The Living Elgar Legacy

Returning from the Elgar Festival I am reflecting, more than anything, on the uniqueness of Elgar’s legacy in Worcester and the three counties in general. I’ve often been asked, and wondered myself, the origins of my Elgarian interest and I feel this weekend brought many things about it to light.

The community of Worcester Cathedral is still a strongly musical one, entrenched in a vibrant 20th century English tradition. They are all proud and committed to their composer and what he means to them. Many of them have grown up singing his music, some original members of the Elgar Chorale and friends of Herbert Sumsion, organist of Worcester in the latter years of Elgar’s life. One certain factor to their devotion that arose was the encouragement from the late Dr Donald Hunt. The founder of the Elgar Chorale, Donald kept Elgar alive all around Worcester and had an ability to transmute the beauty of Elgar from music into community and into Worcester’s heart and soul.

It was such a lovely experience to talk with like-minded people at the festival about the ways in which Elgar’s music grows. The transformation of the Sea Pictures in an arrangement for choir and orchestra by Donald Fraser last night was one example of this. My wonderful professor Raphael Wallfisch’s performance of Elgar’s Cello Concerto moved such a vast amount of people, many of whom found themselves moved to tears and compelled to stand to applaud at the end. This is a piece so many of us know, but it’s ability still to transform is fascinating.

Elgar appears to have fused himself into the very soul of Worcester Cathedral and the Worcestershire countryside. What it is about Elgar I still can’t quite express, but I know the deeply spiritual, soulful and yet spirited nuance of his music is enough to sustain me for a long while to come.

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