Cathedral Has Been the Ruins of Many a Musical Career! WITH the Enemy Set to Play Two Open Air Gigs in the Ruins of Coventry Cathedral Next Month, Telegraph Contributor Pete Clemons Takes a Look Back at Other Concerts That Have Taken Place at the Sacred Venue over the Years. Rock Fan Pete, Who Lives in Keresley, Is Currently Compiling an Archive of the Coventry Music Nostalgia
THE ripples of controversy surrounding the recent announcements of the forthcoming gigs to be played by The Enemy inspired me to look back at the more contemporary and classical events to have taken place within Coventry Cathedral.
The first major event was of course for the consecration of the cathedral extension, or the new cathedral as it is more commonly known, on May 25, 1962. Benjamin Britten composed his masterpiece 'The War Requiem' for the occasion and this was given its premiere in the new cathedral on May 30, 1962.
Britten, a pacifist, was commissioned to write the work and given complete musical freedom. He began the writing it early 1961 and completed the 85-minute piece in January 1962.
The next significant event was something different altogether. It was that of an appearance by Duke Ellington who performed in the new cathedral on February 21, 1966. The then 66-year-old visited the city for the first European performance of his Concert of Sacred Music.
More jazz followed in 1968 by way of the Jacques Loussier Trio. I have no idea what they played but over he years they have graced many cahedrals performing music by the ikes of Bach and Elgar. 1968 also aw the visit of John Lennon and Yoko Ono for their now infamous, corn planting, within the cathedral grounds.
A highly regarded band from Covntry called Asgard appeared in the old cathedral ruins on July 12, 1969. This was as part of an arts festival organised by the nearby Lanchester Polytechnic. The event was titled 'Jericho' - a programme of song and dance. This was one of many partnerships that the cathedral and polytechnic/university would engage in. 1969 also saw the likes of Al Stewart and The Pentangle perform in the cathedral.
August 28, 1970 saw a fundraiser for the Coventry Diggers (a group of local hippies who had produced our first arts and music magazine) in the grounds of the old cathedral. Bands like Ra-Ho-Tep performed and this is how the Telegraph reported it at the time: 'More than 200 young people sat or stood around in the Cathedral ruins for Coventry's own mini pop festival on Saturday evening. Fifteen minutes after the festival - called "A Digger's feast" - started, there were 200 youngsters in the ruins, and more were coming in'.
World renowned classical guitarist, John Williams, also gave a recital in the cathedral on October 3, 1970, as did jazz great Johnny Dankworth on February 2, 1971 and Andre Previn a year later on February 2, 1972.
1975 saw the controversial decision to allow German band Tangerine Dream perform in the new cathedral.
This was part of a reconciliation tour that saw this electronic experimental outfit play at major cathedrals across Europe. The concert was performed on October 4 and was filmed by author and producer Tony Palmer.
According to my own listings the next 20 or so years produced very few noteworthy moments but of those that did happen some were quite momentous such as Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Michael George and the Choirs of Coventry and Lichfield Cathedrals who performed and sang, among others, 'the best carol of all time', In The Bleak Midwinter. …