Every concert at the Three Choirs Festival begins with an announcement: In the unlikely event of an emergency, please wait for instructions from the verger and the ushers will direct you to evacuate the building. Then there is a prayer from the head clergyman—this week there have been prayers for the terror victims in Nice, France, as well as the murder of a French priest. I wonder if “the unlikely event” has ever happened at the Three Choirs Festival—I know that there was once a bomb threat at the yearly Festival of Lessons and Carols in Cambridge and Kings College was evacuated.
Tonight we again were visited by royals, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester. Again everyone stood in silence at their entrance. At intermission after everyone stopped applauding, we all stood quietly while they exited. The same procedure happened at the conclusion of the concert—except at the end the man sitting next to me refused to stand, saying he didn’t believe in the monarchy! When Prince Charles came to Monday’s concert, it was mentioned that it was his first visit to the Three Choirs Festival in 18 years—yet he is the President of the Three Choirs Festival Foundation. The chairman kidded him about this, and invited him to church next Sunday!
This was the last day (for me) of the Three Choirs Festival and I began by bidding Vreni Griffith “goodbye” as she travels on to Dartington. My first concert this morning was the Three Choirs Festival Youth Choir’s performance of Rossini’s Petite Messe Solonnelle, which was accompanied by the strange combination of two pianos and a harmonium. In case you aren’t familiar with this instrument, it is a reed organ (a keyboard instrument) which has two pedals to pump the bellows and sounds like an accordion. I tried to take a picture of it but unfortunately didn’t get there in time before the lid was closed.
There were many solos by a quartet, and only a few times where the choir sang. It was kind of a curious piece but I enjoyed it anyway. The man sitting next to me told me it was his favorite concert so far all week!
Evensong tonight featured a Magnificat by Gerald Finzi and new Nunc Dimittis by David Bednall, commissioned for the Three Choirs Festival 2016. The anthem was by Patrick Hadley. I again sat in the transept, and again people were talking all through the organ prelude (Grrrr!) I must say, though, that during the service and during concerts, the English audience is exceptionally quiet and no one coughs or whispers or opens candy wrappers!
Tonight’s concert was fabulous and fantastic in every way. It began with a commissioned piece by Joseph Phipps, described by the composer as a “musical snapshot,” full of “energy and ebullience, articulated through a full exploration of the orchestral palette and propelled forward with a constant sense of rhythmic momentum”— in other words, it kept you on the edge of your seat!
The Philharmonia orchestra, which has been in residence all week, next performed Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations, and again, I was totally impressed with the wide expression of colors and dynamics—from super soft to total blowout.
After the “interval” (intermission), the orchestra played Walton’s Spitfire Prelude and Fugue, then we were treated to one of the most exhilarating performances I have heard of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, one of my favorite pieces of all time. The soloists, Anna Patalong, Russell Painter, and David Stout, were absolutely terrific. What a wonderful piece to end my first Three Choirs Festival—so many super performances, and heavenly Evensongs.
Don’t worry—God willing, I will be back next year!