‘Imagine the World to be Different: The St James’s Quartet’

The Sixteen and The St James’s Piccadilly reveal new composition by Will Todd in celebration of Chelsea Flower Show.

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The Sixteen and St James’s Piccadilly today reveal the world premiere performance of a new work written especially to mark St James’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show ‘Imagine the World to be Different’ garden this May.

‘Imagine the World to be Different: The St James’s Quartet’ is written by Will Todd and was performed by The Sixteen and the choir’s founder and conductor Harry Christophers for the first time at St James’s Piccadilly on Monday 13 May.

The song was commissioned to reflect and resonate with the history, as well as the character, of St James’s – associated with its presence at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024 – through ‘stories’ taking inspiration from the church’s lime wood Grinling Gibbons reredos, visionary people like artist Mary Beale and abolitionist Ottobah Cugoano (celebrated with a new commission by Che Lovelace in 2023), and the Magnolia tree which dominates the courtyard. The words were written especially for the occasion by Associate Rector The Revd Dr Ayla Lepine.

‘Imagine the World to be Different: The St James’s Quartet’

Music: Will Todd

Words: The Revd Dr Ayla Lepine

1. Grinling Gibbons, Reredos

Perpetual spring, hand-carved. Feather, fruit, blossom, branch. Gravity-defying, above the sacred heart of Love’s feast. We gather.

2. Che Lovelace, The Vision of the Birds

Swift sunlight’s glory claims swaying palm symphonies. A kaleidoscope of flight transforms air’s inrush of freedom. We imagine.

3. Southwood Garden

Peace-pocket shaped by struggle, root-tangled refuge, declaring the Divine in weightless dew’s arrivals and departures. We rest.

4. Magnolia Tree

Fragments of all-weather sky, framed by lavish fleeting flamboyance. We hope.

This musical commission continues St James’s long relationship with Will Todd, which has included new works for the St James’s Song Book last Christmas.


The Revd Lucy Winkett, Rector of St James’s said, “Creating this new commission, with words, music and performance centred on this historic place is a privilege for St James’s. It speaks to the best of what the church can do: honouring the traditions of the past at the same time as making a new future together. With great thanks to Will, Ayla and Harry, we hope that this piece will be sung for years to come, not least in the restored church and garden of St James’s when the Wren Project is complete.”

St James’s RHS Chelsea show garden pays homage to the revitalising influence of urban green spaces, symbolising a message of hope and recovery while igniting the imagination of future generations to envision a different world.  It has been sponsored by grant-giving charity Project Giving Back and designed by landscape architect, Robert Myers, as part of the church’s transformational ‘Wren Project’ fundraising campaign to raise £20 million to increase its social and environmental impact.

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