A SEASON of events featuring the actors Patricia Routledge and Peter McEnery and the conductor Carl Davis has been launched in Chichester to celebrate its close ties with West Side Story composer Leonard Bernstein.

This year marks the centenary of the birth of Bernstein, with the Bernstein In Chichester festival, which runs until December, culminating in a special performance of his composition the Chichester Psalms. With his wife and two children, he was present at its world premiere at the Southern Cathedrals Festival in 1965. “In Chichester, I heard angels sing,” Bernstein wrote later of his visit.

The festival, which has a programme of concerts, workshops, revues, jazz, talks, film shows, exhibitions and reunions, is part of a worldwide celebration of the 100th birthday of the composer, conductor, musician, cultural ambassador and humanitarian, who died aged 72 in 1990.

During the festival, Keeping Up Appearances star Patricia Routledge will speak for the first time about her working relationship and valued personal friendship with Bernstein, actor Peter McEnery performs his one-man show Walter & Lenny, which he devised and is directed by his wife, the actress Julia St John, and there will be a performance of Carl Davis’s Sing God A Simple Song, an original music entertainment depicting seven aspects of Bernstein’s musical life.   

The festival has been described as “special” by Bernstein’s son Alexander, who last came to Chichester as a 10-year-old boy with his family in 1965 and who will return on November 24 as the Chichester Psalms is once again performed at Chichester Cathedral, this time by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Marin Alsop, who was taught and mentored by Bernstein.

Alexander says, “My sisters and I are delighted to know that Chichester is planning a celebration in honour of my father. While there are events all over the world celebrating the centennial, it is special indeed that your city is named in the Chichester Psalms. See you in November – can’t wait!”

Festival organisers Emma-Jane Wyatt, a classical music agent, and Edward Milward-Oliver, an author who has worked in the British film industry, say, “A personal high point for us will be welcoming Leonard’s son Alexander back to Chichester in November. He last visited the city with his parents and sister Jamie on the occasion of the first performance of the Chichester Psalms in the cathedral in July 1965.”

Mr Milward-Oliver adds, “The festival joins Chichester to London, New York, San Francisco, Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Tokyo and other major centres in the global remembrance of one of the great musical forces of the 20th century.”

Leonard Bernstein was born in August 1918 in Massachusetts, and during his career composed the score for the 1954 Marlon Brando movie On The Waterfront, wrote the incidental music for the Broadway plays Peter Pan (1950) and The Lark (1955), collaborated on a series of Broadway musicals including West Side Story, which was made into an Oscar-winning film starring Natalie Wood, On The Town (1944), Wonderful Town (1953) and Candide (1956), wrote the operas Trouble In Tahiti (1952) and A Quiet Place (1983) and collaborated on the ballets Fancy Free (1944), Facsimile (1946) and Dybbuk (1975).

He also composed large-scale works inspired by his Jewish heritage, including Symphony No 1: Jeremiah (1943), Symphony No 2: The Age of Anxiety and Symphony No 3: Kaddish (1963), which is dedicated “to the beloved memory of John F Kennedy”. His other major compositions include Prelude, Fugue and Riffs (1949) for solo clarinet and jazz ensemble, Serenade (1954) for violin, strings and percussion, and MASS: A Theater Piece for Singers, Players and Dancers (1971) among others.

He was commissioned in 1963 to write The Chichester Psalms by the Very Reverend Walter Hussey, Dean of Chichester Cathedral and a champion of the arts, who wrote to him requesting a piece for the cathedral’s 1965 music festival, adding that “Many of us would be very delighted if there was a hint of West Side Story about the music”.

In 1965, Bernstein took a sabbatical from his post as music Director of the New York Philharmonic intending to write a Broadway musical and instead composed the Chichester Psalms, a hope and life-affirming piece that combines choruses singing Hebrew text with orchestral forces. It has since become one of the most performed works in the 20th century choral repertoire.

Bernstein commented during a 1977 press conference, “I spent almost the whole year writing 12-tone music and even more experimental stuff. I was happy that all these new sounds were coming out: but after about six months of work I threw it all away. It just wasn’t my music; it wasn’t honest. The end result was the Chichester Psalms, which is the most accessible, B-flat majorish tonal piece I’ve ever written.”

