This year’s Petersfield Musical Festival aims to reach out to all ages and tastes, writes Sarah Hard.

Its programme of diverse events include two large-scale choral concerts, small-scale chamber ensembles, music theatre, youth and family concerts.

The programme will be rolled out in Petersfield’s Festival Hall and St. Peter’s Church between March 17 and 25.

Book-ending the week will be the two flagship choral concerts.

Handel’s glorious 1752 oratorio Jephtha, on the first Saturday, dramatically depicts the Biblical narrative of Jephtha, who, recalled from exile to lead the Israelites against their enemies, vows to sacrifice the first person he sees if he is successful in battle; tragically this turns out to be his own daughter.

The poignancy of the moral dilemma which ensues calls forth some of Handel’s most moving and heart-felt writing for both soloists and ensemble.

A cast of young soloists drawn from London conservatoires, conducted by Paul Spicer and accompanied by Southern Pro Musica and the Festival Chorus will portray a powerful gamut of emotions from despair to joy.

The following Saturday sees a contrasting programme of works featuring British composer Charles Villiers Stanford, and composers Giacomo Puccini and Edvard Grieg.

Stanford’s Songs of the Fleet was written in 1910 and its fast movements reflect the typical Edwardian brio of their era.

The style of Puccini’s Messa di Gloria - sweeping melodies and dramatic orchestral accompaniment - foreshadows the composer’s later work as an opera composer.

Conductor Paul Spicer will take the helm of the Basingstoke Symphony Orchestra and Festival Chorus.

The much loved picturesque Peer Gynt completes the programme under the baton of Stephen Scotchmer.

Amongst the soloists, Ed Ballard, an internationally renowned baritone, will make his second appearance at the festival.

Elsewhere, the ever-popular Liss band, prevented from performing last year by illness, kick off the Festival on March 17 with a brass concert while the Petersfield Community Choir gives voice to popular classics.

Young people get their share of the limelight in the mid-week youth concerts, which will bring together talented performers drawn from local schools aged 8 to 18.

The Family concert Dancing through Time on March 19 should be hugely enjoyable as it explores dance forms from Pavanes to Tangos presented by the string players of SouthDowns Camerata, and includes audience participation!

A choreographed evening of musical theatre and popular classics with artists from Guildford School of Acting features later in the week.

One highlight this year promises to be the blockbuster concert of two musical masterpieces on March 23.

Rising star Cordelia Williams will be the soloist in Schumann’s famous romantic Piano Concerto followed by Elgar’s much-loved orchestral suite, Enigma Variations which Elgar dedicated to ‘my friends pictured within.’

The Petersfield Orchestra will be conducted by Robin Browning.

Those looking for smaller-scale entertainment may be tempted by a couple of chamber concerts in St Peter’s Church.

The Anemos wind ensemble with pianist Karen Kingsley, are performing two masterpieces of the genre; Mozart’s wind quintet and Poulenc’s lively and exuberant sextet.

Finally local musician Angela Zanders is giving a lecture-recital of Shostakovich’s Piano Trio no.2 on March 21 at 1pm.

Priority booking is open now with tickets on sale to the public from February 6 online through the festival website or at One Tree Books in Lavant Street.

Full details of concerts, timings and ticket prices are available at: