new music wells

new music wells

forty years of music: a celebration

Founded in 2008 by Matthew Owens, Organist and Master of the Choristers, this innovative festival is a retrospective of sacred choral and organ music of the previous forty years during all services, together with world premiere performances by Wells Cathedral Choir and organists of music by internationally renowned composers, local composers, and composition students from Wells Cathedral School. There are also concerts and a public masterclass with the featured composer of the year. The festival’s President is British composer, Judith Bingham, following on from the late Jonathan Harvey.

In October 2018,  new music wells 78-18 will take place from Friday 12 – Thursday 18 October.

Download the programme here.

Among the various world premiere performances will be a new work by this year’s distinguished Composer-in-Residence, Diana Burrell, whose new piece will be premiered by Wells Cathedral Choir on Thursday 18 October at the 5.15pm service of Choral Evensong. She will be in conversation with fellow composer Michael Berkeley CBE at Composer Conversations with Michael Berkeley on Wednesday 17 October in Quilter Hall (Wells Cathedral School), and will give a public composition masterclass in Cedars Hall on the afternoon of Thursday 18 October. Admission to all of these events is free.

There will be five lunchtime concerts during the week, all at 1.05-1.50pm. Admission to all lunchtime performances is free, with retiring collections to support Wells Cathedral Music:

Friday 12 October

new music wells: trumpetworks

Oliver Chubb (trumpet), accompanied by David Bednall (organ)

Monday 15 October

new music wells: pianoworks

Specialist pianists from Wells Cathedral School

Tuesday 16 October

new music wells: chamberworks

Wells Cathedral School’s New Music Ensemble, featuring compositions by student composers

Wednesday 17 October

new music wells: chamberworks

Wells Cathedral School’s New Music Ensemble, featuring compositions by this year’s featured composer, Diana Burrell

Thursday 18 October

new music wells: organworks

Jeremy Cole (Assistant Organist, Wells Cathedral) performs a recital of organ music for new music wells 78-18, including works by Michael Berkeley CBE (in his 70th birthday year), Judith Bingham, Barnaby Martin, and Tarik O’Regan (in his 40th birthday year)

An exciting edition this year is a silent movie screening accompanied by improvised organ music. On Wednesday 17 October at 7.30pm, David Bednall – one of Europe’s finest improvisers on the organ – will create new music on the spot, through his accompaniment of the classic silent movie The Hunchback of Notre Dame, in the vast space of Wells Cathedral. Tickets, priced from £10.00 – £20.00, will be available from Wells Cathedral Shop Box Office, and at the door. The proceeds of the concert will support the Wells Cathedral Chorister Trust (

Times of Services for the festival

Sunday: Eucharist 9.45am, Mattins 11.30am, Evensong 3.00pm

Monday to Friday: Evensong 5.15pm

2019 Dates

Friday 11 – Thursday 17 October 2019


In previous years, Wells Cathedral Choir has premiered works by the following composers during the new music wells festival:

new music wells 68-08

Sir Peter Maxwell Davies CBE, Richard Allain, David Bednall, Robin Walker, Paul Zaba (Wells Cathedral School)

new music wells 69-09

Jonathan Dove, Gabriel Jackson, Sir James MacMillan CBE, Iain Quinn (USA)

new music wells 70-10

Judith Bingham, Gary Davison (USA), Timothy Noon, Jeremy Woodside (New Zealand)

new music wells 71-11

Howard Skempton, Philip Wilby, and Elizabeth Edwards (Wells Cathedral School)

new music wells 72-12

Jonathan Dove, Philip Moore, Howard Skempton, and Owain Park (Wells Cathedral School)

new music wells 73-13

John Joubert (two works), Howard Skempton (organ solo), and Jack May (Wells Cathedral School)

new music wells 74-14

Sir John Tavener, Brian Chapple, Ronald Corp, and Adam Hickox (Wells Cathedral School, organ solo)

 new music wells 75-15

Michael Berkeley CBE, William Drakett, and Robin Walker

new music wells 76-16

Judith Weir CBE (Master of the Queen’s Music), Stuart Beer, William Drakett, Matthew Owens, and Thomas Carling

new music wells 77-17

Howard Skempton, Francis Jackson, Judith Bingham, Philip Wilby, and Rebecca Farthing (Wells Cathedral School)

For information about how you can support the commissioning of new music for the festival, please click here.