Hot Lists Thursday, June 23rd Words by: Lauren Rogers, Clare Stevens, pictures by: Three Choirs Festival

The team behind Three Choirs Festival 2016 pick their 10 unmissable events

Hot Lists Thursday, June 23rd

The team behind Three Choirs Festival 2016 pick their 10 unmissable events

The Three Choirs Festival (or 3 Choirs, if you're feeling trendy) does its fair share of making classical and choral music accessible to the masses, from the Enigma Variations to the Festival Players.

It's home to chamber concerts, rarely performanced works and world premieres. Last year Hereford hosted the 300th anniversary and this July, it's taking place in Gloucester.

With a week-or-so to go, we asked the team behind Three Choirs to highlight 10 unmissable events from the 2016 programme. 

Here's what they pulled from their classical hat.

Rossini: Petite Messe solennelle

11am | Friday 29 July | Gloucester Cathedral

Three Choirs Festival Youth Choir, pictured in Hereford 2015. Photo: Sally Corrick.

Three Choirs Festival Youth Choir, pictured in Hereford 2015. Photo: Sally Corrick.

Hear the next generation of Three Choirs Festival participants – our Three Choirs Festival Youth Choir – perform Rossini’s sparkling ‘Little Solemn Mass’ – which is actually anything but solemn, the title is the composer’s joke.

Young singers from Gloucesershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire will be joined by pianist Steven Kings and Christopher Allsop with Hereford Cathedral’s Peter Dyke playing the harmonium to create the unique sound world of this joyous work. The conductor is Geraint Bowen, director of music at Hereford Cathedral.

Stile Antico: Sacred or Profane?

2.45pm | Monday 25 July | Gloucester Cathedral 

A cappella choir Stile Antico blur the boundary between sacred and secular music of the renaissance, in works that transform risqué chansons into masses and magnificats, and ribald folksongs into prayerful polyphony. Intrigued? Stile Antico are a young group who have been garlanded with praise from the critics, go along and hear them for yourself.

Orchestral Classics

7.45pm | Sunday 24 July | Gloucester Cathedral

The majestic melody composed by Sibelius as his country’s national anthem, Finlandia; the sweeping tunes of Tchaikovsky’s romantic violin concerto played by soloist Jack Liebeck; and Dvorák’s ‘New World’ symphony with that unmistakable slow movement (the ‘Hovis ad’) – the Three Choirs Festival is not just about singing, so come and hear our resident orchestra the Philharmonia playing some of the greatest symphonic works ever written.

Street of Bugles

11am | Tuesday 26 July | Gloucester Cathedral

Gloucestershire County Youth Choir and Orchestra will take over the cathedral for this concert featuring Elgar’s Serenade for Strings; the haunting On the Banks of Green Willow by George Butterworth, who was killed on the Somme in 1916; and the cantata Street of Bugles by local composer and librettist Tom Johnson and Karen Hayes. Street of Bugles tells the story of how young musicians in the county were affected by the First World War.

Four Songs for the End of Wars

12.30pm | Tuesday 26 July | College Green, Gloucester Cathedral

Gloucester Three Choirs Festival 2013. Photo: Derek Foxton

Gloucester Three Choirs Festival 2013. Photo: Derek Foxton

Since the last Gloucester Three Choirs Festival, a new mechanism has been installed for the cathedral’s historic bells (the first mention of repairs to the cathedral chimes is in 1525... they've been chiming for a while). A digital controller now makes it possible to play a range of notes on the bells, and the Three Choirs Festival has commissioned Tom Johnson (the composer behind Street of Bugles, above) to write a new work for a children’s choir and the chimes. Four Songs for the End of Wars is the result. It'll be performed outdoors after the Street of Bugles concert.

You can also hear one of the winning tunes from the festival's ‘Compose a Tune for Gloucester’s Chimes’ competition at 7.15pm most days throughout the festival.

Gloucester Lads

2.45pm | Wednesday 27 July  St Barnabas Church, Tuffley, GL1 5LJ

Highly-regarded solo singer and baritone Marcus Farnsworth gives a recital with pianist James Baillieu, with song cycles by Gerald Finzi and Ivor Gurney plus the world premiere of a new work written for Marcus by his friend Matthew Martin, director of music at Keble College, Oxford.

Choral Evensong

5.30pm | Sat 23, Mon 25, Tues 26, Thur 28 and Fri 29 July | Gloucester Cathedral

3.30pm | Wed 27 July | Gloucester Cathedral

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Evensong at Gloucester Cathedral. Photo: Ash Mills.

Choral Evensong lies at the heart of the Three Choirs Festival, usually sung by the Three Cathedral Choirs of Gloucester, Hereford and Worcester. On the first Saturday of this year's festival it'll be performed by Gloucester Cathedral Youth Choir and on Thursday by the St Cecilia Singers. Wednesday’s 3.30pm service will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.

Choral Evensong provides a quiet hour of contemplation and is free to attend.


12noon | Tuesday 26 and Wednesday 27 July | Old Bishop’s Palace Garden, Gloucester

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In Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary year, Gloucestershire’s all-male touring company stage one of his tragic masterpiece. It's an outdoor performance, so come prepared whatever the weather.

Songs and Songs without Words

2.45pm | Thursday 28 July | St Barnabas Church, Tuffley, GL1 5LJ

Polish-Ukrainian sisters Olga and Natalya Pasichnyk perform music that reflects their Eastern European heritage. alongside rarely-heard songs by Chopin including arrangements for voice and piano. Plus a selection of Mendelssohn’s Songs without Words.

Enigma and Carmina

7.45pm | Friday 29 July | Gloucester Cathedral

Finally, if you’re quick you might be able to grab one of the last seats for this concert featuring two of the most popular works in classical music: Elgar’s musical portraits of his friends, the Enigma Variations, and Carl Orff’s colourful settings of  distinctly secular (not to say bawdy) medieval verse, Carmina burana.

There’s also a performance of Walton’s Spitfire Prelude and Fugue, celebrating Gloucester’s aeronautical heritage, and a new work by Joseph Phibbs, Memento Musica, inspired by the work with people suffering from dementia of the festival’s charity, Mindsong.

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The 2016 Three Choirs Festival takes place in Gloucester, July 23 – 30

More info and tickets from or the ticket office 01452 768 928 /

Events submitted by Clare Stevens, head of communications at the Three Choirs Festival

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Image credits:

Three Choirs Festival Youth Choir, pictured in Hereford 2015. Photo: Sally Corrick.
Gloucester Three Choirs Festival 2013. Photo: Derek Foxton
Evensong at Gloucester Cathedral. Photo: Ash Mills.
The Festival Players. Photo: Michael Dyer

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