WHAT is the collective noun for festivals? A fiesta? In recent years, Salisbury and the surrounding area have grown rich in its varied festival offerings, from music (Farley Music Festival, Celebrate Voice) to history (Chalke Valley, Frogg Moody’s marvellous Salisbury History Festival) and literature (Salisbury Literary Festival, which I may have mentioned before).

This Friday sees the return of Salisbury’s largest and longest-standing offering: the International Arts Festival, back after a crop-rotation style fallow year in 2018. While previous Arts Festivals have taken the programming on a compass style jaunt around the world, the 2019 version has shifted its focus heavenwards, with the 1969 moon landings as one of the major themes.

As has become customary, the Salisbury Festival Chorus will be on hand to help launch the following fortnight of events. The Festival Chorus is a community choir, made up of a talented selection of local singers and, er, me. Somehow, I have managed to slip past quality control and been allowed to stand alongside much better vocalists (I offer the listing part, I think). But what I’ve learned over the years is that while my voice is far from the finest on its own, there’s something about singing as a choir that brings out the best in what my limited vocal cords have to offer.

Each year, the Festival Chorus has offered up a different challenge. In previous iterations, I’ve sung Silent Night in German to help commemorate World War One and shouted ‘Sausages!’ around the Market Square as part of a market songs selection (or maybe that was just Friday night after several pints of Crop Circle). This year, the piece selected is Alec Roth’s Earthrise, a strikingly beautiful choral work inspired by the iconic 1968 photograph taken by Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders, of the earth as seen from lunar orbit.

Over the past few months, the Festival Chorus has diligently been in rehearsal for the performances in the cathedral on Friday evening (7pm and 9pm, tickets available!). As usual, the sessions have been led by musical director Howard Moody, one of those force of nature leaders whose passion for music is immediately infectious. It’s been hard work but a hugely enjoyable experience.

To add to my singing limitations, this year I’ve also struggled with my lack of Latin (the joys of a comprehensive education). But while I might not always know the words I’m singing, I do know a good tune when I hear one. With a select group of professional singers and La Folia musicians leading over the top, and with the rest of the chorus singing superbly alongside, listeners can be assured that my own vocal wobbles will be, wait for it, eclipsed.