The Bath Festival presents Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, under the Moon in Bath Abbey

Image caption: Museum of the Moon by Luke Jerram. Ely Cathedral. Photo (c) James Billings

The Bath Festival presents Symphony of Sorrowful Songs with Paraorchestra, soprano Victoria Oruwari and conductor Charles Hazlewood, also featuring Luke Jerram’s Museum of the Moon.

The Bath Festival is delighted to present a unique experience for Christmas in Bath Abbey as the acclaimed Paraorchestra performs Symphony of Sorrowful Songs in the round, under the magical giant moon created by sculptor Luke Jerram.

Henryk Górecki’s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs is a cathartic and haunting piece of music, an astonishing meditation on loss and transcendence. Paraorchestra is the world’s only large scale virtuoso ensemble of professional disabled and non-disabled musicians. The concert takes place on Wednesday 8 December and will last an hour, starting at 7.30pm.

Sorrowful Songs will be performed with acclaimed Nigerian born soprano Victoria Oruwari. The London based singer,  has sung at international venues including the Royal Opera House and the Guildhall London. The founder of Paraorchestra, Charles Hazlewood conducts this harmonic ‘spiritual minimalist’ composition in the splendour of Bath Abbey. The interior of the historic church has been dramatically opened up following work on the Footprint project, begun to repair the abbey’s floor which was in danger of collapse.

Each of the three movements of Symphony of Sorrowful Songs features a Polish lament, including a message inscribed on the wall of a Gestapo prison cell from a teenage girl to her mother, and a mother’s folk song about her son lost in the Silesian civil war. Sung in Polish, it’s an evocative work that brings both tears and joy, taking audiences on an uplifting journey through grief and solace.

The audience will be able to enjoy a unique, fully immersive experience. The orchestra will be in the centre of the nave, beneath Luke Jerram’s magnificent Museum of the Moon, floating above them. People will be free to move around the abbey, observing and listening to the music from different perspectives. Luke Jerram’s piece has toured all over the world. The moon is seven metres in diameter and features detailed NASA imagery on its surface.

Charles Hazlewood, said: “After nearly two, pretty dreadful and anxiety-ridden years, Henryk Górecki’s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs meets us in the current zeitgeist. You could say ‘Well let’s have some music to cheer us up, some happy music’ but it’s often more cathartic to experience music that mirrors our mood, not something that tries to change it.”

“Górecki’s symphony embodies the most intense form of loss; it’s authentic and visceral. But it also echoes somewhere we may have been in the past couple of years – or perhaps still are – and it’s my hope that it is in this achingly beautiful piece that we may find some solace and comfort.”

“And what better place to share this work than Bath Abbey? Deep within this astonishing and magical space the orchestra will be placed right in the centre of the nave, in a circle, facing inwards. Like all our projects, making orchestral music accessible and presenting it in new and unexpected ways is fundamental. So, the audience will not be seated, they will be licensed – and encouraged – to roam this vast space at will. We want to give audiences deeper agency than they get watching an orchestra on a stage.”

“You might approach the back of Victoria Oruwari, the soprano, and all you can see is her torso expanding as she breathes and sings but then looking across the circle, you’ll lock eyes with a cellist and experience a whole new level of intimacy. This audience on the move, with a perpetual sense of movement, I hope will be like a pilgrimage; a walking in witness to the suffering and grief of the world these past many months. And, of course, offering totally different sonic experience depending on where in the space you go.”

Event information and social distancing

There are no designated seats for this performance, although some seating will be available and will be marked out with a 2m distance in the corporation stall and benches. For this concert audiences can manage their own safe attendance requirements. Everyone is asked to wear a facemask (unless medically exempt) and to make space between themselves and other audience members, musicians, and staff.

Tickets are £25 (excluding fees), with discounts for students and the under 26s, from: or from Bath Box Office, tel: 01225 463362.