One of the Three Choirs Festival’s core aims is to create musical experiences and opportunities that do not ordinarily exist in our region, and to that end we are developing a year-round participation programme in the local community which ties in with a major event at the festival each year. Working with schools, colleges, and local businesses where possible, we hope to show that classical music is something which is open to all and ensure that future generations will grow up loving music and knowing it is something for them.

In celebrating the 150th birthday of Gloucestershire composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams, the festival is working with community organisations and schools from across the region to take part in our inter-disciplinary creative arts project.

Parents and baby

Wish You Were Here Family Concert

Credit: GL Shooters 2022

Grateful thanks go to musicians Kate Gathercole and Mark Waters (Alula Down), actor and poet Edward Derbyshire, dancer and choreographer Marie-Louise Flexen, musicians Judge Singh (J9) and Tim Keasley, and textile artist Joy Pollock.

These inspiring creative leaders have worked with the Creative Age at Bethesda, St. Briavels Memory Café, Inclusion Gloucestershire, Severnside Singers and three Gloucestershire primary schools (Elmbridge, Hillview, Oakridge primaries) to deliver a series of free workshops, with mini-projects across multiple artistic disciplines including but not limited to music, spoken word, dance and textile art. Taking inspiration from Vaughan-Williams’ most famous work, “The Lark Ascending”, our aim is to bring together contributions of art forms from schools and communities in our “What the Lark Saw” project.

Severnside Singers

Credit: Hannah Bowman

All of the contributions we collect will be brought together organically for a grand showcase in Gloucester Cathedral on Wednesday 26th July at 11am, the core of which is a new song cycle by Gloucestershire composer Liz Lane, performed by a massed children’s choir from the county. Liz has drawn ideas from the workshops, creating an integrated performance piece which represents all the participating community members.

You can write to Participation Co-Ordinator Hannah Bowman to register your interest for “Nature Sings” in 2024, which is to focus on the seasons and the natural world in a community project involving partnerships with Worcestershire arts organisations and local primary schools and musicians.

Batik Workshop

Elmbridge School Workshop

Inclusion Workshop

Children's Workshop

Artist James Mayhew leads a school workshop

Previous Projects

The 2022 festival included projects aimed at different age groups - primary school children, teens and older adults - inspiring them to create their own responses to classical music under the guidance of experienced workshop leaders. Over 200 children experienced school-based workshops in June and July, exploring the relationship between art, music and literature. The children created artwork and imagined new stories inspired by classical music, guided by artist James Mayhew and storyteller-pianist Edward Derbyshire. In addition, Saturday morning workshops aimed at families took place in community hubs south of the River Wye, offering this opportunity to a wider group within the community.

In older age groups, young people aged 14–19 took part in laid-back songwriting sessions led by Herefordshire singer-songwriter Aidan Sheehan, creating their own interpretations of classical pieces in a musical genre of their choice. These relaxed-vibe drop-in sessions provided a much-needed outlet for exam stress to local teenagers, and the opportunity to compose their own original music, whether or not they had any prior musical experience.

In addition, collaborating with Herefordshire over-60s choir The Garrick Singers, Jonathan Rathbone led choral workshops inspiring new, original vocal arrangements of Bach’s keyboard works. This introduced community singers to new vocal techniques and inspired them to create organically, contributing to completely novel realisations of monumental works within the keyboard canon.

Child's Artwork

Artwork from the 2022 project is displayed in Hereford Cathedral

Credit: Dale Hodgetts and James O'Driscoll 2022

Gaspard’s Foxtrot was our featured performance for Worcester 2021, the story of a fox who has an adventure on a London bus and ends up as the star of a concert, set to music and performed by the Philharmonia Orchestra. Leading up to the festival, schools across Gloucestershire, Hereford and Worcestershire were invited to take part in a week of activities surrounding Gaspard and promoting music, art, and writing. At the festival performance, young children and their friends and families were greeted by conductor Alice Farnham and the Philharmonia players and introduced to Gaspard by broadcaster and author Zeb Soanes and illustrator James Mayhew, who joined us remotely from his studio. Children and adults alike were enthralled from start to finish thanks to Jonathan Dove’s exciting score, Zeb Soanes’ captivating storytelling and James Mayhew’s enchanting and ingenious live illustration.

Last Train to Tomorrow performance

Last Train to Tomorrow - A Cantata for children's choir by Carl Davis

Credit: Michael Whitefoot 2019

In Gloucester 2019, the festival linked up with the 80th anniversary of the Kindertransport where thousands of children were brought to safety in the UK from Nazi Germany. Last Train to Tomorrow by Carl Davis, a song cycle about the Kindertransport sung and acted from the children’s perspective, was performed at the festival, involving young people from all around the county. Inspired by a line from the work, the festival launched a project titled #whereismyhome celebrating communities in Gloucester, the UK and beyond by asking what home meant to them. These labels formed an installation in the cathedral on the day of the performance.