He achieved Dr Hussey’s wish for the music to remain true to the composer’s own personal style, jazzy and contemporary yet accessible. In a letter to Dr Hussey, Bernstein characterized it as “popular in feeling,” with “an old-fashioned sweetness along with its more violent moments”.

Among the organisations involved in the Bernstein In Chichester festival are Chichester Cathedral, Chichester Festival Theatre, Chichester University’s Department of Music, Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, The Prebendal School in Chichester, Chichester Chamber Concerts, the 27th International Film Festival, Chichester Jazz Club and the West Sussex Record Office.

Performing during the festival are the Camarilla Wind Ensemble, the Darius Brubeck Quartet, singer Sophie-Louise Dann, pianist Jason Carr, Stage Left Project, and Bernstein authorities including his friend and biographer Humphrey Burton, Nigel Simeone, the editor of The Leonard Bernstein Letters, Dr Paul Laird from the University of Kansas, the author of several Bernstein studies, and historian Dr Peter Webster, who published a critical study of Dr Hussey in 2017.

Email info@bernsteininchichester.com or visit bernsteininchichester.uk.


Bernstein in Chichester 2018 festival events:

The Indomitable Persuader: A Hussey Symposium

Pallant House Gallery, 9 North Pallant, Chichester

Friday April 20, 2pm-5.30pm

Tickets £10/students £9/Friends £8.50

Historian Dr Peter Webster, who in 2017 published a critical study of Dr Walter Hussey, the Dean of Chichester Cathedral, explores how he became a significant  patron of the arts in Britain, while Dr Paul Laird, from the University of Kansas, the author of several Bernstein studies, draws on Bernstein’s sketches, notes, drafts and scores to examine the musical sources for the Chichester Psalms. There will also be a rare screening of Christopher Swann’s television documentary on Hussey, Patron of Art, with contributions from John Piper, Leonard Bernstein, Henry Moore and Sir Peter Pears.

Phone 01243 774557 or visit pallant.org.uk.

Total Embrace: A Day of Bernstein and Music

Music Block, University of Chichester, College Lane, Chichester

Saturday April 21, 12noon-4.30pm

Free – email l.ritchie@chi.ac.uk to confirm attendance

This event begins with a panel discussion addressing the question: Music education today – what would Lenny say? Afterwards, students, educators, listeners, musicians and dancers will come together to explore Bernstein’s educational philosophy and music in a series of workshops and performances. These include a presentation by MA Music Performance students, a community choral session, performances by jazz musicians who will remix Bernstein’s music, a performance of his Variations on an Octatonic Scale for recorder and cello, and a collaboration between students from the Dance Department and and local primary school children. The afternoon culminates with a showcase of numbers from the university’s Musical Theatre Touring company’s recent production of On The Town. Professor Laura Ritchie, Professor of Learning and Teaching, Music, Chichester University, says, “The Music Department’s Total Embrace Day embodies our commitment to education and our mission as a university to inspire and enable people to exceed their expectations. Everything about this day says learn, love, sing, play and share the music, which is very much in line with Bernstein’s ethos and teaching.”

Phone 01243 816205 or visit chi.ac.uk.

Remembering Lenny

Assembly Room, The Council House, North Street, Chichester

Friday June 8, 7.30pm

Tickets: pricing and booking information to be announced

For the first time, the actress Dame Patricia Routledge speaks at length about her working relationship and valued personal friendship with Leonard Bernstein. She starred as eight First Ladies of the White House in Leonard Bernstein’s final musical 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and won a Laurence Olivier Award for her performance in Candide. In conversation with writer and broadcaster Edward Seckerson, they recall their respective associations with “Lenny” and share insights into his work. Dame Patricia says, “It was an inspirational privilege to work with him.”

Email info@bernsteininchichester.com or visit bernsteininchichester.uk.

