The Three Choirs Festival, which this year takes place in and around Worcester, opens tomorrow, Friday.

The eight-day festival features more than 70 seventy events, and surrounds the choral music at the heart of the festival with a wide range of chamber music, talks, excursions and family activities.

Artistic Director Peter Nardone has placed Tippett’s A Child of Our Time at the outset of festival week, in the first evening cathedral concert by the Three Choirs Festival Chorus and Philharmonia Orchestra (22 July).

The work provided a starting point for two programming strands: ‘With its profoundly moving spirituals, acting like the chorales in a Bach Passion, and its strong underlying message of pacifism and reconciliation, the piece resonates with these echoes of the past, and sets the tone of our 2017 festival,’ he says. “My starting point in programming the 2017 festival was the historical tension between war-torn Europe and the contrasting atmosphere in the United States in 1917. As America entered the First World War, spirits ran high and the arts flourished; the first commercial recording of the Dixieland ‘Jass’ Band was released (Sunset Café Stompers Tribute to the Original Dixieland Jass Band, 22 July) and the vibrant ragtime of Scott Joplin (who died that year) would have been heard up and down the country (John Lenehan plays Joplin, Wednesday 26 July)while the Bolshevik uprising in Russia was a cataclysmic event to which Shostakovich responded by dedicating his twelfth symphony, ‘The Year 1917’to the memory of Lenin.” (28 July)

The festival’s flagship choral and orchestral programme will take place in soaring interior of Worcester Cathedral, where this year the stage will be relocated to take advantage of the building’s magnificent organ, which Wayne Marshall will demonstrate to full effect in both a solo recital (28 July) and alongside the Philharmonia Orchestra in Poulenc’s Organ Concerto and Saint-Saëns’ mighty ‘Organ’ Symphony No 3

(24 July). The festival also travels to a range of venues around the county, including Pershore Abbey, Kidderminster Town Hall, All Saint’s Church, Evesham and Great Malvern Priory.

Other choral repertoire includes Mendelssohn’s St Paul(24 July), Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius(25 July), Janá?ek’s Glagolitic Mass, and the Serenade to Music by Vaughan Williams. The Three Cathedral Choirs of Worcester, Hereford and Gloucester combine to perform Odes to St Cecilia by Handel and Purcell(25 July). The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, conducted by former Worcester Cathedral chorister Stephen Cleobury, will give a recital on the last afternoon of the festival. Jonathan Dove’s There Was a Child is performed by the Three Choirs Festival Youth Choir (27 July) and provides this year’s cover image (a section of the libretto, illuminated by local artist John Rowlands Pritchard),

This choice hints at the second thematic strand of this year’s festival: the‘Child of Our Time’ is carried through some achingly poignant

tributes to lost childhood, concluding with Howell’s Hymnus Paradisi on the 29 July. But the programme also celebrates the vibrant spark of youth –from young home-grown performers in the cathedral choirs, youth choir and children’s chorus; to visiting youth theatre, promising recitalists hand-picked by the Philharmonia and Royal College of Organists, and the ‘twenty-something’ members of the Fellowship Octet of the National Youth Choir of Great Britain (celebrating music written by ‘twenty-somethings’ through the centuries). The programme also features a range of activities and events aimed at families and young people from toddlers through to teens, and the Festival Village will be located again on College Green, hosting a café serving breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as wine bar and cask ales and ciders. Free ‘Players on the Green’ performances will take place twice daily, and daily sung services are free and open to all. There will also be displays from local craftspeople and an exhibition of John Rowlands Pritchard’s work.New music permeates the festival programme, with new work for services from Thomas Hewitt Jones, Ian King and Piers Connor-Kennedy,while the Marsyas Trio give the English premiere of Hilary Tann’s In the Theatre of Air and an orchestrated version of Torsten Rasch’s A Welsh Night is premiered by Sarah Connolly, who gave the original performance in 2015. Roderick Williams’ new cycle, Silence and Music, for vocal trio Voice and cellist Matthew Barley sets the texts of Ursula Vaughan Williams, while a commission from Sally Beamish for mezzo-soprano Kitty Whately sets a new text written for the occasion from bestselling author Alexander McCall Smith.

Tickets go on sale in April, and the festival is launching a new scheme ‘Festival Firsts’ to provide free tickets for local people who have never attended the festival before, by inviting loyal audience member to donate a ticket for a new attender. Local children and young adults can also participate in the festival by joining the Youth Choir or Sing Up, Sing Out! Project (more information at

For the full programme and to book, visit or callt he ticket office on 01452 768928, 10am to 4pm, Monday to Friday.