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  • Jane McArdle

Divine Beauty meets The City Beautiful

On the wonderful afternoon of England’s quarter final success in the World Cup, Birmingham Cathedral held a concert as part of the Birmingham Civic Society’s centenary celebrations. During WW2 Birmingham the Society played a vital role in safeguarding the stained-glass windows by moving them to a mine in Wales for safety. It was therefore most fitting that the concert should help raise funds for Divine Beauty, a project that encompasses the Cathedral's current plans to ensure preservation of the windows.

Choral music for the concert was specially selected to represent each of the four stunning windows. Performed by the exceptional Birmingham Cathedral Choir conducted by David Hardie, Head of Music, and accompanied by Darren Hogg. The programme included some of the choir's firm favourite pieces such as I was Glad and The Firmament. I narrated the concert and introduced each window referring to the Cathedral’s ambitions for the conservation project. We considered the cathedral’s significant connections with the artist and the pre-eminence the windows as some of the finest stained-glass in the world. When referring to the glorious Last Judgement window, Burne-Jones' masterpiece, the audience turned their heads to look at it. It shone most spectactularly in the late afternoon sunshine.

Two pieces by former Head of Music Marcus Huxley, Of a Rose and Susanni, interpreted The Nativity window. It is a Thing Most Wonderful by Moore and Greater Love by Ireland sung to reflect The Crucifixion window and God is Gone Up by Finzi and O Clap your Hands by Kelly to illustrate The Ascension Window. A powerful rendition of The Wilderness was sung to accompany The Last Judgement window.

There was a heartfelt welcome from Dean Matt and a wonderful team of Church Wardens and cathedral volunteers provided box office, warm hospitality and refreshments. A special summertime tipple Pimms was served! Tickets sales all went to support fundraising efforts for Divine Beauty.

The concert offered a new way to enjoy the windows, and we'd love to do more events like this in the future. Visitors to Cathedral Square can discover more about Birmingham Civic Society with an outdoor display on the railings in Temple Row West until the end of 2018.

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