Starry night at Chichester Cathedral

Come Rain Or Come Shine will prove an important fund-raiser for the Chichester Cathedral Choral Foundation when Roger Redfarn takes over the Cathedral for the Festival of Chichester.

Roger, a key member of the Festival committee and a distinguished theatre director with credits including The Barchester Chronicles, Cabaret and Underneath The Arches at the CFT, has drawn on his theatre contacts for a starry night.

Michele Dotrice and her father Roy will be joined by Keeping Up Appearances actress Judy Cornwell and singing-star-turned actor Mark Wynter for the evening on Saturday, June 21 at 7.30pm.

The entertainment has been devised by Roger who will also direct.

“It is a celebration of our seasons,” Roger explains, “not just the weather seasons, but also the social seasons of the year. We actually start with Auld Lang Syne, which will be fun in June! We will go through spring, summer, autumn and winter, but there will also be the big events like trooping the colour, fireworks night, Valentine’s Day, the Goodwood Revival – all in words and music. We will also be celebrating Ascot. We have got the Ascot Gavotte from My Fair Lady.”

Putting it together has been enjoyable, but time-consuming, Roger says. “You look at 50 pieces for each one that you actually choose. It is not what you end up with, but what you leave out really. You think ‘What can you do for Ascot?’, and you discover that there are loads of poems written about horse-racing, an amazing number. And then you think ‘What can you do for St George’s Day?’ It is also about trying to find something new and original.

“We go away for the whole of February to Madeira, and I just sit there quietly and work. I take books, and I am on the internet, and so it comes together.”

On the night, the readers will be joined by the 40-strong South Downs Concert Band and the 90-piece MGC choir. As for the readers, they are people Roger has known and worked with for years.

“I have known Michele for years. She is lovely, and so is her father. He is 90 now, and I just thought it would be lovely to get them to work together. They have not actually worked together that much.

“Michele was married to Edward Woodward, and they spent a lot of time down in Devon when I was running the Theatre Royal in Plymouth. They were very, very supportive and did a couple of shows for me. I did Edward’s memorial service for Michele at the Haymarket Theatre. We have always been very close.”

As for Mark Wynter, Roger and Mark have worked together several times: “I know I did The Ghost Train with him and several musicals. And I have known Judy for years, but have never worked with her.”

It’s a question of getting the right voices: “There is some Tennyson, and there is also a thing about the Queen’s reign. What you want is a classic voice, and that’s what Roy brings to it. There is a lot of humour which both Michele and Judy are very good, and Mark is the youngster element!”

The Chichester Cathedral Choral Foundation is a new fundraising initiative which was launched at the Cathedral Choir’s Christmas Concert in order to strengthen the Cathedral’s Choristerships for the future.

The campaign appeals for donations, in the first instance, to raise £500,000 by Christmas 2014. By offering these choristerships, the new fund will also help to protect the choir’s essential place within the worship life of Chichester’s 900-year-old Cathedral.