"Each year, my favorite musical gathering tenders new meaning, revealing itself in a novel (and needed) way."

 

 

 

"And yet, festival week is more than music."

 

 

 

"Additionally, the influx of Festival performers and musicians (many of them ‘in residence’ from the Philharmonia Orchestra) infuses the entire atmosphere with creative energy, fashioning a unique (albeit temporary) place and time for music."

 

 

 

The music brought me to Three Choirs, but the people keep me coming back.’

Speak through the earthquake, wind and fire

Rich Arenschieldt, Chairman, The American Friends of the Three Choirs Festival

 

Today, June 14th is filled with events that have captured and shaken the hearts of Americans and Englishmen alike. We hear, read and see images, indefinite and indelible. Simultaneously, we witness humanity’s inexhaustible capacity for bravery, compassion and generosity.

The words of American Quaker, John Greenleaf Whittier (immortalized in Parry’s ‘trajectory to heaven’ hymn tune) resonate as if uttered in a cathedral; echoing as I pray for those known and unknown, who live on my favorite island in the world, England. I look just days ahead, anticipating The Festival and the sonic balm it provides. Each year, my favorite musical gathering tenders new meaning, revealing itself in a novel (and needed) way.

This year will showcase splendid ‘Dreams,’ masses of ‘Glagolitic’ magnitude, and ‘Farewells,’ done as only the English can do them. However, in counter-balance, there will also be ancient Oswaldian Vespers, delicate Bach partitas and, most calming of all, Vaughan Williams’ mystical ‘Kyrie;’ his ethereal masterpiece, whose plaintive cry removes all ‘strain and stress’ from each of us, in a way no other melody can.

And yet, festival week is more than music. The region’s three locales, the ‘crown jewels’ as I know them: Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire -- places of unparalleled serenity and beauty, each home to a Cathedral that stands a silent and steady watch, repositories of both the earthy and the divine. This summer’s host, Worcester, gives us its hidden misericords with their ‘Labours of the Months’ carvings depicting 13th century agrarian toil. Somewhat more well-known (and heavenly) is Saint Wulfstan’s tomb, so imbued with spiritual power that, according to one ancient account, ‘Fifteen or sixteen people were cured [there] every day.’

These amazing structures anchor this busy Festival, but true to their original purpose, each cathedral quietly informs visitors: “We are witness to millennia past and future – be still.”

Aside from area and abode, there are, of course, the people who administer, volunteer and attend the Festival. The ‘heartland’ of every nation seems to possess shared characteristics, regardless of the locale. Whether it’s Omaha or Ombersley, sincere and generous souls abound. Distanced from the strain and stress of metropolitan life, individuals in this part of England are devoted to their composers, their cathedrals and their country. Additionally, the influx of Festival performers and musicians (many of them ‘in residence’ from the Philharmonia Orchestra) infuses the entire atmosphere with creative energy, fashioning a unique (albeit temporary) place and time for music.

Several years ago, one of my fellow Americans said: ‘The music brought me to Three Choirs, but the people keep me coming back.’ As a ‘differently accented’ attendee to the Festival, rarely have I (and others) felt so continuously welcomed.

The Three Choirs Festival is sonically, aesthetically and spiritually unique. Three centuries in the making and yet, a child of today’s time -- providing a much-needed ‘still, small voice of calm.’