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(an event contributing to Holocaust Memorial Week)

There will be a short introduction by The Revd Canon Dr Christopher Collingwood Canon Emeritus of York Minster

This iconic masterpiece of twentieth century music will be played in the Lady Chapel, the space below the world-renowned early 15th century stained glass windows at the East End of York Minster, the so called Apocalypse Window. In light and colour it portrays Chapter 10 of the Book of Revelation in which St John the Divine recounts a series of vision culminating in the Second Coming of Jesus, as Christ, the universal presence who knows about time and what lies beyond.

In 1941, in the dark heart of Europe at war, when Messiaen was captive in a POW camp, (Stalag VIIIa, Gorlitz, Germany) he also turned to the Apocalypse narrative in Chapter 10 of the Book of Revelation, not as destruction, not as dread nothingness but as a gateway to great love that emanates from suffering. Inspired by the stained glass windows of the great French cathedrals Messiaen was drawn at an early age to reading the Apocalypse narrative as he said, “.. with its dazzling fairy-tale colours.” He described himself as a “painter of sounds”. In a camp, freezing cold and desolate, with no knowledge of the future, Messiaen wrote music to show that fear drops away. In its place is an ecstatic vision of the triumph of the Divine Nature of all things.

In the awesome surroundings of the Lady Chapel there is to be a convergence in light, colour and sound which draws us towards the cosmic themes written about by St John and represented in two great masterpieces; Thornton’s stained glass windows and Messiaen’s ethereal music. Where else in the world could this drama be played out so poignantly?

❝And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven, and sware by him that liveth forever and ever... that there should be time no longer❞

Instrumentalists of York Chamber Music Festival

John Lenehan (piano)

Sacha Rattle (clarinet)

John Mills (violin)

Tim Lowe (cello)

The Piece

The sparse scoring of the Quartet for the End of Time is a response to the available musicians in the camp – a violinist, a cellist and a clarinettist, Messiaen himself playing the piano. The piece is in eight sections each describing an aspect of the Apocalypse narrative. The opening, Liturgie de cristal, begins in darkness. Messiaen describes it.

❝Between three and four in the morning, the awakening of birds: a solo blackbird or nightingale improvises, surrounded by a shimmer of sound, by a halo of trills lost very high in the trees. Transpose this onto a religious plane and you have the harmonious silence of Heaven.❞


Full Programme notes for this concert can be read and downloaded here. A short version will be available at the concert.



Secure your tickets (£15) via York Minster Box Office

(Please note seating is limited to 100 places, unreserved)



As a charity, the festival aims to bring world class chamber music to our city. Each year in September leading musicians from around the UK and abroad, players of international standing, are handpicked by Tim Lowe the Artistic Director; all friends together who simply love to play!

Commenting at the end of the 2022 festival Martin Dreyer wrote:

❝There is no doubt that the intensity of a few days working together, over several events, lends itself to an intimate understanding between the players. When talent such as these submerge themselves, the whole becomes much greater than the sum of the parts. It is – and was – exhilarating.❞

York Chamber Music Festival tries to keep tickets at affordable prices not to exclude anyone. Under 18s come free of charge. Ticket income even if increased would not cover our costs, normally only about half what we need. The festival relies on support from friends and sponsors to bridge the funding gap. Please consider a donation to YCMF in order to ensure we can bring world class chamber music to the city for the next ten years! Thank you.



Make sure you sign up to the festival's email so that we can keep you in touch with the events and what is coming up. You can sign up either at the bottom of this page, or via one of the stewards at the concert.


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