MUSIC lovers devoured a weekend of concerts, conversations, events and exhibitions as the Elgar Festival returned for its first June events since the start of the pandemic.
In addition to celebrating the life and music of Britain’s greatest composer Sir Edward Elgar, the weekend marked the life and legacy of Britain’s longest reigning monarch.
The 2022 festival was chosen by The Guardian as one of the Top 20 Jubilee Events in the UK.
Elgar’s work was showcased across 12 concerts which included songs, miniatures, partsongs, and choral anthems alongside his most beloved orchestral masterpieces, such as the Introduction and Allegro for Strings, and In the South, his thrilling tone poem celebrating the splendours of Italy.
Among the highlights was the premiere of Donald Fraser’s new string orchestra version of Elgar’s Nursery Suite, written in 1931 for the future Queen and her sister Princess Margaret, and Elgar’s pacifist manifesto for choir and orchestra, The Spirit of England, which also saw the exciting launch of the new Elgar Festival Chorus and a deeply moving solo contribution from soprano April Fredrick.
The Festival opened with a song recital featuring baritone Marcus Farnsworth and composer and pianist Eric McElroy. Their programming paired Elgar’s music with new songs by McElroy, John Ireland and the world premiere of John Joubert’s last completed work, The Right Human Face.
Meanwhile the gala concert in Worcester Cathedral featured the world premiere of a new orchestration by Vincent Onken of Ian Venables’ song cycle, Song of the Severn, poignantly sung by Farnsworth.
The ESO also performed the Lyric for Strings by African-American composer George Walker in celebration of the 100th anniversary of his birth and Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Festival Te Deum, written for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II’s father, in celebration of that composer’s 150th.
In addition to the wide-ranging classical programmes, other musical highlights included Club Elgar with a programme of gypsy and tango works performed by violinist Sofie Rosa and Miloš Milivojević in a late-night Club Elgar concert, and an afternoon Jubilee Tea Party concert featuring the virtuosic 20’s jazz ensemble Hot Shoes.
Adrian Gregson, chair of The Elgar Festival and Mayor of Worcester said: “The 2023 Elgar Festival will return in the first weekend of June with a programme including Elgar’s First Symphony, the Music Makers with the Elgar Festival Chorus and two new fanfares written by young composers in Elgar country.”
The festival – which was launched in 2018 – was established by decree of Worcester City Council and is traditionally held on the weekend closest to Elgar’s birthday, June 2, 1857.