Spalding’s music festival for all

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It’s a celebration of local musical talent – but MaNiFEST is just as much about welcoming as many people as possible through the doors of St Mary & St Nicolas Church in Spalding.

It’s also about a big name – the very down-to-earth opera singer Lesley Garrett, whose appeal is so great that tickets have long sold out.

MaNiFEST is the idea of Spalding vicar the Rev John Bennett and his wife Mary and involves a large number of people who will ensure the first music festival in the town for some years goes smoothly.

It takes place during the week of November 23 to 29, with a mixture of musical styles and performance times to encourage people to either drop in for as long as they can during their lunch hour or enjoy a pre-performance meal before an evening event.

Local musicians feature large in the programme, with a schools’ concert and gigs by Spalding Folk Club, local organists and Kirton Brass Band.

Mr Bennett said: “There is so much good music locally and a lot of good choirs, not least our own choir. They are remarkable.”

St Mary & St Nicolas Church choir currently has 22 boys, 12 of them teenagers, and Mary says: “We are quite proud of that fact because quite often that age group drift away.”

John adds: “It’s remarkable having that many boys in church for a service on Sunday morning. There are not many parish church choirs of that size left. It’s always been a bone of contention that it is boys and men as opposed to a mixed choir, but the experience of most churches is that mixed choirs don’t attract the boys.

“It’s something special within the church. As well as singing, they have fun events, so it’s a bit of a club as well, and it builds tremendous confidence in those lads.

“They are from all over Spalding, one or two from outside, and some of them have quite troubled home lives and it gives them a structure and somewhere they can feel they really belong.”

The choir will be performing, along with those from other churches, at Choral Evensong (6.30pm) on the festival’s first day, Sunday.

The church’s choirmaster and organist Nick Pitts as well as renowned local organists Eric Wayman and David Shepherd will be performing in a lunchtime concert called Organ Lollipops on Wednesday.

John said: “We want people to consider this part of their community. I appreciate there are many churches in Spalding but I think this is the one that is open to everyone all the time. We are not trying to get people to come to this one rather than any other, but we feel it should be here for anyone in Spalding who wants a place of quiet, peace and calm. It is open 365 days of the year and people can come whenever they want, apart from when it’s dark.”