral music from Poland from across the centuries, returns to St Martin-in-the-Fields this November.

Presented by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute under the artistic direction of leading Polish composer and conductor Paweł Łukaszewski, the festival aims to bring the rich treasures of Polish music to the UK as part of the Adam Mickiewicz Institute’s mission to share gems of Polish culture with international audiences.

Now in its third year, Joy & Devotion is built around three main evening concerts from esteemed British choirs. This year, they are The Brabant EnsembleThe Carice Singers and The Epiphoni Consort. Each performance delves into a rich tapestry of Polish music, much of which is seldom heard beyond Poland, providing a unique opportunity for audiences to experience this evocative music.

In the opening concert on 7 November, The Brabant Ensemble, known for its thoughtful and imaginative explorations of early music, focuses on music from the Renaissance and Baroque eras. Conducted by Stephen Rice, the music illustrates the abundant variety and artistry of Polish musical culture in the 16th and 17th centuries and includes music by major composers from the period – Grzegorz Gerwazy Gorczycki (1665-1734) and Mikołaj Zieleński (1560-1620), among others. The early pieces are interwoven with more contemporary works including Kyrie after Byrd by Roxanna Panufnik (b. 1968) – a meditation on the Kyrie melody from Byrd’s Mass for Five Voices, composed in 2014. The evening concludes with a setting of the famous medieval Polish hymn, Gaude Mater Polonia, composed by Wincenty of Kielcza (1200-1261).

The Carice Singers present a beautifully conceived sequence from Andrzej Panufnik to Penderecki, exploring the sounds, colours and sense of profound spirituality that Polish composers have found to express their adoration for the Mother of God [10 Nov]. Entitled ‘Maryja’, inspired by an icon of the Virgin Mary housed in Poland, this concert includes the rarely heard Stabat Mater of Roman Padlewski, who died in the Warsaw Uprising whilst fighting the Second World War. This is programmed alongside such works as Aldona Nawrocka’s imaginative Ave Maria and Henryk Mikołaj Górecki’s celebrated Marian Songs. It will also be a chance to hear music by one of the most cherished Polish composers of modern times, Krzysztof Penderecki, whose O Gloriosa Virginum is a powerful tribute to the Blessed Mother.

The Epiphoni Consort close this year’s Joy & Devotion festival with a concert celebrating the passion and resurrection of Christ with a sumptuous selection of contemporary works [11 November]. The programme includes two works by Joy & Devotion Artistic Director, Paweł Łukaszewski, one of the most popular contemporary composers of Polish choral repertoire. Conducted by Tim Reader, the concert also features Angelus Domini by Andrzej Koszewski (1922-2015) – a composer who drew from folk music in his compositions and had a special ability to combine folk and religious influences into a moving sound world. The concert ends with Cantus gloriosus by Józef Świder (1930-2014) – a prominent, prize-winning composer who wrote more than 200 choral pieces.

Scottish organist Rupert Jeffcoat joins the choirs in each concert, performing solo music by Marian Sawa, Tomasz Soczek and 26-year-old Aleksander Jan Szopa. And for the first time, the Joy & Devotion Festival features a lunchtime concert in which Jeffcoat performs music by Frédéric Chopin, Witold Lutosławski and Maria Szymanowska, among others, including lively polkas and mazurkas.

Barbara Schabowska, Director of the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, said:

“For many centuries, Poland’s Christian heritage has inspired its composers to the highest levels of creativity. The Joy & Devotion festival has proved to offer a wonderful chance for people to hear some of the best examples of this music – both traditional and modern. I hope you will come on this special journey with us to experience this extraordinary music.”

Paweł Łukaszewski, Artistic Director of the Joy & Devotion festival, said:

“I am honoured to direct Joy & Devotion for the third time, sharing the glories of Polish sacred music with British choirs and audiences. We look forward to celebrating this enchanting art once again through the talent of these exceptional choirs, and hope to demonstrate the power of this music to even more people in the beautiful setting of St Martin’s.”