Over recent years, the multi-faceted Edinburgh Fringe has gained an international reputation for stand-up comedy, recitals by up-and-coming musicians, street performances and zany student theatre. St Vincent’s Chapel, located in the heart of Edinburgh’s New Town, is in its third year as an official Fringe Venue, and in 2018, is introducing a completely new element to the Fringe -- a week-long focus on the arts of sacred music, iconography, floral art and religious poetry.
The “Edinburgh Festival of the Sacred Arts” will run during the middle week of the Fringe – from Sunday August 12th to Saturday August 18th -- offering residents and visitors a unique opportunity to experience some of the riches of the centuries’ long alliance between Christianity and the Arts. This mini-festival brings together Edinburgh based professional artists, including the Edinburgh Quartet and the Edinburgh School of Icon Painting, with local musicians, readers and flower guilds.
The Chapel will be open throughout the week. An exhibition of icons, curated by Basia Mindewicz, Director of Edinburgh School of Icon Painting Exhibition, will run from Monday to Saturday, with icons on sale, and two practical demonstrations to introduce this highly distinctive art to potential iconographers. Two evening recitals will offer audiences a chance to hear rarely performed works by major composers. On August 12th the Edinburgh Quartet will play Joseph Haydn’s ‘Seven Last Words from the Cross’ in Haydn’s own arrangement for quartet. A special feature of this performance is the interspersing of newly commissioned poems by the young American poet Jennifer Rawson. On August 16th Coro Vincenzo, under the direction of Leslie Shankland, will perform “The Resurrection Story” by the 17th century German composer Heinrich Schütz, along with music by Bach and Byrd.
An especially unusual contribution to the Festival is a celebration of floral art. ‘Floral Art for the Feast Day of St Mary’ is a one-day event on August 15th involving six of Edinburgh’s Flower Guilds. Floral arrangements will reflect events in the life of the Virgin Mary, viewed in the context of recorded Marian music.
In conjunction with the Cornerstone Bookshop at Edinburgh’s West End, the congregation of St Vincent’s Chapel will provide the readers for an afternoon session devoted to ‘The Anglican Tradition of Poetry’. This long tradition includes many of the greatest names in English poetry, from John Donne in the 17th century through Christina Rossetti in the 19th to T S Eliot and R S Thomas in the 20th.
The Festival of Sacred Arts opens with a celebration of 1929 Scottish Liturgy, using William Byrd’s famous 4-part Mass, at which Professor David Fergusson, Principal of New College will be the preacher. The Chapter House Singers will close the Festival on Saturday August 18th with Choral Evensong, a centuries old Christian liturgy that has inspired a large number of gifted composers, from the 16th century to the present day.