A Celebration of Women in the Bible
A Festival of painting, poetry, and music captured on recording to celebrate some of the Bible's most Pivotal Figures
A Celebration of Women in the Bible is an interdisciplinary artistic project focused on telling the stories of seven women who are less frequently discussed yet play crucial and inspirational roles in their respective books of the Bible.
The project began in 2003 when Bishop Graham Kings was offered a painting by his wife Ali to celebrate his 50th Birthday. ‘Choose a subject, and I will commission Silvia Dimitrova to paint it...’, she stated. This gift was a painting of Mary Magdalene at the moment she hears Jesus call her by name on Easter Morning. Graham knew of many paintings set a few seconds later but did not know of any ‘… of the instant that her face, and her faith, came alive.’
As a farewell gift for his work as the bishop of Sherborne in 2009, the church gave a farewell present of a contribution toward a second painting, at Graham’s suggestion. It was during the discussion of this second commission that the project of painting seven ‘Women in the Bible’ emerged and would eventually grow to an international inspirational creative wellspring of paintings, poems, and music.
After each painting, came a poem. The first was written by Graham in 2003, expounding on John 20:11-18, and Silvia’s painting of Mary Magdalene. The second came in 2009 at a consecration retreat on Acts 16:6-15, and Silvia’s painting of Lydia. By 2019, there were six of the Seven Women in poem and painting. In chronological order: Mary Magdalene, Lydia, Priscilla, Sarah, Miriam, and Ruth. It was in 2019 that Graham was introduced over lunch to Tristan Latchford, then music director at St Chad’s College, Durham University, by Margaret Masson, the college principal. By the end of the conversation, Tristan was enthralled by the project and began work on a series of seven anthems, all seven of which were wholly completed by the end of 2020.
During 2020, the final painting and poem were added to the collection. Esther was the final subject, known for convincing king Xerxes to foil the Machiavellian plot of Haman to commit genocide against the Jews. Following this, the project was featured in the Church Times Podcast, ahead of the U.K. premiere of ‘Sarah’ by Selwyn College, Cambridge in an evensong on the 25th October 2020 which was well received. During this year, Tristan also embarked upon a Doctorate in Composition at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore) and was chosen as Graduate assistant for the department in the 2021/2022 academic year.
2020 marked another vital milestone in the project: The launch of Graham’s book of poetry, collecting together 35 years of work, entitled ‘Nourishing Connections’ (published by the Canterbury Press). The collection includes the seven poems based on Silvia’s painting alongside other poetry on Seasons, People, Places, Bible, Art, and Prayer. It was during this launch period that the process of recording the anthems was first discussed. After some discussion, the concert of anthems was titled ‘A Celebration of Women in the Bible’, to reflect the importance of each figure, and the collaborators’ intent to mark and celebrate their stories.
In 2022, Tristan approached Grace and St Peters Episcopal church, local to the Peabody Institute on Mount Vernon (Baltimore), about the possibility of recording a series of anthems there. Director of Music, Jordan Prescott, was equally enthralled by the project, and offered to lend his extensive musicianship and talent to the project on the Church’s marvellous heritage organ that is currently undergoing restoration. Following this, Tristan founded ‘The Harmonicham Choir’, to engage in the project, bringing in some of the most talented singers in the state. At this time, ‘Harmonicham Productions LLP’ was also founded in the U.K., to manage the release of this, the first of many exciting recordings.
After the recording process in June 2022, the album was first played at the Lambeth Conference in Canterbury Cathedral at an exclusive presale to coincide with the exhibition of Silvia’s paintings in the Crypt during the conference.
The album is available in CD format and digital download from Bandcamp and the Harmonicham website, as well as being available in some UK Cathedral shops.