St Jude's Proms season launches with premiere marking wartime sinking

Finchley Children's Choir sing at the premiere of The Innocents at the launch of the Proms at St Jude's 2022

Finchley Children's Choir sing at the premiere of The Innocents which marked the launch of the Proms at St Jude's 2022 - Credit: Michael Eleftheriades

Members of a children's choir performed the moving premiere of a piece marking a wartime tragedy at the launch of the 2022 St Jude's Proms.

The Finchley Children's Music Group and acclaimed a capella vocal ensemble Voces8 raised the roof of the Hampstead Garden Suburb church at the long awaited first outing of The Innocents on Sunday.

Commissioned for Proms 2020, it commemorates the sinking of the SS City of Benares in 1940. While transporting evacuees to safety, it was torpedoed by a German submarine, killing 258 people including 77 children.

A plaque in the church marks the bravery of Michael Rennie, son of St Jude's vicar, who was escorting the children and repeatedly dived into the sea to rescue them before succumbing to exhaustion.

VOCES8 perform at the launch of Proms at St Jude's in Hampstead Garden Suburb

VOCES8 perform at the launch of Proms at St Jude's in Hampstead Garden Suburb - Credit: Michael Eleftheriades

Composer Patrick Hawes conducted his own piece, and Voces8 also performed some of their repertoire for 150 loyal supporters of the community arts festival.

“We are so pleased to have at last been able to see The Innocents performed,” said Susie Gregson, Proms founder, “and we can’t wait to hold a full live festival again this summer.”

The evening concluded with the Ukrainian national anthem, sung first by Voces8 and the children's group, then by the whole audience. A collection for the Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal raised over £1,000.

Patrick Hawes conducts his own composition The Innocents at the launch of the Proms at St Jude's 2022

Patrick Hawes conducts his own composition The Innocents at the launch of the Proms at St Jude's 2022 - Credit: Michael Eleftheriades

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Running from June 25 to July 3, the festival's 30th season features classical and contemporary music, a weekend literary festival, comedy night and walking tours.

Tickets are now on sale to Friends with highlights including the Darius Brubeck Quartet performing jazz standards; The Echo Ensemble with Robert Max performing Haydn, Schubert and Tchaikovsky; Orchestra Nova with violinist Benjamin Nabarro performing Schubert, Mahler and Mendelssohn; The Fantasia Orchestra playing Rachmaninov and Brahms, opera classics from Nevil Holt Opera; Peter Edwards celebrating 20th Century black composers; and Joanna Eden performing songs by Joni Mitchell and Carol King.

The last night of the Proms nods to the Queen's Platinum Jubilee with a performance of music from her coronation, and the lit fest includes journalist Jon Sopel, biographer Victoria Glendinning, political columnist Steve Richards, and Suburb local Claudia Roden.

Public bookings open on April 25. More info at www.promsatstjudes.org.uk