THE Three Choirs Festival returns to the Faithful City this summer with William Shakespeare’s 450th birthday and the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War providing the main themes.
The 287th meeting of the three choirs of Gloucester, Hereford and Worcester will once again unite the great cathedral cities from Saturday, July 26 to Saturday, August 2, 299 years on from the birth of the festival in 1715.
Peter Nardone, the fesitval's artistic director, has been master of the choristers at the cathedral since 2012 and his debut programme of concerts and services has been influenced by memories of attending the festival for the first time 30 years ago.
He is particularly drawing on the "life-changing experience" of hearing Edward Elgar’s the Apostles, which will be conducted by Adrian Partington this year.
Dr Nardone said: "I am both pleased and proud to offer you this programme – my first as Artistic Director. I have unashamedly programmed a festival for you, the listeners.
"Glorious music loved by players, singers and audience,will reverberate ‘in perfect diapason’ - Milton’s words, not mine - through Worcester’s great cathedral."
Baritone Roderick Williams opens the concert programme with the setting of Housman’s A Shropshire Lad by composer George Butterworth, who was killed on a WWI battlefield, and the festival chorus makes its debut during Benjamin Britten's War Requiem.
Choristers from the three cathedrals will join singers from Chemnitz in Germany and resident orchestra the Philharmonia to give a world premiere of A Foreign Field by the German composer Torsten Rasch on Wednesday, July 30.
It is a choral memorial to those on both sides who died in the First World War.
William Walton’s incidental music for Shakespeare’s epic drama of conflict Henry V links the two festival themes in a concert conducted by John Wilson and Shakespeare’s Globe present their touring production of Much Ado about Nothing.
Young singers will be united in the Festival Youth Choir, who perform the Mass in G Minor by Ralph Vaughan William on Monday, July 28.
Members of the public can take part in workshops like Pack Up Your Troubles with Piers Maxim on Tuesday, July 29 and the Carnival Band lead a children's concert in the Angel Centre, Angel Place, on Wednesday, July 30.
Other highlights include visits from the Sacconi Quartet, the King’s Singers, the Rodolfus Choir and the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland.
The festival finale on the Saturday, August 2 is entitled Best of British and features crowd-pleasing works such as Handel’s Zadok the Priest, Elgar’s Sea Pictures and Parry’s I Was Glad.
For more information and tickets, go to 3choirs.org or call the ticket office on 0845 652 1823.