Bernstein sculpture becomes part of centenary celebrations

Vincent and his Bernstein
Vincent and his Bernstein

A sculpture of Leonard Bernstein by Chichester’s Vincent Gray is on display in Chichester Cathedral cafe garden until the end of August. It has become part of the Bernstein in Chichester festival marking Bernstein’s centenary.

Vincent said: “The Friends of St Richard’s Hospital agreed to me taking it out on loan in celebration of Bernstein 100.

“I produced it some 23 years ago in direct response to an offer of exhibition space in Paradise as part of the Chichester Festivities during the mid-90s. The Friends of St Richard’s purchased it ten years ago and he has stood in the hospital grounds since then where he will return at the end of August.

“In 1963 the Dean of Chichester Cathedral, Walter Hussey, wrote a letter to Leonard Bernstein. In it he described the annual Southern Cathedral Choirs Festival, involving the cathedral choirs of Chichester, Salisbury and Winchester, who each year took a turn to host the short summer festival. In 1965 it was to be the turn of Chichester Cathedral and expressing a desire to encourage a new choral work into the repertoire he asked whether the composer would be willing to do so. Bernstein accepted. Bernstein clung to the belief that by creating beauty, and by sharing it with as many people as possible, artists had the power to tip the earthly balance in favour of brotherhood and peace. After all, he reasoned, if humans could create and appreciate musical harmony, then surely they were capable of replicating that very same harmony in the world they lived in.

“23 years ago (1995) I designed and made a sculptural maquette of Bernstein. Inspired by the man, it was my father who introduced me to the music of Bernstein. My parents were keen theatre-goers and this included musicals. As a young boy I would hear my father’s voice resonating through the house singing songs from a range of musicals including Maria from West Side Story.

“It stuck with me and following the sudden death of my parents I needed to get back to something I could hold on to as a memory of the joy my parents brought me. I made the maquette as that memory and during my research learned of the Chichester Psalms commissioned by Walter Hussey, the Dean of Chichester Cathedral in the 60s. The following year (1996) I was offered exhibition space in Paradise, the green area within Chichester Cathedral’s cloisters. I responded favourably and knew immediately what I would produce, a scaled-up version of Bernstein at life size.

“Ten years ago, the Friends of St Richards Hospital bought the sculpture and it has since then stood in the grounds of the hospital.

“When I learned of the Bernstein 100 celebrations and subsequently met with the organisers, Edward Milward-Oliver and Emma-Jane Wyatt, I put the notion to them that it would be a good idea to bring the sculpture back to the cathedral for the summer period in celebration of Bernstein 100 and his connections with Chichester.”