Worcester hosts Three Choirs Festival 21

The Three Choirs Festival returns to Worcester this summer, from Saturday 24 July to Sunday 1 August, with an exciting programme of choral and orchestral concerts, recitals, talks, family events, cathedral services, theatre, exhibitions and more. This year’s festival, which incorporates the themes of journeying, exploration and looking to the future, will be the first for Worcester Artistic Director, Samuel Hudson, who took up the post in September 2019 but missed out on hosting a festival last year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Please Note: the organisers are keen to emphasise that, while they are optimistic this year’s festival will look and feel as normal as possible, the safety of its audience, artists and staff is of utmost importance. As a result, four headline concerts featuring the 170-strong festival chorus and orchestra may be substituted, should the removal of all limitations on social contact in Stage 4 of the government’s roadmap falter.

For audiences, safety measures will follow the most recent government guidance at the time, and a limited number of tickets will be released during the first sales period with the expectation that further tickets can be made available as restrictions ease. However the national picture develops, the Three Choirs Festival organisers say they will provide the warm festival atmosphere that audiences have come to expect. Full details on how the festival is being made COVID-safe will be available at 3choirs.org in the coming weeks.

Full Programme Now Available!

Three Choirs Festival is the longest running classical music festival of its kind in the world. Rotating between the English cathedral cities of Gloucester, Worcester and Hereford.

The full festival programme is now available at What’s On » Three Choirs Festival (3choirs.org) and features over a thousand performers across 77 events. There is something for everyone to enjoy, from major choral and orchestral events in Worcester’s majestic cathedral, to chamber music, late night events, fun-filled family shows, sung cathedral services, fascinating talks and al fresco theatre, walks and excursions. The organisers hope to have their Festival Village up and running, where audience members can relax in between events, soak up the festival atmosphere and enjoy free, live entertainment on the community bandstand.

All being well, at the heart of the headline concert series, a stellar line-up of soloists will join the festival’s own chorus, the three cathedral choirs of Worcester, Hereford and Gloucester, and orchestra-in-residence, the Philharmonia Orchestra. Amongst an outstanding range of visiting performers and local talents, some of the highlights and themes include:

Bold Adventures

The festival restarts by celebrating the wonder of exploration and travel. From Beethoven’s sea voyage and Vaughan Williams’s wanderer to Roderick Williams in the role of sixteenth century conquistador, tales of adventure will guide you through the festival. Gabriel Jackson looks to the heavens in The World Imagined, while St Nicolas’s escapades are recounted by Worcester Cathedral Choir. The epic tale of Odysseus can be found in Armstrong Gibbs’s Choral Symphony and a modern retelling of the tale by Christopher Kent and Gamal Khamis. More nautical fables shape the late-night poetry and music of The Becoming, while Tennyson’s tale of the shipwrecked Enoch Arden is told in Strauss’s evocative setting.

Families can join in the adventure with a series of travel-themed events for all ages. Drift across the Atlantic with your tiny tots or go on a great British holiday with White Socks Theatre Company. Follow the stories of three airborne adventurers with The Goldfield Ensemble or enjoy an accidental adventure on a London bus with Gaspard the Fox.

Charter 400: Celebrating Worcester

This autumn, Worcester celebrates the 400th anniversary of the 1621 charter, which permitted the city’s first mayor. To mark this occasion, BBC Radio 3 will record the festival’s Choral Evensong with Worcester Cathedral Choir, featuring music linked to the cathedral. It will be broadcast on 29 September and again on the weekend of the Charter celebrations in October. The festival celebrates some of the names synonymous with Worcester, including Edward Elgar and Royal Worcester’s Henry Sandon, and examine the origins of Worcestershire’s historic collections. Former cathedral organists and Festival Directors Donald Hunt and Ivor Atkins feature, while the music of Thomas Tomkins, Worcester organist at the time of the Charter’s approval, is sung by the Marian Consort and the Orlando Consort, with a special programme to mark the anniversary.

Today’s Voices

Since the festival’s very beginning, each new generation of composers has made their mark on audiences, and this year’s festival celebrates the music of over fifty living composers writing in a wide range of styles. The major festival commission is The World Imagined, for tenor, chorus and orchestra by Gabriel Jackson. Families can enjoy the concert premiere of Gaspard’s Foxtrot by Jonathan Dove, and the combined cathedral choirs will sing two new works by John Rutter and one by Cheryl Frances-Hoad. Other choral premieres include Roderick Williams writing for The Elgar Chorale, Dani Howard for the Marian Consort and Shiva Feshareki, who will perform on turntables alongside the National Youth Choir of Great Britain. Instrumental premieres include Michael Small’s Prism for violinist Fenella Humphreys, and new works for the ESO by Steve Elcock and Emily Doolittle.

An extra date has also been added to the festival week to include an exciting new event on Sunday 1 August: Gabrieli Roar is an ambitious, collaborative performance of Haydn’s The Creation, bringing together world-class musicians and young singers from across the country.

Samuel Hudson, Worcester Artistic Director, says: ‘The festival has been a long time coming, but we very much hope it will be worth the wait. There are so many exciting concerts and events planned, which will help mark a long-awaited return to live music-making after what has been such a difficult year for so many. I am looking forward to it immensely!’

Key Dates Programme Online

Wednesday 21 April 2021 Gold Members booking from Wednesday 19 May 2021 Standard Members booking: from Tuesday 25 May 2021 General booking: from Wednesday 2 June 2021 Festival dates: Saturday 24 July – Sunday 1 August 2021

Did you know?

The chorus is largely drawn from auditioned members of choral societies in Hereford, Gloucester and Worcester, with the largest contingent each year coming from the host city. Amateur choral singers have been taking part in the festival since the middle of the 19th century to augment the cathedral choirs of boy trebles and male altos, tenors and basses.

The Youth Choir is open for applications until late May. The choir is made up of keen singers aged 14-25 from around the three host counties (Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Herefordshire) and beyond. It is a fun and rewarding opportunity to be involved in one of the world’s most prestigious music festivals and to work with world-class conductors and musicians.

More information and registration forms can be found at 3choirs.org/youth-choir