NEW! Three Choirs Festival Tercentenary Concludes at Buckingham Palace

01/12/2015

Three Choirs Festival Tercentenary Concludes at Buckingham Palace

 

3 Festivals

Three Choirs Festival at Buckingham Palace © Paul Burns

2015 marked the 300th anniversary of what is almost certainly the world’s oldest music festival, the Three Choirs Festival. The anniversary has been celebrated in style. In June members of the Festival Chorus travelled to Hamm in Germany to sing The Dream of Gerontius. The Festival itself was held in Hereford during the last week in July and many of the major events of a very successful week were reviewed by MusicWeb International Seen and Heard. The final event in the celebratory year occurred on 24 November with a gala performance in the Ballroom of Buckingham Palace, attended by HRH The Prince of Wales, President of the Three Choirs Festival.

A massed choir of almost 300 singers including the Three Cathedral Choirs of Hereford, Gloucester and Worcester, the Three Choirs Festival Chorus and the Three Choirs Festival Youth Choir gave an hour-long recital for The Prince of Wales and invited guests.  After the performance His Royal Highness met some of the performers, including cathedral choristers and members of the youth choir and festival chorus.

The festival’s three Artistic Directors, Geraint Bowen (Hereford), Adrian Partington (Gloucester) and Dr Peter Nardone (Worcester) each conducted part of the programme, which was accompanied on the historic pipe organ of Buckingham Palace Ballroom by the Assistant Organists of the three cathedrals, Peter Dyke (Hereford), Jonathan Hope (Gloucester) and Christopher Allsop (Worcester). Students from the brass department of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama also participated in the performance.

The musical programme reflected many strands of the Festival’s tradition. Music by Purcell, Handel and Vaughan Williams was included as were two pieces by Sir Hubert Parry, for whose music the Prince of Wales has a particular affection. The music of John Rutter, whose seventieth birthday fell earlier in the year, also featured.

Baritone Roderick Williams, who has a close association with the Three Choirs Festival, was the soloist in the closing section of Part I of The Dream of Gerontius by Sir Edward Elgar. Elgar was born in Worcester and as a young man played the violin in the orchestra for the Three Choirs Festival. His music has been a cornerstone of the Festival repertoire for over a century and The Dream of Gerontius is a particular favourite of both audiences and performers.

As well as the traditions of the Festival its commitment to music of our own time was recognised in the programme.  The Three Cathedral Choirs conducted by Peter Nardone performed ‘Psalm’, a movement from the oratorio A Foreign Field by the German composer Torsten Rasch, which was commissioned for the 2014 Worcester Three Choirs Festival and Städtische Theater Chemnitz, Erich-Schellhorn Stifting. This substantial choral/orchestral work was composed as a contribution to the commemoration of the centenary of World War I. Earlier this year the work received its German premiere in Chemnitz. The composer Torsten Rasch was present at the Buckingham Palace concert.

The Festival will not be resting on its laurels. It moves into its fourth century with the 2016 Festival, which will be held in Gloucester. Preliminary details can be found on the Festival website.

John Quinn

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