Global audience for 400th anniversary revival of David Garrick’s Ode to Shakespeare

London, April The University of Birmingham is helping Shakespeare aficionados around the globe to mark the 400th anniversary of his death with an online performance of an historic ode starring renowned British actor Sam West.

Working in partnership with Ex Cathedra Choir and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, scholars from the University have commissioned a revival of David Garrick’s historic 1769 Shakespeare Ode performed in the church where the Bard is buried.

And in the second part of the commission, Ex Cathedra will unveil a contemporary tribute to Shakespeare by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, set to music by the composer Sally Beamish.

The sold-out event is expected to attract a massive global audience as it is broadcast live via video link globally on the BBC Shakespeare Lives 2016 online portal  and in audio live on BBC Radio 3 – as part of the BBC Shakespeare Festival.

It marks the start of the weekend anniversary celebrations and takes place on Friday 22 April 2016 at Holy Trinity Church, in Stratford-upon-Avon, where Shakespeare is buried and was also baptised.

International stage and screen actor Sam West said: “Garrick is an amazing figure – someone who could seem at once more realistic and more elevated than previous actors, and who got the theatre taken seriously as never before.

“And with this poem he got Shakespeare taken seriously, as a focus for real public social action, right across Europe. Without this Ode, there’d be no National Theatre and no Royal Shakespeare Company, and I’d probably never have had a job. So it’s wonderful to get the chance to bring it back to life.”

University of Birmingham scholars Professor Michael Dobson and Professor Ewan Fernie will be interviewed during the interval. They will discuss with BBC Radio 3 presenter Suzy Klein how Stratford, Britain and the world have fallen in love with the Bard since 1769.

Professor Michael Dobson, Director of the Shakespeare Institute said: “Garrick’s great multi-media homage to Shakespeare was the focus of the first major public event to celebrate an artist in the town of his birth.

“The Ode also marks the birth of the modern fan festival, a tradition by which successive generations have taken up Shakespeare’s flame for themselves. It is only fitting that our Poet Laureate should add her own contemporary tribute to this powerful public event.”

Professor Ewan Fernie, Chair of Shakespeare Studies at the Shakespeare Institute, said: “We decided to mark Shakespeare's 400th anniversary with a revival of the Garrick Ode, which taps back into and refreshes its originally progressive spirit.

“Like Garrick, we want to share Shakespeare as widely as possible. The Shakespeare we want to share is a living force: a tradition turned towards the present and future, one which bridges the distances between Shakespeare's England, 1769 and 2016.”


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