A new partnership between Ryedale Festival and the Richard Shephard Music Foundation is involving school children and community groups in a new Song Cycle inspired by the famous murals of Pickering Church.

Young award-winning composer Joseph Howard is returning home to Pickering to write a piece of music with children from three local primary schools, including St Joseph’s RC Primary in Pickering which he attended.

Seven Mercies, composed by Joseph and written by Emma Harding, will be performed on May 21 at the Church of St Peter and St Paul Pickering. Commissioned by the Ryedale Festival and presented jointly with the Richard Shephard Music Foundation, Seven Mercies will be inspired by, tailored to, and performed by local people.

Celebrated mezzo-soprano Kathryn Rudge will perform alongside local groups.

The core of this new work is a song cycle for solo voice and piano, with contributions being made by around 40 children from local primary schools, an adult community-based choir, the church’s bell ringing society and a local brass band.

Pickering Community Junior School, Gillamoor Primary School and St Joseph’s RC Primary School, three of the Richard Shephard Music Foundation’s partner schools, are taking part and have been taking part in rehearsals and workshops alongside Ryedale Festival Community Choir. The performance of the piece at Pickering Church will be a celebration of local heritage and talent, and is one of two major elements of Ryedale Festival taking place outside the main festival period in July.

Christopher Glynn, Artistic Director of the Ryedale Festival, said: “I’m thrilled that primary school children from across Ryedale are taking part in this community song cycle celebrating the talent and heritage of their community. We look forward to building on this collaboration to create many more such opportunities in the future.”

Cathy Grant, General Manager of the Richard Shephard Music Foundation, said: “We hope that children from the Foundation’s partner schools will go on to participate in the Ryedale Festival for many years to come and we’re already exploring the joint development of a Ryedale Primary Schools Choir. We hope and trust that Richard would have delighted in this work”

Joseph Howard said: “The project started from a desire I had to write a piece for my hometown and for the community of Ryedale. I’ve often been inspired by art in my composition, and I’ve always been fascinated by the murals of Pickering Church. My biggest hope for this project is that it will bring lots of different people together, and that everybody involved will find it meaningful and rewarding. After so much uncertainty and time apart, it feels now like a time to come together and to think hopefully again about the future.”

Tickets are on sale now at https://ryedalefestival.com