Symphony of Remembering – Coventry Cathedral

09th June 2022

Coventry Cathedral will host a Symphony of Remembering this Saturday (11th June), with new music created especially for the cathedral that features testimony from those who suffered through the Blitz which destroyed the old cathedral, and more recent losses including the pandemic.

Coventry Cathedral’s Symphony of Remembering launches Diamond Jubilee Organ Appeal with moving testimony of those who have lost loved ones.

The concert is sponsored by Coventry University in partnership with the Orchestra of the Swan which has provided the university and the city with an orchestra in residence for the City of Culture year.

This is the last performance of their residency and all proceeds will go to the Cathedral’s Diamond Jubilee Organ Appeal.

“The people next door heard us all screaming” Listen to this moving excerpt from the Symphony on the link below.

The appeal aims to raise £1 million to fund its restoration and this concert will feature Poulenc’s Concerto for Organ, Strings and Timpani providing a perfect showcase for the renowned Harrison & Harrison organ.

Derek Nisbet, composer and co-artistic director, of Talking Birds, said:

“Symphony of Remembering is a piece inspired by the story of resilience that the Ruins and the New Cathedral together tell us – that we need to remember in order to rebuild and move on.

“The piece includes testimony by people who experienced the blitz, as well as experiences of more recent losses. The extraordinary musicianship of organist Rachel Mahon and Orchestra of the Swan, combined with what, for me, is an utterly unique combination of building and instrument, in the shape of the Cathedral’s mighty pipe organ, should make for a very special performance.”

Coventry Cathedral’s Harrison & Harrison organ is judged to be of outstanding national significance and was awarded a British Institute of Organ Studies Grade I Historic Organs Certificate in 2013.

The Cathedral needs to raise the £1m to restore and safeguard the instrument for generations to come. Many parts of it are wearing away or broken due to age and wear, there are broken pipes, cracked soundboards, failing magnets, broken leather, and outdated electrical components. Plus, the organ – pipes and mechanisms – is covered in decades worth of dust which dulls the sound. It needs a full refurbishment and cleaning. The organ is regularly used for services, concerts, and teaching, seeing an average of 26 hours of playing per week.

Rachel Mahon, Director of Music, at Coventry Cathedral, said:

“May 2022 marked 60 years since the opening of the new Cathedral and organ – one of the most celebrated in the country. Few organs can boast such a magnificent sound, which is why the organ here is so special. To preserve it for the next several generations, it needs a clean and full overhaul. I’m grateful to Coventry University for enabling this special concert to happen and delighted to be working in partnership with Orchestra of the Swan to mark the Diamond Jubilee in this way.”

Visit the Coventry Cathedral website here to find out more information.

Or book tickets to Symphony of Remembering here.