8 – 11 November 2022 | St Martin-in-the-Fields, London
Joy & Devotion, the annual festival of Polish sacred music, returns to St Martin-in-the-Fields this autumn following its launch by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute in 2021.
With eight centuries of exquisite sacred music performed by some of the finest UK choral ensembles – Polyphony, The Gesualdo Six and Rodolfus Choir – the series includes three richly programmed concerts in the glorious acoustic of St Martin-in-the-Fields. It is part of the Institute’s mission to share the abundance of Polish culture with international audiences.
This year the festival includes the world premiere of an extraordinary new setting of the Latin Mass by Marek Raczyński, a rising star of the Polish choral scene on the international stage, as well as more than twenty UK premieres. Of these there are two moving motets to Mary, Mother of God, by the late Henryk Mikołaj Górecki, known to many worldwide for his Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. Another notable premiere is Festival Artistic Director Paweł Łukaszewski’s centenary tribute to St John Paul II, Missa Sancti Papӕ Ioannis Pauli Secundi Magni.
Joy & Devotion 2022 opens on 8 November with Stephen Layton conducting Polyphony, a choir he founded in 1986 and now widely regarded as one of the best small professional choirs in the world. The concert celebrates the legacy of St John Paul II who helped to secure the peaceful collapse of the Soviet Union and thus the liberation of Poland. In doing so, he inspired his native Polish composers to write some of the most communicative choral pieces of the 20th century. Wojciech Kilar’s Agnus Dei commences the evening: an affecting wall of sound and prayer for peace, composed in 2000. Paweł Łukaszewski’s papal tribute, written to mark the centenary of St John Paul II’s birth in 2020, will receive its UK premiere. The evening concludes with Marian Borkowski’s powerful Libera me. Organist Rupert Jeffcoat takes on Moryto’s Veni creator and Przybylski’s Kölner Fanfare.
The Gesualdo Six led by Owain Park make a welcome return to the Festival and St Martin’s fora concert themed around the Virgin Mary on 10 November. For many Polish Catholics, Mary is revered as the eternal Queen of Poland, and as such has inspired the warmest of musical tributes across the centuries. The centrepiece of this concert is the world premiere of a brand-new mass in her honour, commissioned specially from composer Marek Raczynski, one of the most prominent members of Poland’s thriving contemporary music scene. The new work weaves its way through a programme that includes the UK premiere of two of Górecki’s songs from 1986 in praise of the Blessed Virgin, Baroque composer Bartłomiej Pękiel’s striking Ave Maria (c.1661-9) and Aleksandra Chmielewska’s Salutatio angelica (2015), interspersed with solo organ works by Marian Sawa and Michał Schaeffer, for which Rupert Jeffcoatreturns.
This year’s Festival concludes with an evening of ancient and modern music performed by the young singers of Rodolfus Choir under the direction of Ralph Allwood [11 Nov]. Bogurodzica, medieval Poland’s great hymn to the Virgin Mary, will feature in their programme alongside music by Marian Sawa (1937-2005) including a chorale prelude for organ, Adoro te devote, performed by Rupert Jeffcoat.
This concert will also see the premiere of dynamic young composer Jan Krutul’s Missa brevis and 17th-century motets by Grzegorz Gerwazy Gorczycki, one of Poland’s greatest Baroque composers. Cellist Leo Popplewell will perform in Roxanna Panufnik’s All shall be well (2009); Panufnik is a British composer of Polish heritage. Rodolfus Choir, praised for its beautiful and memorable performances, boasts some of the finest young choristers in the country and promises to give eloquent interpretations of these Polish masterpieces.
Barbara Schabowska, Director of the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, said:
“Poland’s deep Christian foundation has inspired composers to create music of great beauty and emotional power through the centuries and composers today are continuing to create music of great truth, goodness and peace. I’m particularly proud this year to present great music of the past with the best modern Sacred music and I hope that audiences will come and explore this glorious music with us.”
Paweł Łukaszewski, Artistic Director, said:
“I am delighted to direct ‘Joy & Devotion’ Festival for a second time, and share the many glories of Polish sacred music, both old and new, with British audiences. We look forward to hearing these excellent British choirs perform these great works of Polish of choral music in such a fine setting, and we are proud to have commissioned some brand new music for the occasion.”