St. Wenceslas sacral music festival opens on Sunday

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The 11th annual St. Wenceslas festival of sacral music opens in Prague this coming Sunday. Over the past decade, the festival has become one the most popular festivals organized in the Czech capital in autumn and it attracts more and more music lovers every year. Alena Skodova has more:

St. Wenceslas is the most famous saint of the Czech nation, to whom people mostly prayed when the very existence of the Czech Lands was endangered. The main idea of St. Wenceslas sacral music festival is to go back to the spiritual roots of the country, as the organizer, dr. Pavel Svoboda, explained to me:

"This year's St. Wenceslas festival of sacral music will retain its principal idea - namely to present sacral music in its ecumenical dimension, and to underline the St. Wenceslas tradition, which stresses there is always a linkage between the good, the nation, the homeland and the state."

The spiritual character of this year's festival will be underlined by two vespers - one on St. Ludmila's day on September 16th, the second on St. Wenceslas day in St. Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle. But there's a wide range of sacral music to be presented at this year's festival, ranging from the Gregorian chorale to present-day compositions. The opening concert will feature Requiem by French composer Maurice Durufle, as this year we commemorate the 100th anniversary of his birth, and Stabat Mater by Palestrina. But in addition to concerts in Prague, which take place in churches, cathedrals and one at the Archbishop's palace, the organizers have a special treat for the festival audience - and that's a trip to a historical place, which is closely connected with the music it will feature:

"It has become a tradition that we organize trips to old spiritual centers throughout the Czech Republic, and this year, we'll take our audience to the town of Stara Boleslav near Prague, where St. Wenceslas was murdered back in the 10th century. The concert in Stara Boleslav will feature music from the rich musical archives at the Kromeriz chateau in South Moravia, which feature mostly Baroque music."

In addition to music, St. Wenceslav festival will also feature artistic reading from a book by C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, and a selection of contemplative poetry called Ora Mystica - the Mystical Hour - both featuring famous Czech actors.

There will also be several accompanying events - such as a lecture on Baroque music at Kromeriz chateau by Professor Jiri Sehnal and the opening of an art exhibition of works of art made by mentally handicapped children. Those who like organ music will have a chance to pop into the Tyn church in Prague's Old Town for a noon concert for just a token admission, played on a freshly renovated old organ.