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Spode Music Week

Monday, September 15, 2008
From the 9th to 16th August, Spode Music Week took place and was attended by Br Robert Verrill OP.

Spode Music Week has been an annual occurrence for the past 55 years and brings together amateur and professional musicians to celebrate God’s gift of music. Spode Music Week was founded by the Dominican Conrad Pepler OP and he made a huge contribution to its success over 27 years. The music week originally started in 1954 and until 1986, it took place at Spode House, a conference centre next to Hawkesyard priory. Since leaving Spode, the music week has kept its name and has been held at a number of venues. For the last few years it has been held at the Beechwood Sacred Heart School in Tunbridge Wells.

Over the years, Spode Music Week has managed to maintain its Catholic ethos. Everyday Mass is celebrated, the highlight of the week being the final Mass in which the course work is performed – this year it was Vaughan William’s Mass in G Minor, a work that was chosen to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Vaughan Williams' death. Compline is also sung every evening. One of the most popular compline settings among Spode participants was composed by the composer Anthony Milner, the brother of our very own Austin Milner OP. This year, Fr Austin gave a talk about Conrad (Steven) Pepler’s life before he joined the order and his association with Eric Gill. Another very interesting talk was given by the composer Judith Bingham who spoke about how she goes about writing liturgical music.

For the last few years, Fr Philip Whitmore has been the chaplain for Spode Music Week. Fr Philip works in the Roman Curia, but he is also an excellent pianist. This year he was one of the soloists in Beethoven’s Triple Concerto, one of the course pieces.

A great variety of orchestral works was performed during the week ranging from Bach’s Brandenburg concerto No. 2 to the theme tune to Thunderbirds. There were also several very high quality evening recitals. One was given by Alison Wells and another by Sophie Bevan, both of whom are well known sopranos. In addition to the Vaughan Williams Mass, two other choral works were performed, Shakespeare Songs and May Magnificat composed by William Mathias. May Magnificat is a choral setting to the beautiful poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

A testament to the popularity of Spode Music Week is that people keep coming back with their families year after year. The combination of liturgical and non-liturgical music, together with the friendly environment in which there is something on offer for musicians of all abilities makes the week very inclusive and appealing. The lasting success of Spode Music Week is a very fitting tribute to Conrad Pepler OP.

Robert Verrill OP


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