Onward festival pilgrims

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Canterbury Tales mural by Ezra Winder 1939

The 50th anniversary Rye Arts Festival (September 10-26) will see a pilgrimage of loyal and new festival-goers to the town, set to enjoy a packed fortnight of 60 ticketed events across a multitude of the arts.

The final weekend of the festival will see a programme of events that inform, celebrate and even allow the audience to take part in a pilgrimage (of the arts)!

Author, Peter Stanford

On Friday, September 24, Peter Stanford will deliver a talk at St Mary’s Church, Rye, called “Pilgrimage: Journeys of Meaning”. The author will explore the history of pilgrimages and consider why people walked long and sacred paths down the ages. He also looks at how the first pilgrims to Jerusalem, Mecca and Santiago de Compostela, compare to the many millions of people today, who embark on the same or similar journeys of spiritual and personal discovery.

On that Friday afternoon and lasting through to early evening, “A Rye and Winchelsea Musical Pilgrimage”, will provide a concert of two halves, separated by a walk (for those who wish) from St Mary’s Church in Rye to St Thomas’ Church in Winchelsea. The Victoria Consort is a specialist choral ensemble specialising in Gregorian chant and pre-reformation choral music, and they will be serving up a magical music treat.

St. Mary’s, Rye

Beginning at 4:30pm they will sing music for the traditional service of vespers. Then, for those who wish, there will be a pilgrimage on foot to Winchelsea along the path at the bottom of Cadborough Cliff along the 1066 Country Walk. Others may choose to drive between the neighbouring towns. Refreshments will be laid on at St Thomas’ for thirsty pilgrims who have completed the passage between the churches.

John Case, festival director, says: “We hope this wonderful combination of music in the English choral tradition, sung by a professional choir, in the stunning architecture of the two Cinque Port churches, with a walk through the countryside, for those who want, will be one of the highlights of the 50th anniversary festival. Pilgrimages are an ancient tradition, but we hope people will enjoy what is an exciting new event for this special year! It is important to note these aren’t church services, rather, concerts where the music associated with the services are sung.”

St. Thomas’, Winchelsea

Buses will be laid on to take weary but fulfilled musical pilgrims back to Rye – but booking tickets in advance is essential.

On Sunday, September 26, an ensemble cast of the Rye Shakespeare Company (RSC), including Rye Players, are reviving Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, with two performances at the Mermaid Inn. Three of Chaucer’s much-loved tales have been given a rewrite by Andrew Mayor, and the resulting funny romp is bound to leave the audience in stitches!

Tickets for these Pilgrim-themed events, and all the 60 events covering classical and contemporary music, films, drama and much more, are available online at www.ryeartsfestival.org.uk or from the box office via telephone on 01797 462168, or weekdays from Grammar School Records, on Rye’s high street.

Image Credits: Ezra Winder .

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