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29th - 31st October 2021
‘The Elgar Festival’ is an annual celebration of the life and music of Worcester’s most famous son and one of Britain’s greatest composers, Sir Edward Elgar (1857–1934). Set in and around the composer’s home city, the event comprises orchestral concerts given by the resident English Symphony Orchestra, as well as guest artists, alongside guided ‘Elgar Tours’, workshops, street performances, exhibits and talks which are appealing to visitors and locals alike.
Embodying the ethos ‘Elgar for Everyone’, the Festival engages with those of all ages and backgrounds in music and legacy at a number of integral venues of both historic interest and personal significance to the composer, including Worcester Cathedral and the Guildhall.
Since its inauguration in 2018 – lauded as ‘Critic’s Pick’ in both The Guardian and The Times – the Festival has doubled in size and scale through an innovative development programme of broad appeal. “A festival should be a celebration,” says Artistic Director, Kenneth Woods, “now, more than ever. The Elgar Festival is a celebration of the life and music of Britain’s greatest composer that seeks to involve everyone in the community – people of all ages, backgrounds and interests, all coming together to celebrate our common heritage. This year, our special focus is on coming back together as a community following this long and difficult time of separation and isolation.”
The Festival’s Gala Concert will celebrate the 400th Anniversary of the Worcester Charter and takes place in the Cathedral on Saturday 30 October at 7:30pm. The concert, entitled ‘Celebrating Friendship and Community’, will be led by the English Symphony Orchestra under their Conductor Kenneth Woods in an all-British programme which includes Ralph Vaughan Williams’s evocative song-cycle ‘On Wenlock Edge’ performed by tenor Mark Wilde, and Elgar’s well-loved ‘Enigma Variations’, which the composer dedicated “to my friends pictured within”.
Corra Sound, a newly established professional chamber choir directed by Amy Bebbington, who is well-known as one of today’s most exciting emerging choral conductors and trainers, will be discovering works by less well-known female composers from Elgar’s time, alongside more contemporary works, in St. Martin’s Church, London Road. The concert will be preceded by a free, panel-discussion; ‘Elgar in the Age of the Suffragettes’, led by Dr. Leah Broad.
Certain to be a ‘hot ticket’, one of the UK’s most innovative and exciting jazz ensembles, the Misha Mullov-Abbado Group, visit Worcester’s Guildhall for the Festival’s first ever late-evening Club Elgar concert of relaxed genre-bending music. Featured artists on BBC Radio 3, the band’s repertoire is influenced by a broad spectrum of music in the classical, jazz and pop genres as well as folk traditions from around the world. Audiences are promised a healthy dose of Elgar, but “as you’ve never heard him before”!
With recent lockdown restrictions making it near impossible for choirs to perform or rehearse, The Elgar Chorale together with their Director Piers Maxim, will give a much anticipated performance, when they take their places in Old Saint Martin’s Church in The Cornmarket.
The Elgar Society’s ‘A.T. Shaw Lecture’ welcomes leading broadcaster, author, critic and composer, Stephen Johnson to the Henry Sandon Hall to discuss ‘Innovation and Experimentation in Elgar’s First Symphony and the Enigma Variations’, as part of the Festival programme.
Committed to increasing the presence of music by living composers, a song recital ‘From Elgar to Venables’ will feature tenor Mark Wilde and pianist David Owen Norris in Huntingdon Hall when they perform the premiere of a new song-cycle by Worcester composer Ian Venables entitled ‘The Last Invocation’, based on poems by Walt Whitman. Described by Musical Opinion as “…Britain’s greatest living composer of art songs…”, Venables shares the programme with Elgar and another Worcestershire composer of the Victorian era, Walter Battisson Haynes.
The final afternoon culminates with the combined forces of the ESO Youth Orchestras, in the Festival’s ‘Elgar for Everyone’ Family Concert at Severn Hall, Three Counties Showground in Malvern. The concert brings together the young musicians of the three ESO Youth Orchestras alongside members of the English Symphony Orchestra for a celebration of musical renewal. In addition to works by Elgar and Hans Zimmer, the concert will have a special focus on the music of Elgar’s contemporary, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, the mixed-race English composer and conductor hailed in his lifetime as the “African Mahler.”
Of all the great British composers, there can be few places that have as strong a musical resonance as Elgar’s Worcestershire; from the spectacular walking country of the Malvern Hills, the Victorian splendour of the spa town of Malvern and its Abbey, the majestic Cathedral of the county town itself, and the nostalgia of a visit to the composer’s idyllic country cottage birthplace. The Festival provides the perfect stimulus to explore these iconic locations, and to hear Elgar’s music in situ; often an overwhelming experience for audience and performers alike.
29th - 31st October 2021