Three Choirs Festival brings classical music to the local community

The Three Choirs Festival has been working with local creative leaders to provide music-based workshops to schools and community groups in Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire

Photo credit: Victoria Toppin

The year-round participation programme aims to show that classical music is open to all, regardless of age or background. This year’s project, “What the Lark Saw”, is tied to the 150th birthday of composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, taking inspiration from his most famous work, The Lark Ascending. Each group received a series of four workshops focusing on a particular discipline: live music, spoken word, textile art, dance and electronic music.

All the contributions will be brought together for an exciting showcase in Gloucester Cathedral on Wednesday 26 July at 11am (tickets available at Visual artworks created during the workshops will be on display, and there will be a performance of a new piece of music from Gloucestershire composer Liz Lane, What the Lark Saw. Liz has visited each project and collaborated with the workshop leaders to bring together elements of each community’s work in her music.

Actor and poet Edward Derbyshire, who worked with groups to create a collection of poems in response to The Lark Ascending, describes his experience of the project as “a really joyful journey” with an “unmistakeable and vibrant thread of hope.”

Textile Artist Joy Pollock notes that in her Batik workshops with the Gloucester Friendship Hub and Forest of Dean Inclusion Hub, the participants “all found connections and common ground”. With many individuals having English as a second language, these visual art workshops were a perfect form of expression and communication without words.

Participants in 2023 include members of the Gloucestershire Inclusion Hub network, The Severnside Singers, pupils from Elmbridge, Hillview and Oakridge Primary Schools, members of the Open Arms Collective, Cheltenham, and members of the St Briavels Memory Café, Forest of Dean. The festival has been privileged to work with a truly inspirational group of local creative leaders, including dancer and choreographer Marie-Louise Flexen, actor and poet Edward Derbyshire, musicians Kate Gathercole, Mark Waters, J9 (Judge Singh) and Tim Keasley, and textile artist Joy Pollock.

The festival will be continuing to increase access to classical music next year, with a new project “Nature Sings”, which will focus on the seasons and the natural world. More details and information about taking part can be found at