2021 Festival Programme Announced!

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.

The full festival programme is now available at 3choirs.org/whats-on 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.

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.

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.

Dr Alexis Paterson, Three Choirs Festival Chief Executive, said: ‘To put a chorus on our stage once more will bring joy to so many. We know that our most ambitious plans are dependent on the continued success of the government’s roadmap, and have made arrangements for suitable alternatives should that roadmap falter. But after much careful discussion, the Board agreed it is vital to keep our festival chorus at the heart of our event, and this is what we’re working towards.’

Samuel Hudson, Worcester Artistic Director, said: ‘It is tremendously exciting to be announcing the programme for this year’s Three Choirs Festival. 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!’

Booking for the festival opens in May. Ticket Office: 01452 768928, 10 am - 4 pm, Monday to Friday. There are plenty of other ways to get involved with this year’s festival too, for example through volunteering or joining the Three Choirs Festival Youth Choir. See 3choirs.org for full details.