A UNIQUE little summer festival, deep in the heart of Worcestershire countryside, is centred on a house of secrets.
Harvington Hall, a moated Tudor manor house, just off the road between Kidderminster and Bromsgrove, is reputed to have more hiding places than any other of the refuges constructed in penal times. Here priests could shelter who would otherwise face death on the scaffold. One in particular, is known to have lodged here. It is now an oasis of peace and tranquility.
The Harvington Festival, under the patronage of the Archbishop of Birmingham, the Bishop of Worcester and Lord Harvington, is in its fifth year. Its aim is to portray the period of the old Hall in music and drama.
The main part of the festival is in July, and starts with Ex Cathedra, the Baroque choir of the Midlands, directed by Jeffrey Skidmore, who will give a recital on Friday, July 17 at 7.3 Opm in the old prereformation Church of St Cassian at Chaddesley Corbett. Entitled "How shall we sing the Lord's song", this programme will include music by early 16th and 17th century composers — Byrd, Tallis, Sheppard, Taverner and others.
Saturday, July 18 will be a well-filled day. There will be an. original event in Stone House Cottage Garden at 6pm, when Gilt Edge Brass will perform music by Gabrielli antiphonally from three of the garden towers. There will also be a first performance of a specially commissioned work by Robert Willis.
Later in the evening, at 7.30pm, in St Mary's Church, Harvington, the King's Consort, one of the most proficient and polished early music ensembles, will give a recital of music by Purcell, Handel, Vincent Besozzi and contemporaries. This will include songs of the period sung by Gillian Fisher.
On Sunday, July 19 the afternoon will be devoted to Elizabethan entertainment, which will take place in the lovely moated garden of the Hall. This will include juggling and fire-eating by John Ballanger, together with a puppet show, buskers and exponents of medieval crafts.
The long-standing association between Harvington and Chaddesley Corbett, will be reaffirmed by religious celebrations in both churches, as a gesture of reconciliation for the persecutions of the past.
Vespers will be sung in the Church of St Cassian, Chaddesley Corbett, by the Oratory Choir, directed by Christopher Clifton, BA on Saturday, July 18 at 5pm (Bishop Gordon Wheeler will preside and preach). High Mass will be celebrated at 12 on Sunday morning in St Mary's Church, Harvington. The Stourbridge Choir, directed by Frank Fayh, will sing a Mass by Josquin du Pres, and the preacher will be the Rt Rev Gordon Wheeler, formerly Bishop of Leeds.
Later in the day, Evensong • will be celebrated at 5pm in St Mary's Church, Harvington. This will be conducted by Rev James Butterworth, Precentor of Worcester Cathedral, and the preacher will be the Rev Canon Basil Moss, formerly Provost of Birmingham Cathedral. It will. be sung by the Festival Choir, conducted by Jeffrey Gray, BA (Oxon), ARCO (who will precede Evensong with an organ recital).