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A Three Choirs Romance

Lynn Norris from Hereford has spent much of her life in London as a teacher and Adlerian counsellor. She has written ten musicals, many songs for children and adults, and a book, Tales of the Century, relating people's accounts of their lives which involved surviving the wars and technological changes of the twentieth century. Two of these accounts, that of conductor Roy Budden and composer, conductor and pianist Aubrey Bowman, have been published here at M&V.

In a simple and accessible style, Lynn's latest song, The Ballad of Molly and Ewan (A Three Choirs Romance), scored for SATB choir and piano, tells the story of Lynn's uncle and aunt's courtship during the Three Choirs Festival at Worcester. Molly and Ewan, both from Hereford, visited Worcester to sing in the Three Choirs Festival Chorus.

The Ballad of Molly and Ewan received its first two performances at a very well-attended concert in a St Leonard's Church, Cotheridge, Worcestershire, WR6 5LZ, England, on Saturday 29 July 2017 at 7.30pm, which raised nearly £600 for Midlands Air Ambulance and Cotheridge Church. Performers included the a cappella male vocal group GR-VIII (pronounced 'Great'), Lucas Ball on keyboard, and the Community Choir at Alfrick. Besides Lynn's new song, a wide range of music was on offer, including classical, songs from the shows, pop and folk. Full details here.

Coincidentally, the concert described above took place on the last night of the Three Choirs Festival, held this year just a few miles away at Worcester. The Community Choir at Alfrick has been helping to develop a web page to try to prevent such clashes happening in future, and is now hosting the Classical Concerts in Worcestershire web page, partly as an anti-clash diary service.

Of this year's Three Choirs Festival (22-29 July 2017), artistic director Peter Nardone writes: 'Every summer, the singers of Hereford, Gloucester and Worcester gather to celebrate the finest choral music. This year, Worcester plays host with its splendid mediaeval cathedral, and other inspiring venues throughout the county ...

'This year, the cathedral performances will take place under the tower of the cathedral, improving the listening experience for the audience. This repositioning of the concert platform also allows us to marry up the orchestra with the cathedral organ, enabling me to programme both the Poulenc Organ Concerto and Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony as well as harnessing the full power of Janáček's towering and triumphant Glagolitic Mass.'

As usual, the orchestra in residence was the Philharmonia Orchestra, and other visiting groups in 2017 included the Choir of King's College Cambridge, Cardinall's Musick and the Sacconi Quartet.

Peter Nardone explains that his starting point for the 2017 festival was events a century ago, when the USA entered World War I, and the contrasting atmosphere between the USA (in high spirits) and war-torn Europe, with the Bolshevik uprising in Russia.

The Russian atmosphere in 1917 was represented in Worcester by a performance of Shostakovich's Symphony No 12, The Year 1917 conducted by Adrian Partington (musical director of Gloucester Cathedral) on Friday 28 July. Shostakovich was followed by Mozart's Great C minor Mass, and Partington and the Philharmonia were joined by the Three Choirs Festival Chorus and soloists Katharine Fuge, Gillian Keith, Joshua Ellicott and Robert Rice.

The contrasting atmosphere in North America was represented by a late night concert in College Hall, Worcester, on the festival's opening night, Saturday 22 July, featuring the Sunset Café Stompers and a tribute to the original Dixieland 'Jass' Band, celebrating the pioneering spirit in which the 'Harlem Hellfighters' (the African-American regimental band) introduced jazz to troups and civilians in Europe.

As usual, Roderic Dunnett was at the Three Choirs Festival, reporting in depth for M&V. His full report will be published in due course, but meanwhile, read his report of the 2016 festival, The Treasured Crown. Unusually this year, however, Dunnett also took part in the festival, interviewing German composer Torsten Rasch (a regular Three Choirs visitor) about the latter's new orchestral version of his own work, A Welsh Night. The event, at the King's School Boathouse on Wednesday 26 July, reviewed here by Keith Bramich, also included a light lunch, and it preceded an orchestral concert that evening at which mezzo Sarah Connolly and the Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Frank Beermann, gave the first performance of Rasch's work in its new orchestral version. The concert began with Richard Strauss' Metamorphosen, and following the Rasch was Janáček's Glagolitic Mass, featuring soloists Natalya Romanow, Claudia Huckle. Daniel Norman, Ashley Riches, the Three Choirs Festival Chorus and Christopher Allsop at the organ.

Geraint Bowen, musical director of Hereford Cathedral, conducted Mendelssohn's rarely heard oratorio St Paul, influenced by J S Bach's Passions, on Sunday 23 July in Worcester Cathedral. Soloists Judith Howard, Yvonne Howard, James Oxley and David Stout joined the Three Choirs Festival Chorus and Philharmonia Orchestra.

At the festival's final concert, An English Farewell (Saturday 29 July, Worcester Cathedral), Peter Nardone conducted Vaughan Williams' Serenade to Music, Finzi's Dies Natalis and Howells' Hymnus Paradisi. Soloists included Ruth Holton, Ed Lyon and Robert Evans.

Many more festival events took place thoughout the week, in a variety of Worcestershire venues, including Kidderminster Town Hall, Great Malvern Priory, Madresfield Court, All Saints' Church, Evesham, Pershore Abbey, Huntingdon Hall and various City of Worcester churches.

Information: www.3choirs.org

Posted: 21 July 2017

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