Celebrating 50 Years Of Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms At Bedford Park Festival
Walter & Lenny looks back to 1960s collaboration between the church and the arts
Next month’s London premiere of the play Walter & Lenny – in the beautiful Arts and Crafts church of St Michael & All Angels, Bedford Park – will celebrate two remarkable collaborations between the church and the arts in the 1960s.
Chiswick’s Bedford Park Festival was conceived in 1966 by the vicar of St Michael & All Angels, Jack Jenner, and revived art, architecture, drama, music and poetry in the world’s first garden suburb, which became an ‘artists colony’ after it was built in the 1870s.
Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms was commissioned by the Dean of Chichester Cathedral, Walter Hussey, for its 1965 music festival.
Julia St John
Walter & Lenny is devised and performed by the actor Peter McEnery and produced and directed by Julia St John, who both live in Chiswick. It will be performed at 7.30pm on Sunday June 12th and Monday June 13th in St Michael & All Angels Church. Tickets £15, on sale at www.bedfordparkfestival.org
You can read about them here
The play tells how Bernstein, the composer of West Side Story, was commissioned to compose Chichester Psalms by the Dean of Chichester Cathedral, the Very Reverend Walter Hussey. Hussey was a remarkable patron of the arts – commissioning works from Henry Moore, Graham Sutherland, WH Auden, Benjamin Britten and Marc Chagall. The two men formed an extraordinary friendship, documented in The Leonard Bernstein Letters by Nigel Simeone.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Chichester Psalms, Walter & Lenny had its world premiere at the Chichester Festival Theatre in November 2015. And to celebrate 50 years of the Bedford Park Festival, it will have its London premiere in St Michael & All Angels Church.
“We are delighted to help Peter and Julia bring Walter & Lenny to a London audience” said the vicar of St Michael & All Angels, Fr Kevin Morris. “The Bedford Park Festival has been putting on plays for 50 years and we think St Michael & All Angels will provide an excellent setting for a work which celebrates a remarkable collaboration between the church and the arts”.
The Bedford Park Festival was set up 50 years ago by the vicar and appeal committee of St Michael & All Angels, to celebrate the arts, raise money for repairs to the church, and restore community spirit in the world’s first garden suburb. Its president was the Bishop of London and its patron John Betjeman, who was also patron of the Bedford Park Society, formed to protect the area’s fine Arts & Crafts houses from demolition.
The Festival brought Bedford Park back to life, regenerating the artistic spirit in which it was built in the 1870s under the celebrated architect, Richard Norman Shaw. It also helped secure ‘listed’ status for 356 of the houses. The Festival’s president was the Bishop of London, and in the first Festival programme he wrote a message that rings as true today as when he wrote it:
“As London grows bigger and bigger, it becomes increasingly important that there should be a real sense of community in the various areas. To foster such a spirit in Bedford Park is the object of this Festival and I hope that it will be supported by all who live in the area.
“Since it is one of the tasks of the Church to be a centre of community I hope, too, that your parish church of St Michael & All Angels will be increasingly at the heart of the community.”
The present Bishop of London, the Rt Revd and Rt Hon Richard Chartres, has accepted an invitation to be president of the Bedford Park Festival in its 50th year.
Tickets are now now on sale for some events for this year's Bedford Park Festival.
May 20, 2016