May 25, 2018

Established by decree of Worcester City Council in 2017, the new Elgar Festival comes to life this year with Kenneth Woods assuming the role of Artistic Director and the English Symphony Orchestra (ESO) becoming Orchestra-in-Residence. Held during the weekend closest to Elgar’s birthdate (2 June 1857), from Friday, 1 June – Sunday, 3 June 2018, the Festival combines orchestral, chamber, vocal and choral concerts with exhibits and lectures to celebrate the life and music of Sir Edward Elgar at various venues in his hometown of Worcester. The Elgar Festival brings together leading local arts and educational organisations with an array of internationally renowned guest artists, placing the music of Worcester’s most famous son alongside that of his contemporaries and some of today’s leading composers and arrangers.

“Our region has seen many celebrations of Elgar’s legacy over the years, including recent projects like the 2015 Elgar Pilgrimage organised by the ESO,” says ESO Artistic Director Kenneth Woods. “However, this new festival marks the first time such an occasion has been organised with the official endorsement of the City of Elgar’s birth, and brings together a consortium of diverse and promising partners and stakeholders including the Elgar Birthplace, the Elgar Society, the City of Worcester, Worcester Live and an array of educational and performing institutions. We hope it will become the festival that Britain’s greatest composer has always deserved.”

Musical proceedings get under way on Friday, 1 June 2018, when the Elgar School of Music hosts a programme of Elgar’s vocal works performed by Worcester-based soprano Erika Mädi Jones, South African tenor Wilhelm Theunissen, pianist and Head of the Elgar School Janine Parsons and students of the Elgar School. Featured songs include Like to the Damask Rose, Rondel, A War Song and In the Dawn, many of which had their premiere in Worcester’s Crown Hotel.

On Saturday, 2 June 2018, English Symphony Orchestra leader Zoë Beyers and colleagues violinist Kate Suthers, violist Catherine Marwood and cellist Victoria Simonsen present an afternoon concert of string quartets, melding Elgar with David Matthews, one of today’s foremost proponents of his forbearer’s music. Part of the ESO’s year-long “David Matthews at 75” celebrations, the programme includes the world premiere of Matthews’ string quartet arrangement of Elgar’s Sospiri, Matthew’s own String Quartet No. 6, and Elgar’s String Quartet.

David Matthews’ orchestration of Elgar’s String Quartet is at the heart of the Elgar Festival’s Gala Concert, which takes place on the evening of Saturday, 2 June 2018 at Worcester Cathedral, with Kenneth Woods conducting the English String Orchestra. The programme also includes Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro and Vaughan Williams’ Oboe Concerto featuring soloist Nicholas Daniel. Carrying on the orchestration and arrangement theme, Woods and the ESO will perform Donald Fraser’s Songs for Strings, arrangements of four Elgar songs for string orchestra.

“Elgar’s music has been a lifelong source of inspiration and fascination for me,’ says Woods, “and I think the powerful and poignant ways in which Donald Fraser and David Matthews have responded to Elgar’s originals in these arrangements says a lot about how his music continues to challenge and excite composers today.”

The Elgar Festival ends as it began, with vocal music. On Sunday, 3 June 2018, The Elgar Chorale, directed by Malvern-born Piers Maxim, performs works by Elgar and his contemporaries Hubert Parry, Charles Stanford and Arthur Sullivan at The Firs, Elgar’s birthplace.

Spoken word also features in the Elgar Festival. On Friday, 1 June 2018, actor, playwright and Elgar Society member Peter Sutton will present Pomp and Poetry Too, a selection of poems interspersed with Elgar’s music at The Firs. On Saturday, 2 June 2018, David Matthews delivers the bi-annual A. T. Shaw Lecture presented by the Elgar Society and the Elgar Festival. His topic is “Elgar’s Voice,” in which he will explore two aspects of Elgar’s distinct voice – the public voice and the private voice. Among the works Matthews will discuss are In the South, Falstaff, the String Quartet (including his arrangement for string orchestra as well as the original), and Sospiri, one of the most private of all of Elgar’s works.

