Choir to open conference in Hardy Society’s jubilee year


Following their premiere in Stinsford earlier this year young professional vocal ensemble Wessex Consort will perform new settings of Hardy poetry in a special concert to open the twenty-thirdbiennial International Thomas Hardy Conference and Festival at Kingston Maurward on Saturday 14 July.


The festival, organised by the Thomas Hardy Society in its fiftieth year, will see delegates from all over the world arrive in Dorchester to celebrate the life and work of the great author in a series of special events, talks and study sessions.


The opening weekend is being held at Kingston Maurward, where the Society first convened in 1968, with a public concert featuring Wessex Consort the highlight of the first day.


Some of Hardy’s best-known poems, including ‘A Church Romance’, ‘A Trampwoman’s Tragedy’, Great Things’, ‘Weathers’, ‘The Oxen’, ‘Seen By the Waits’ and ‘The Third Kissing-Gate’ have been set for Wessex Consort by the choir’s co-founder, the late Graham Stansfield who passed away in April just days after hearing several of them performed in public for the first time at Stinsford.


‘Graham was thrilled that the choir had been invited to perform at the opening of the Festival – he had a real passion for Hardy and all things Dorset that comes across so clearly in the music,’ says Graham’s widow Pam.


Since being brought together in 2015 by Graham and conductor Andrew King, co-founder of The Sixteen, Wessex Consort have released two CD albums and performed a string of well-received concerts that have seen them emerge as one of the country’s most exciting young vocal ensembles.


Their voices fuse perfectly across a wealth of material and in the last year of his life Graham had been working hard to set Hardy’s poems to music that would represent the wide range of mood and tone of the language and imagery. The choir recently recorded a new album of the Thomas Hardy settings to be released later this year.


Alongside the Hardy settings Wessex Consort will also be performing several of the Dorset portraits Graham had written in praise of locations such as Lulworth Cove and West Bay as well as the county’s markets and gardens.


Tickets for the Wessex Consort concert at Kingston Maurward are available in advance, price £10, from Dorset County Museum or can be ordered by emailing

Wessex Consort: Opening Concert

International Thomas Hardy Conference & Festival


Saturday 14 July

Kingston Maurward


£10 Dorset County Museum or