The Three Choirs Festival has been taking place every year since 1709, rotating between the cathedrals of Hereford, Worcester and Gloucester. For much of its time the festival presented choral music with an ecclesiastical theme as the mainstay of the programme but more recently symphonic works and a variety of genres have been included. Hereford celebrations have included the nineteenth century folk dance troupe Les Berriauds from our twin town of Vierzon, and more recently there was an emphasis on getting the music out onto the street with string quartets, singers and other performers appearing in High Town and at other points across the city.
The City Council supports the festival when it is held in Hereford with a substantial grant, and always attends the civic procession at the opening event which ever city is hosting the performances. One condition of the grant is that a free event is provided, which has become known as “The Gathering Wave” and is part of the closing celebration.
Over the years the festival has seen the debut performances of major works by English composers including Elgar, Britten, Vaughan-Williams and Sullivan. Parry’s “De Profundis” was one of the earliest works to be specially commissioned for the Festival and was performed in 1891.
In 2012 The Philharmonia Orchestra began a three year stint as orchestra in residence for the festival. Each year the festival artistic director and conductor is the organist from the host cathedral, and all three cathedral choirs take part in the impressive opening ceremony, closing events and often give specially commissioned recitals during the festival week, including choral evensong. Other internationally renowned ensembles, guest orchestras and soloists feature every year making the Three Choirs a major coming together of choral and orchestral performers of the highest quality and reputation.