Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Exciting Three Choirs Festival Gloucester 2016

Gloucester Cathedral hosts the 2016 Three Choirs Festival. "The Holy City and the Heavenly Kingdom" is the theme of the opening concert on 23rd July,  a pairing  of Parry's Jerusalem with Elgar's The Kngdom. Especially exciting because this Jerusalem won't be the familiar version but Parry's original . uncovered a few years ago by Parry specialist Jeremy Dibble whose 1992  biography restored Parry's true status. By setting the first verse for a single singer, Parry's setting emphasizes the provocative nature of Blake's conception. "And did those feet in ancient time walk upon England's mountains green?".  In the full choral version, we get so carried away by crowd enthusiasm that we don't question. In Parry's version, however, Blake's irony is made more clear.  And was Jerusalem builded here, among these dark Satanic Mills?" Bluntly, the answer is "No" So much for simplistic certainities. We may not get the glorious flourishes of Elgar's orchestration, but we do get an insight into Parry . Please read my piece on Jerusalem HERE

The Three Choirs Festival, though, is Elgar territory par excellence  so devotees will be out in force for Elgar's The Kingdom, which follows on from The Apostles  and would have culminated in a piece about the Last Judgement, which was never completed. It helps to i magine it, though, because it puts the Kingdom into context. The apostles are about to embark on their journey, a mission which still continues 2000 years alater. For all the grandeur and vast forces,  the [piece is humble though assertive. The apostles are ordinary men serving a higher cause.  This will be a showcase for the magnificent Three Choirs Festival Chorus, probably the finest flowering of the whole British choral tradition. Adrian Partington will conduct The Kingdom  with the Three Festivals Chorus, the Philharmonia Orchestra and soloists.  Read  HERE about The Kingdom at the Proms with Andrew Davis. and  HERE about The Apostles at the Three Choirs in Worcester in 2014.In the TV broadcast of the BBC Proms The Kingdom, I'm on screen a lot, a tiny figure dressed in white in the stalls near the choirs, participating in spirit.

 Although members of the three constituent cathedral choirs have been meeting annually since around 1719, the Three Choirs Festival is infinitely more than about music. It's a communal celebration of those who believe in the spiritual ideals of fellowship. Every performance starts with prayer, there's evensiong each evening and the \eucharist is celebrated on Sunday. . Indeed, for many, singing is a form of prayer. "For God is in all things". Although I am not C of E - neither was Elgar - one of the things I love about the Three Choirs Festival is how  genuinely nice  the people are. The staff could not be more helpful, and audience members welcome you like you belong.   
Moe landmarks of the choral  tradition follow : Mendelssohn's Elijah on Monday 25th, conducted by Peter Nardone, Berlioz Grand Messe des morts on Wednesday 27th conducted by Edward Gardner. On Friday 29th, Rossini Petite Messes solonelle, 11,am conducted by Geraint Bowen,  A fascinating juxtaposition that evening with  "Carmina nd Enigma"  Carl Orff  Carmina Burana plus Elgar Enigma Variations and on Saturday 30th,  \Mahler  Symphony No 8, conducted by Adrian Partington.  

The Three Choirs Festival i also a celebration of British music and composers.  In the Cathedral on Tuesday 26th "England's Glory", music by Vaughan Williams and \|Butterworth, plus numerous concerts in other venues featuring composers like Gurney, |Finzi Howells, Ireland, and others, plus talks thereon. Most interesting, for me the conecrt on Dunday afternoon in Cirencester which features Howells's Requiem and Philip Lancaster's new work War Passion,.  As always with the Three Choirs plenty of talks on history, the \three \choirs \heritage, shakespeare (Hamlet this year\0 . plus, movies and the society lunches. For more detasils, HERE IS THE FESTIVAL BOOKLET

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