A Bernstein Songfest for the City Angels & Friends

Assembly Room, The Council House, North Street, Chichester

Saturday June 9, time to be announced

Tickets: by invitation

“In Chichester, I heard angels sing,” Leonard Bernstein wrote in the New York Times after his visit to Chichester Cathedral to hear the first performance of the Chichester Psalms. This informal singing session brings together and honours Chichester’s City Angels, trained volunteers who go into the city centre between 10pm and 2am every Friday and two Saturday nights a month to help make it a safer place. The session, to enjoy Bernstein’s music from West Side Story and Wonderful Town, is led by choral leader Emily Barden with pianist Jeff Leach.

Email info@bernsteininchichester.com.

Above: Remembering Lenny with actress Patricia Routledge with Edward Seckerson 

Main picture, top: Leonard Bernstein/picture: Paul de Hueck, courtesy of the Leonard Bernstein Office Inc

Above: composer Carl Davis/picture: Jasper Fry

Below: Leonard Bernstein (left) with Walter Hussey, Dean of Chichester Cathedral

Above: a showcase of numbers from Leonard Bernstein’s On The Town will be performed in Total Embrace: A Day of Bernstein and Music/picture: Paul Ackerley, University of Chichester

Above: the Camarilla Wind Ensemble will be performing at the Family Concert/picture: Carina Wright

Below: The Prebendal School Summer Concert/picture: Christopher Ison

Above: Edward Seckerson (right) and pianist Jason Carr are joined by singer Sophie-Louise Dann in Bernstein Revealed: A Cabaret

Below: in the Bernstein in Chichester Exhibition is this programme of the 1965 performance of the Chichester Psalms signed by Leonard Bernstein/West Sussex Record Office: Dean Hussey Archive

Above: a programme for the Chichester Psalms in the Bernstein in Chichester Exhibition/West Sussex Record Office: Dean Hussey Archive

Below: the Darius Brubeck Quartet/picture: Rob Blackham

Above: Trouble in Tahiti/picture: Peter Mould

Below: Chichester choristers in 1965, some of whom will recall performing at Chichester Cathedral in Chichester Psalms: A Reunion/picture: Timothy Nott

Above: Marin Alsop, who will conduct the Chichester Psalms at Chichester Cathedral/picture: Grant Leighton

Below: Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/picture by permission of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

Family Concert

Assembly Room, The Council House, North Street, Chichester

Saturday June 30, 3pm-4pm

Tickets £5/children up to 18 £2/family of 4 £10

Leonard Bernstein’s deeply held belief in the transformative power of music was captured in his legendary Young People’s Concerts. This concert, hosted by Chichester Chamber Concerts and supported by Cavatina Chamber Music Trust, features the Camarilla Wind Ensemble and there’s a chance to meet the musicians and their instruments: flute, clarinet, oboe, bassoon and horn. There will be plenty of music, including Bizet’s Carmen and Bernstein’s West Side Story. There will be a competition for the best picture or poem inspired by the concert, prizes, and time for children to do some drawing and colouring inspired by the music (drawing materials will be provided).

Phone 01243 781312 or visit cft.org.uk.

The Prebendal School Summer Concert

Chichester Cathedral, Chichester

Thursday July 12, 7pm-8pm

The Prebendal School is the oldest school in Sussex, serving as the choir school for Chichester Cathedral, and its Summer Concert is the highlight of its musical year. This year, the 1st Orchestra will perform a medley featuring music from Leonard Bernstein’s score for West Side Story, which premiered on Broadway in 1957. The tale of love and prejudice was inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The concert will also feature the school’s Concert Band, ensembles and solo performances. The school is incorporating Leonard Bernstein into the year’s curriculum in recognition of the composer’s achievements as a teacher.

Visit prebendalschool.org.uk.

Bernstein Revealed: A Cabaret

Minerva Theatre, Chichester Festival Theatre, Oaklands Park, Chichester

Sunday July 29, 2.45pm-4.45pm

Tickets £25

In an evening of words and music, host Edward Seckerson and Tony Award-nominated pianist Jason Carr are joined by singer Sophie-Louise Dann for an evening of melodies and memories. Seckerson was one of the last people to interview Leonard Bernstein, a very personal conversation that is at the heart of this show. It features songs from West Side Story, Candide and On The Town as well as forgotten gems from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Peter Pan, Mass and Trouble in Tahiti.

Phone 01243 781312 or visit cft.org.uk.

