Sir Simon Rattle and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra host the EMI Centenary Gala Concert in Birmingham's Symphony Hall (0121- 212 3333) tonight at 7pm; on 8 Jul at 8pm three Great Cathedral Choirs of England also perform there, conducted by Christopher Robinson

L ong before Sir Simon Rattle and his immaculately drilled music machine - the CBSO - brought Birmingham to the attention of music fans throughout the world, Britain's second city was at the forefront of a major choral tradition. The first Birmingham Triennial Musical Festival was held as long ago as 1784 when Handel was a mainstay of the repertoire, though, over the years, new choral masterpieces by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and others were also spotlighted. And a further major name arrived in person in the 1830s with the opening of the Town Hall - Mendelssohn conducted St Paul there in 1837 and returned nine years later with his specially commissioned Elijah.

And a major 20th-century choral classic very much in the large-scale Town Hall tradition is Sir William Walton's vibrant Belshazzar's Feast. In tonight's Symphony Hall EMI Charity Gala concert, the CBSO Chorus is teamed up with the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus, and Simon Keenlyside is the baritone soloist. And before the Walton, there's the chance not only to hear Elgar's Violin Concerto, with Nigel Kennedy as soloist, but also the world premiere of an EMI commission from Mark-Anthony Turnage, Four Horned Fandango.

And from massed choral forces to the somewhat more plaintive and ethereal strains of three of England's greatest Cathedral Choirs in Tuesday evening's concert which features vocal ensembles from Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, Saint John's College, Cambridge and Worcester Cathedral. An inviting range of English choral works spanning four centuries is on offer, from Byrd's Rorate coeli and Taverner's O Christe Jesu to Vaughan Williams's Lord, thou hast been our refuge and Britten's resplendent Rejoice the Lamb.


The Sundsvall Chamber Orchestra, from Sweden, pays its first visit to Britain this week when they play at the Cheltenham Festival. The programme includes two Trombone Concertos of contrasting eras and styles played by perhaps the greatest living exponent on the instrument, Christian Lindberg. First up is an early Classical piece by Michael Haydn, which is followed by a contemporary work by Lindberg's Swedish peer Par Lindren, subtitled "Islands".

Cheltenham Town Hall (01242 227979), 10 Jul, 7.30pm