Singing Shakespeare Launch

Shakespeare Birthplace Trust launches Singing Shakespeare Project with World Premieres.

30 January 2014

A concert taking place in the Church in which William Shakespeare was christened and is buried will launch a new three year global singing project by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to mark the 450th anniversary of the playwright’s birth in 2014 and the 400th anniversary of his death in 2016.

Directed by David Wordsworth, Singing Shakespeare will inspire choirs from all over the world to perform new and existing musical settings of Shakespeare, and to take part in the anniversaries in 2014 and 2016. The launch concert will take place on 24th April at Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon, and is generously supported by the Vaughan Williams Charitable Trust.  It will form part of the town’s annual Shakespeare Birthday Celebrations and will feature the world premiere of a new work by award-winning composer Gary Carpenter, as well asthe world premiere of a new arrangement of Stephen Sondheim’s ‘Fear No More’ (Cymbeline Act 4 Scene 2), a song taken from his early musical ‘The Frogs’ and arranged with the composer’s permission for SATB* choir by David Wordsworth. Gary Carpenter’s first book of Shakespeare Songs has been commissioned by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (SBT) and the Friends of the SBT.

The concert will include performances by the Stratford-upon-Avon Chamber Choir, Holy Trinity Church Choir and Cantare, a newly formed chamber choir based in Stratford.  They will sing a collection of Shakespeare settings under their own Music Directors (Stephen Dodsworth, Benedict Wilson and Matthew Smallwood respectively) and will join together under the baton of David Wordsworth to perform Vaughan Williams’ ‘Serenade to Music– an iconic musical evocation of a scene from the Merchant of Venice – as well as the new works by Sondheim and Carpenter.

Gary Carpenter is writing no fewer than four volumes of Shakespeare settings which will be published in four volumes and will include settings suitable for choirs of all abilities (two for SATB choirs and one each for high and low voice choirs). The other books will be premiered during the next twelve/eighteen months and, will be published by Cadenza Music between April 2014 and the end of 2015 and will be available for other choirs to perform during 2014-2016.

Singing Shakespeare will include on-line resources developed by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust for choirs, teachers and students, recordings of performances of Carpenter’s new works by choirs from all over the world, blogs and filmed masterclasses by choral directors and vocal experts, networking opportunities for singers and choirs, and an archive of performances sent in by choirs. The project will develop over the next three years to include a competition for young composers, the collecting/commissioning of new choral settings by young and established composers, as well as high profile performances of new and existing works.

Marion Morgan, Events Officer for the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust says: “Music is a unifying art form and as shown by the success of projects such as Gareth Malone’s ‘Sing While You Work’, people quite simply love singing and many, many people all over the world belong to choirs. With Singing Shakespeare, we hope to encourage singers of all abilities, from anywhere and of any age to sing settings of Shakespeare, old and new. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is passionate about engaging with people and sharing the legacy of our greatest poet. Building relationships between the Trust and choirs (and also helping to nurture relationships between singers across the globe) through music is a wonderfully accessible way of fulfilling our commitment, highlighting Shakespeare’s works and maybe introducing them to new audiences.”

Gary Carpenter, commissioned composer, says: “Many of Shakespeare’s best-loved lyrics will be included but we will be on the lookout for the unusual, the fantastical, indeed the weird - for the Shakespeare that may never have been sung or hummed or whistled before. This exciting, ambitious large-scale project will be an enthralling adventure for all involved whether they be choir, musical director, pianist – or composer!”

David Wordsworth, artistic director of the project, says: “The two great loves of my life have always been words and choral music, so to bring these two passions together to celebrate perhaps the greatest of all writers seemed too good a chance to miss and I am enormously grateful to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust for supporting this project from the very beginning.  Although it was always my intention to include classic settings of Shakespeare, such as the Vaughan Williams’ ‘Serenade to Music’ (surely one of the most perfect combinations of words and music), central to the idea has always been the commissioning of new work and that a composer of Gary Carpenter’s experience readily agreed to respond to our first commission was good news indeed.  To have his pieces sung for the first time by choirs from in and around Stratford will I know make the launch concert a very special event and pave the way for a fascinating voyage of discovery as we all take part in ‘Singing Shakespeare’.”

Tickets cost £12.00 (adults) and concessions £9 (children 5-17, students in full time education and over 60s). Book online at


Notes to editors:

Press release date: 30 January 2014.

For more information please contact Press and Public Affairs Officer Nurinder Mantell on 01789 207132/ 07824 137638 or email


*SATB – soprano, alto, tenor, bass

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is the independent charity that cares for the world’s greatest Shakespeare heritage sites in Stratford-upon-Avon, and promotes the enjoyment and understanding of Shakespeare’s works, life and times all over the world. The charity runs formal and informal educational programmes for people of all ages. It holds the world’s largest Shakespeare-related museum and archives open free to the public, a collection which is designated as being of international importance. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust receives no public subsidy or direct government funding; it depends on income generated through the support of visitors, donors, volunteers and Friends.