Bernstein and the Movies

Chichester Cinema, New Park Road, Chichester

Thursday-Sunday August 9-26

During the 27th Chichester International Film Festival, West Side Story, On The Waterfront and On The Town will be screened. Leonard Bernstein wrote the score for West Side Story (1961), which was rated by the American Film Institute as one of the best two musicals ever made. He also wrote the score for the 1954 Elia Kazan movie On The Waterfront, which dared to speak with a bold and identifiable musical voice and for which he was nominated for an Oscar. On The Town retained four songs composed by Bernstein from the original 1944 stage musical. There will also be two illustrated talks: Bernstein at the Movies and Leonard Bernstein: Broadcaster and Lecturer.

Phone 01243 786650 or visit chichestercinema.org.

Bernstein in Chichester Exhibition

West Sussex Record Office, 3 Orchard Street, Chichester

Monday-Monday August 13-24, Tuesday-Friday 9.15am-4.45pm and Saturdays 9.15am-12.30pm and 1.30pm-4.30pm


Among the archives at West Sussex Record Office is a series of compelling documents recording Leonard Bernstein’s time in Chichester and the first performance of the Chichester Psalms at Chichester Cathedral in 1965. The exhibition includes the cathedral archives and the papers of Dean Walter Hussey, who commissioned the original work. It will transfer to Chichester Cathedral North Transept in October.

Phone 01243 753602 or visit record.office@westsussex.gov.uk.

Walter & Lenny

Chichester Cathedral, Chichester

Wednesday-Saturday September 5-8, times to be announced

Tickets and booking information to be announced

Following sell-out performances at the Minerva Theatre in Chichester in 2015, actor Peter McEnery, a founder member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, returns with this one-man show that delivers a compelling insight into the friendship between Leonard Bernstein and Walter Hussey, Dean of Chichester Cathedral, who commissioned the Chichester Psalms. Based on Nigel Simeone’s The Leonard Bernstein Letters, Walter & Lenny was devised by McEnery. He says, “It is exciting to be returning to Chichester. Evoking these two towering personalities on stage in the cathedral in which Walter Hussey served will be an extraordinary experience both for me and the audience. I could not believe what I had found when I first read the letters between Hussey and Bernstein. The conversation between two such diverse personalities spoke to me and I knew that I had the play that I had been looking for within the pages of this wonderful exchange.”

Email info@bernsteininchichester.com or visit bernsteininchichester.uk.

Darius Brubeck Plays Bernstein

The Pallant Suite, 7 South Pallant, Chichester

Friday September 7, 7.30pm-10pm

Tickets: prices to be confirmed

In 1959, the Dave Brubeck Quartet performed at the Carnegie Hall with the New York Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Bernstein, a concert that was broadcast on the radio. Dave Brubeck’s son Darius fondly recalls the friendship between the two musicians and tonight the Darius Brubeck Quartet is welcomed by Chichester Jazz Club to play a special set that includes arrangements of some of Leonard Bernstein’s most celebrated music.

Phone 01243 816525 or visit thenovium.org/boxoffice, or phone 01243 862759 or email melissahauffe@aol.com.

Trouble in Tahiti

Assembly Room, The Council House, North Street, Chichester

Thursday September 13, time to be announced

Tickets and booking information to be announced

Leonard Bernstein was in his honeymoon in 1951 when he began composing his one-act opera Trouble in Tahiti, a portrait of the troubled marriage of a young suburban couple. It draws on popular song styles to deliver an uncompromising critique of post-war American materialism. A Stage Left Project production, it features mezzo soprano Sophie Goldrick, baritone Alistair Sutherland, soprano Chiara Vinci and tenor Laurence Panter, with Tom Clarkson on double bass. It is directed by Amelia Cardwell and produced by Hannah Deeble.

Email info@bernsteininchichester.com or visit bernsteininchichester.uk.

