The annual English Music Festival celebrates the brilliance, innovation, beauty and rich musical heritage of Britain with a strong focus on unearthing overlooked or forgotten masterpieces of the late nineteenth to mid-twentieth century.
For 2022, the English Music Festival makes a welcome return to Dorchester Abbey with the BBC Concert Orchestra under Martin Yates, presenting first performances and rarely-heard works by Sir Edward Elgar, Frederick Delius, William Alwyn and R O Morris. Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s lush and lyrical Violin Concerto takes centre stage with a first presentation of a new performing edition, (to be published by EM Publishing), prepared and played by soloist Rupert Marshall-Luck. Celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of Ralph Vaughan Williams, Martin Yates gives a rare public outing of his light-hearted folk-infused ballet for orchestra, Old King Cole.
Live choral music is to feature in three major programmes this year. Vaughan Williams’s ‘Five Mystical Songs’ feature alongside a highly anticipated performance of Gustav Holst’s magnificent ‘The Cloud Messenger’, setting a fifth-century Sanskrit love-story, performed by the English Chamber Orchestra and Choir of King’s College, London under their conductor Joseph Fort.
The rarely performed Pre-Raphaelite-inspired cantata ‘Willow-Wood’ by Ralph Vaughan Williams is to be performed by the celebrated baritone soloist Roderick Williams with the Godwine Choir and Holst Orchestra conducted by Hilary Davan Wetton. The concert will also feature works by Edgar Bainton, George Dyson, Gerald Finzi, Herbert Howells and John Ireland.
The Addison Singers under David Wordsworth programme one of Ralph Vaughan Williams’s best loved works – his Mass in G minor. Also included are pieces by Sir Arthur Bliss, Charles Wood, John Ireland, George Dyson, John Gardner, Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, and Walter Cecil Macfarren.
The beautiful and historic church of All Saints’ at Sutton Courtenay will provide a fitting venue for a concert celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, when the Elysian Singers will perform ‘A Garland for the Queen’; the part-song collection commissioned for the coronation from leading composers of the day, including Sir Arthur Bliss, Sir Arnold Bax, Sir Michael Tippett, Ralph Vaughan Williams, John Ireland, Herbert Howells, Gerald Finzi, Lennox Berkeley, Alan Rawsthorne and Edmund Rubbra. The concert will also include works by Sir Richard Rodney Bennett and Robin Milford.
The English Music Festival has a long tradition of supporting young up-and-coming artists; and 2022 is no exception. Kathleen Ferrier Award-winner, baritone Gareth Brynmor John, will give this year’s song recital showcasing the composer Havergal Brian; perhaps best-known for his grand-scale Gothic Symphony (the first of 32). Brynmor John will be accompanied by Grammy award-winning pianist, Christopher Glynn.
Chamber recitals have always played an important part in the re-discovery of neglected works, particularly with the excellent facilities at Radley College’s Silk Hall, and a convivial EMF lunch in the splendid New Pavilion. This year works by Robin Milford, Cecil Armstrong Gibbs and Sir Edward Elgar feature alongside the World Premiere of Ivor Gurney’s D major Violin Sonata, performed by Rupert Marshall-Luck with pianist Nathan Williamson.
The Festival’s traditional late-night platform offers two opportunities for relaxed listening when guitarist Michael Poll performs evocative works by Benjamin Britten and John Dowland together with William Walton’s characteristic Bagatelles. In a lighter vein, songs by Noel Coward are to be presented by acclaimed singer and pianist, Michael Law.
Informative and entertaining talks, setting the composers and music in context, take place in Dorchester Village Hall. This year BBC Radio 3 broadcaster and journalist Stephen Johnson will discuss different aspects of Ralph Vaughan Williams’s music and personality in ‘The Shadow and the Light’; composer Philip Lancaster gives a tantalising view of ‘Ivor Gurney and the chamber work Secrets’, while composer John Pickard celebrates ‘Havergal Brian Fifty Years On - Myths, Misconceptions and Mysteries’.
Tickets are now on sale via the website, a postal booking form, and on the door during the Festival, subject to availability.
A convenient Festival mini bus transfer operates between venues and Didcot Parkway station.
EM Records is the recording label of the English Music Festival, which includes many première recordings