Sunday 10 – Sunday 17 April 2022
St John’s Smith Square, London

With SANSARA, Fretwork, Polyphony, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Vox Luminis, Southbank Sinfonia, London Handel Orchestra, Choir of King’s College London
St John’s Smith Square announces its Easter Festival 2022, returning the acclaimed concert venue to its liturgical roots for Easter with favourites of choral devotion across the ages from 10-17 April 2022, Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday.

The seven-day Easter Festival is crowned by appearances from renowned ensembles including Polyphony and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Vox Luminis and Choir of King’s College, London, as well as Fretwork and St John’s Smith Square’s very own Southbank Sinfonia.

The Easter celebrations also feature star soloists including organist Martin Baker and three late-night candlelit performances by SANSARA, which will be livestreamed free via the St John’s Smith Square website.

Under the baton of Stephen Layton, Bach’s St John Passion forms the centrepiece of the Good Friday programme at St John’s Smith Square, with Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and Polyphony joined by a stellar line-up of soloists including tenor Nick Pritchard as the Evangelist and William Thomas as Jesus (Friday 15 April).

In a programme of rare spiritual works for voice and orchestra on Wednesday 13 April, the London Handel Orchestra and Adrian Butterfield are joined by award-winning young soloists Hilary Cronin and Hugh Cutting. Hilary Cronin, recent winner of the 2021 international Handel Singing Competition, joins the orchestra in Handel’s virtuosic motets ‘Silete venti’ and ‘Saeviat tellus’, written during the composer’s time in Italy, while Hugh Cutting, the first countertenor to win the Kathleen Ferrier Awards in 2021, performs Vivaldi’s solemn Stabat Mater. The concert is held in conjunction with the London Handel Festival.

Southbank Sinfonia bring to life another celebrated Stabat Mater on Tuesday 12 April, with the enduring setting by Pergolesi conducted by the orchestra’s director Simon Over. Southbank Sinfonia is formed each year from the world’s most promising graduate musicians who embark upon its renowned training programme, founded twenty years ago. The orchestra joins the Festival following its 2021 merger partnership with St John’s Smith Square.

Renowned Belgian early music ensemble Vox Luminis and director Lionel Meunier close the Festival on Easter Sunday with Heinrich Schütz’s 1635 German Requiem, the exquisite Musikalische Exequien, written for the funeral services of Count Henry II of Reuss-Gera, paired with two of Bach’s earliest sacred vocal works, his Actus Tragicus and the Easter cantata Christ lag in Todesbanden, written during the composer’s short tenure at the Blasiuskirche in Mühlhausen (Sunday 17 April). Vox Luminis’s 2012 recording of the Musikalische Exequien won a Gramophone Award and an International Classical Music Award.

Threaded through the week are late-night liturgical events by award-winning vocal collective SANSARA, who perform Gesualdo’s Tenebrae Responsories for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Saturday by candlelight (Wednesday 13 April – Friday 15 April). Celebrants the Revd Graham Buckle and Revd Helena Bickley-Percival join SANSARA in these three achingly beautiful sequences of the devotional Tenebrae settings and responses, which will each be livestreamed via the St John’s Smith Square website.

Renowned viol consort Fretwork joins SANSARA on Maundy Thursday to pair works written centuries apart by Arvo Pärt and Robert White, whose work laments the ancient destruction of Jerusalem with masterly and powerfully expressive counterpoint (Thursday 14 April). The performance includes Pärt’s ethereal Stabat Mater presented in a new arrangement for voices and viols.

Performing on the exceptional ‘Sainsbury’ Klais organ of St John’s Smith Square, Martin Baker presents Le Chemin de la Croix, Marcel Dupré’s most ambitious organ work on Monday 11 April. Dupré’s epic traces the Passion story through a set of musical illustrations of the 14 Stations of the Cross.

Finally, the Easter Festival at St John’s Smith Square opens on Palm Sunday with the ornate sounds of Orthodox worship as the Choir of King’s College, London perform Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil, the celebrated vespers, under director Joseph Fort (Sunday 10 April).

Richard Heason, Co-Director of St John’s Smith Square, commented:
“We are delighted to announce our first festival of 2022. The Easter Festival at St John’s Smith Square celebrates some of the best orchestral, choral and chamber music across the ages. From the wonderful Polyphony and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, under the direction of Stephen Layton, to SANSARA, Vox Luminis and many more, the festival offers something for everyone. We are also delighted to present a hybrid festival, with our free late-night series of liturgical events being available to livestream from your home, allowing those unable to attend in person the opportunity to celebrate with us both nationally and internationally. We look forward to warmly welcoming you at the hall this Easter.”

The first in-person Easter celebrations at St John’s Smith Square since 2019 take place as the venue looks further ahead to its upcoming renovations and the next London Festival of Baroque Music, to take place in May 2022.

Priority booking for the Festival opens on Monday 14 February 2022, with all concerts on sale from Monday 21 February 2022 from sjss.org.uk.