Out of the Shadows

Thursday, 4 August 2022

Looking back at the 2022 Three Choirs Festival in Hereford, from Dyson's Quo Vadis to Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius

Geraint Bowen conducts Dvořák’s Requiem in Hereford Cathedral at Three Choirs Festival with Anita Watson, Catherine Carby, Ruairi Bowen, Stephan Loges (Photo: Dale Hodgetts & James O’Driscol)
Geraint Bowen conducts Dvořák’s Requiem in Hereford Cathedral at Three Choirs Festival with Anita Watson, Catherine Carby, Ruairi Bowen, Stephan Loges
(Photo: Dale Hodgetts & James O’Driscol)

This year’s Three Choirs Festival has drawn to a close in Hereford, after eight days of choral concerts, chamber music, family events, theatre and more. Around 800 performers took part across the week, with almost 150 composers represented, over a third of whom are still alive today.

The festival brought a series of firsts including the festival’s first ever mention on Woman’s Hour thanks to Luke Styles and Jessica Walker’s festival commission Voices of Power, a first UK performance for Finnish conductor Emilia Hoving, and premieres of fourteen different pieces across the festival programme.

2022 saw revivals of Dyson’s cantata Quo Vadis and Dvořák’s Requiem, both rarely-performed works which were well received by festival audiences. Dyson's cantata was planned for the 1939 Three Choirs Festival, but was cancelled and the premiere finally took place at the 1949 festival. Dvořák’s Requiem was composed for the 1891 Birmingham Triennial Festival, the second time the composer had been commissioned for the festival, and the first text he considered setting was The Dream of Gerontius (an intriguing might have been).
'The Three Choirs Festival does George Dyson's Quo Vadis proud' – Seen and Heard International;
'The Three Choirs Festival Chorus superbly navigated Dvořák's turning the music inward, becoming quiet devastation' – Bachtrack 
A series of intimate chamber concerts augmented by morning and evening talks made up the day programme, including recitals by the Piatti Quartet, Fenella Humphries, and Mark Bebbington, while the festival bandstand gave the cathedral close a fantastic atmosphere, with people dancing to the music from Hereford Big Band and Hereford Folk Ensemble, among many others. The festival drew to a close with a  performance of Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius, movingly sung by Nicky Spence, Dame Sarah Connolly, Neal Davies and the Festival Chorus, with the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Geraint Bowen.

Young performers were a highlight of this year’s festival, with the headline festival commission Voices of Power sung by the Festival Youth Choir, the children from Gloucestershire Academy of Music giving an excellent performance at Tewkesbury Abbey, and a fantastic concert by the National Youth Orchestra of Wales conducted by Kwamé Ryan at Hereford Cathedral.

The Three Choirs Festival moves to Gloucester in 2023, where the music of Ralph Vaughan Williams will be celebrated in his 150th anniversary year. Before then, on the composer’s birthday itself this October, the festival will present two days of events showcasing some of his best-loved music, including the Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis. Full details are available the festival website.

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