The Elgar Festival 27 May – 4 June 2024

Festival | Heritage | The Arts | What's On

a composer leading an orchestra in a church

Lauded as ‘Critic’s Pick’ in both The Guardian and The Times, the Elgar Festival is an annual live celebration of the life and music of Worcester’s most famous son and Britain’s great composer, Sir Edward Elgar (1857–1934). Set in and around the composer’s home city, the event comprises concerts given by the resident English Symphony Orchestra (ESO) under their Principal Conductor and Festival Artistic Director, Kenneth Woods, with guest artists including Zoë Beyers and Esther Abrami and featured composer, Steve Elcock.

Embodying the ethos ‘Elgar for Everyone’, the Elgar Festival engages with those of all ages and backgrounds in music and legacy at a number of integral venues of both historic interest and personal significance to the composer, including Worcester Cathedral and Guildhall. The festival takes place 27 May – 4 June 2024

‘The Origins of Inspiration’

This year’s Festival is built around Elgar’s Violin Concerto – one of the composer’s most intimate works – and explores the composer’s personal inspirations, alongside those of his followers, with the theme ‘The Origins of Inspiration’. A performance will feature in the opening concert when Kenneth Woods conducts the English Symphony Orchestra in Worcester Cathedral, with Zoë Beyers as soloist, alongside another of Elgar’s finest works, his ‘Cockaigne’ Overture.

“It’s my favourite of all violin concertos”, says Kenneth Woods, “and it’s a totally unique piece of music. No other concerto has such a mixture of grandeur and intimacy. On one level, it’s like a Mahler symphony with violin obligato, but on another, it’s like sitting alone in a room with Elgar listening to him share his innermost thoughts.”

“In looking to put together a programme worthy of this amazing piece, I thought we might think about where pieces like this come from. What inspires a composer to write a particular work at a particular point in time? Our theme is Origins of Inspiration, and we’ll look at all kinds of sparks that have lit the creative fires for Elgar and other great composers.”

Music of Today

This year’s featured composer is Steve Elcock, with whom the ESO has enjoyed a long and fruitful association. Elcock’s residency as John McCabe ‘Composer-In-Association’ resulted in premiere performances and recordings of his Symphony No.8 and Violin Concerto.

“I’m very excited to share the music of our Visiting Composer, Steve Elcock, with Elgar Festival audiences”, says Kenneth Woods. “Steve is a true modern symphonist, whose music is full of passion, drama, melody, intensity and beauty. The works of his we share during this year’s festival showcase a composer helping keep alive the flame which Elgar lit over 100 years ago, with outpourings of humour, pathos and occasional ferocity.”

Elcock’s ‘Wreck’ Op.10 from 1998 and premiered by the ESO features in the opening concert and brings to life a ship at sea, battered by the elements, in what the composer refers to as a ‘‘symphonic allegory’’. The inevitable “wreck” leads to a haunting if inaudible off-stage voice – ‘‘a message of salvation beyond despair, of consolation beyond grief”. Elcock will also give an audience at The Firs – Elgar’s Birthplace, and there will be the opportunity to hear Elgar and Elcock’s Piano Quintets back-to-back.

Reaching out to Younger Audiences

The Elgar Festival is committed to working with and inspiring young musicians and listeners and there are numerous opportunities for engagement including a Young Composers’ Competition, Conducting Masterclass and Family Concert.

TikTok ‘Sensation’
Violin soloist, Esther Abrami, is one such ambassador, being a star of the younger generation who has found fame through her TikTok online profile which attracts thousands of young admirers.

Young Musicians from the Midlands
The ‘Elgar for Everyone’ Family Concert in Worcester Cathedral, co-hosted by Esther Abrami and Festival Patron, Julian Lloyd Webber, provides a platform for ESO Youth Orchestras and Ensembles – young musicians from across the Midlands’ region – in music by Ravi Shankar and Skaila Kanga, Morfydd Owen and Monika Stadler. Abrami will also feature traditional favourites by Elgar and Vaughan Williams during the Festival and hosts her own late-night ‘Club Elgar’ showcase.

Late-night Club Elgar
In addition to Esther Abrami’s showcase, Elgar Festival Artistic Director and Conductor, Kenneth Woods, will swap baton for guitar when he welcomes some of the UK’s finest blues and jazz musicians to celebrate the music of Elgar and his followers in a late-night Club Elgar slot.

Cream of English music
The English String Orchestra will perform music for strings, to include Imogen Holst’s Variations on ‘Loth To Depart’; the World Premiere of Steve Elcock’s Concerto Grosso, and Elgar’s String Quartet arr. David Matthews. Choral works by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Elgar’s Sea Pictures, arranged for choir, are to be performed by The Elgar Chorale, and the Jenny Lind Singers bring a mixed programme of repertoire new and familiar, while Choral Evensong at the Cathedral provides a welcome addition to the Festival programme.

‘Elgar for Everyone’ FREE events

All concerts at the Elgar Festival offer FREE tickets for under 18s accompanied by full-paying adults. Many of the Festival’s events are free-of-charge and include conducting masterclasses, youth courses, relaxed concerts, talks, a film and an illuminating exhibition.

GoFundMe Campaign –
Keep the music playing and the FREE events free for all!
Like many arts-based charities, the Elgar Festival is raising money to help deliver its 2024 iteration. Donations help towards costs for Relaxed concerts, artist’s fees and instrument and venue hire, and help to keep the free events free for all:

Morgan Rally Around The Elgar Route
In association with Malvern Hills District Council, the Elgar Festival is delighted to be the finishing point host for the 2024 Morgan Sports Car Club rally and looks forward to welcoming rally members.

How to book tickets:
Telephone: 01905 611 427
In person: Worcester Theatres, Huntingdon Hall Box Office, Crown Gate, Worcester WR1 3LD

Or by following the link below:

Book Tickets here

Image Credit: Michael Whitefoot

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