Throughout the Festival, the Guildhall in central Worcester will have on display an exhibit of Elgar memorabilia on loan from prestigious private collections.

Plans for the 2019 Elgar Festival are already underway and will see an expanded portfolio of concerts, including a celebration of the centenary of the composition of Elgar’s Cello Concerto and the festival’s first oratorio night. In addition, the Worcester Repertory Company will stage Peter Sutton’s play, Alice and Elgar, at Worcester’s Swan Theatre.

For all media enquiries, interview and image requests, please contact Melanne Mueller,, +44 (0) 7788 662 461 or +1 917 907 2785

For more information about the Elgar Festival please visit

Elgar Festival
Friday, 1 June 2018 – Sunday, 3 June 2018
Worcester, England

Friday, 1 June 2018 – 1:00 pm
Elgar in Song
Erika Mädi Jones soprano
Wilhelm Theunissen tenor
Janine Parsons piano
Students of the Elgar School of Music
Lumby Recital Room
Elgar School of Music
16-20 Deansway
Worcester WR1 2ES
Tickets: £10 (10% discount for ESO Friends and Elgar Society Members)

Friday, 1 June 2018 – 7:30 pm
Pomp and Poetry Too: A presentation of Elgar’s music together with a selection of poems read by actor, playwright and Elgar Society member Peter Sutton
The Firs
Crown East Lane
Lower Broadheath
Worcestershire WR2 6RH
Free admission, tickets required

Saturday, 2 June 2018 – 4:30 pm
String Quartet Coffee Concert with Zoë Beyers and Friends
Edward Elgar (1857 – 1934) arr. David Matthews (b. 1943) Sospiri (world premiere)
David Matthews String Quartet No. 6
Elgar String Quartet
Worcester Guildhall
High Street
Worcester WR1 2EY
Tickets: £10

Saturday, 2 June 2018 – 6:00 pm
The Elgar Society Presents the bi-annual A.T. Shaw Lecture: “Elgar’s Voices”
David Matthews composer / speaker
Abbot’s Kitchen
The Old Palace
Worcester WR1 2JE
Free to ticket holders of 2 June Worcester Cathedral concert (see below) and members of the Elgar Society

Saturday, 2 June 2018 – 7:30 pm
Elgar Festival Gala Concert
Elgar Introduction and Allegro
Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872 – 1958) Concerto in A minor for Oboe and Strings
     Nicholas Daniel oboe
Elgar arr. Donald Fraser Songs for Strings
Elgar arr. David Matthews String Quartet
Kenneth Woods conductor
English String Orchestra
Worcester Cathedral
8 College Yard
Worcester WR1 2LA
Tickets: £10, £22 (10% discount for ESO Friends and Elgar Society Members)

Sunday, 3 June 2018 – 3:00 pm
The Elgar Chorale at The Firs Charles
Hubert Hastings Parry (1848 – 1918) arr. Piers Maxim
Three Shakespeare Songs
Spring Song – It was a lover and his lass
Willow, willow, willow
Blow, blow thou winter wind
Two Part-songs:
     My Love Dwelt in a Northern Land
     As Torrents in Summer
Elgar Sonatina in G Major
     I. Andantino
     II. Allegro
     Piers Maxim organ
Parry Selections from Songs of Farewell
     My soul, there is a country
     I know my soul hath power
     Never weather-beaten sail
     There is an old belief
Elgar They are at rest
Arthur Sullivan (1842 – 1900) The Long Day Closes
Charles Villiers Stanford (1852 – 1924) The Blue Bird
The Elgar Chorale
Piers Maxim conductor and organist
The Firs
Crown East Lane
Lower Broadheath
Worcestershire WR2 6RH
Tickets: £6

Tickets for all Elgar Festival events are available online via Worcester Live or by phone 01905 611427

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