Bernstein, Hussey and the Chichester Psalms

West Sussex Record Office, 3 Orchard Street, Chichester

Tuesday September 18, 7pm-9pm

Tickets £8, must be booked in advance

Author and critic Nigel Simeone explores the lively exchange of letters between Dean Walter Hussey of Chichester Cathedral and Leonard Bernstein concerning the commission that led to the Chichester Psalms. The editor of The Leonard Bernstein Letters tells the story behind the choral work written for the 1965 Southern Cathedrals Festival and its surprising origins in the music for a Broadway show. Simeone is the author of Leonard Bernstein, West Side Story, which examined the creative process behind the show and its lasting impact and reputation, as well as acclaimed studies of Messiaen and Janacek. The talk will be accompanied by a display of rare and original documents relating to the Chichester Psalms from the West Sussex Record Office’s archive.

Phone 01243 753602 or visit record.office@westsussex.gov.uk.

Sing God A Simple Song

Chapel of Ascension, Chichester University, College Lane, Chichester

Sunday October 28, time to be announced

Tickets: prices and booking information to be announced

Sing God A Simple Song is a line from Leonard Bernstein’s Mass and this is an original musical entertainment devised by composer and pianist Carl Davis and directed by visual artist Pamela Howard. Featuring six singers from the university, it depicts seven aspects of Bernstein’s often conflicted musical life and contains some surprises. It explores his relationships with America, New York, Broadway, the movies, politics, love and God. And as a salute to the role model of his youth, Davis evokes the composer at home – ashtrays overflowing, handwritten manuscripts everywhere – as the singers realising his imagination. The informal seating at this event references the supper clubs Bernstein frequented.

Email info@bernsteininchichester.com or visit bernsteininchichester.uk.

Chichester Psalms: A Reunion

Venue, date and time to be announced

Former choristers of Chichester Cathedral recall performing the Chichester Psalms in the presence of Leonard Bernstein on 31 July 1965. “I remember preparing for and performing in the 1965 concert with great appreciation and affection, and for the challenge of singing something so different and in a language other than Latin or English,” recalls one. “It was indeed a memorable experience, ending with Bernstein visibly appreciative of the performance by the choir and orchestra.” Noel Osborne, a Bass Lay Vicar in the Cathedral Choir from 1963-1976, recalls singing Chichester Psalms in 1965: “I remember the anticipation ahead of the final Southern Cathedrals Festival concert for the cathedral choirs of Chichester, Salisbury and Winchester, with the Chichester Psalms at the centre of it – and wondering if it would all come together on the day. Would we do justice to the music – and the Hebrew?”

Email info@bernsteininchichester.com or visit bernsteininchichester.uk.

Burton on Bernstein

Venue to be announced

Saturday November 24, time to be announced

Tickets: prices and booking information to be announced

Humphrey Burton was a friend and colleague of Leonard Bernstein for 30 years and directed almost 200 music films with him. He was present at the 1965 performance of the Chichester Psalms in Chichester Cathedral and attended many of his premieres, including his last musical, his second opera and his Concerto for Orchestra, one of whose movements he dedicated to Burton’s daughter Helena. Burton published his acclaimed biography of Bernstein, which was recently reissued with a new introduction.

Email info@bernsteininchichester.com or visit bernsteininchichester.uk.

Chichester Psalms

Chichester Cathedral, Chichester

Saturday November 24, 7.30pm

Tickets £15-£36

The major highlight of the worldwide Bernstein centenary celebrations, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra performs Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms in the cathedral for which it was commissioned. Featuring mezzo soprano Michelle de Young and the choirs of Chichester, Salisbury and Winchester Cathedrals, it is conducted by Marin Alsop, who was taught and mentored by Bernstein. She says, “My schedule this season is filled with performing Lenny’s works across the globe, but conducting the Psalms here in Chichester will be a very special occasion and a real highlight for me. It is the perfect tribute to Bernstein. This brilliant and very personal piece embodies Bernstein’s faith in humanity, innocence and youth. I know the organisers have worked hard to build a community-like celebration of events, which Bernstein would have loved – tracing his legacy through education, community and discourse. No other city could possibly match what you’re doing this year.” The full concert programme is Leonard Bernstein’s Symphony No 1: Jeremiah with Michelle de Young; J S Bach Motets with A cappella choirs; and Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms. 

Phone 01202 669925, email boxoffice@bsorchestra.co.uk or visit bsolive.com.