20th Century

Hereford 1900

Horatio Parker returned to conduct the première of his A Wanderer’s Psalm. Elgar conducted Caractacus (Scene III).

Gloucester 1901

First Performance of Herbert Brewer’s Emmaus, orchestrated by Elgar, who also conducted his Cockaigne overture in an orchestral concert, and the Prelude and Angel’s Farewell from The Dream of Gerontius as part of the Opening Service.

Worcester 1902

First Three Choirs complete performance of Gerontius, conducted by Elgar, who regularly directed his own works at the Festival for the next thirty years. Other composers conducting premières of their works also heard in 1902 included Walford Davies, The Temple, and Granville Bantock, The Witch of Atlas.

Hereford 1903

First performances of The Wilderness by Bantock and The Atonement by Coleridge-Taylor. Parry directed his own Voces Clamantium.

Gloucester 1904

First Three Choirs performances of The Apostles and the Overture In the South, both conducted by Elgar. The première of Parry’s The love that casteth out fear, under the composer’s direction.

Gloucester 1907

First Three Choirs performance of The Kingdom, conducted by Elgar.

Worcester 1908

First performance of Parry’s Beyond these voices there is peace, conducted by the composer.

Hereford 1909

Frederick Delius conducted the first performance of his Dance Rhapsody No.1.

Gloucester 1910

Ralph Vaughan Williams directed the première of his Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis. Thereafter he conducted his own works regularly at the Festival.

Worcester 1911

Fritz Kreisler was the soloist in the first Three Choirs performance of the Elgar Violin Concerto, under the composer’s direction. Vaughan Williams conducted the first performance of his Five Mystical Songs.

Hereford 1912

Premières of two works conducted by their composers: Ode on the Nativity of Christ by Parry, and the Fantasia on Christmas Carols by Vaughan Williams.

Gloucester 1913

Camille Saint-Saëns conducted the première of his oratorio The Promised Land and was the soloist in a performance of the Piano Concerto No 27 in B flat, K.595, by Mozart. The soprano Aïno Ackté travelled from Finland to sing in the Verdi Requiem, the first performance of Luonnatar, Op.70, by Sibelius, and the hair-raising closing scene from Richard Strauss’s operaSalome.

Worcester 1920

Resumption of the festival following the First World War. Elgar conducted his setting of Binyon’s For the Fallen, and Vaughan Williams, the first performance of his Four Hymns for tenor and strings. The St. Matthew Passion (Bach) was performed using two organs for the first time in Worcester, and with chorales played from the tower by brass instruments

Hereford 1921

Percy Hull’s first festival as Artistic Director at Hereford. Elgar conducted the first Three Choirs Festival performance of his Cello Concerto, in which Beatrice Harrison was the soloist. Gustav Holst conducted his Hymn of Jesus.

Gloucester 1922

First performances of Elgar’s orchestral transcription of the Fantasia and Fugue in C minor by Bach; A Colour Symphony by Arthur Bliss; Eugene Goossens’s setting of a poem by Walter de la Mare Silence; and Sine Nomineby Herbert Howells.

Worcester 1923

First performance of To the Name above every Name by Arnold Bax.

Gloucester 1925

Dame Ethel Smyth conducted performances of the overture to The Wreckers and of the Kyrie and Gloria from her Mass in DThe Evening Watch by Gustav Holst received its first performance. This was the first year in which a Three Choirs Festival concert was broadcast by the BBC.

Gloucester 1928

Herbert Sumsion’s first festival as Artistic Director at Gloucester. Zoltan Kodaly conducted his Psalmus Hungaricus in the first of three visits (1928, 1937 and 1948) to Three Choirs. The festival programme also included King David by Honegger, and the first performance of The Burden of Babylon by Bantock, which was conducted by the composer. Dame Ethel Smyth returned to conduct a complete performance of her Mass in D.

Worcester 1929

First performance at Three Choirs of Bach’s St John Passion.

Gloucester 1931

Holst conducted the première of his Choral Fantasia and a performance of the Hymn of Jesus. Vaughan Williams conducted the first Three Choirs Festival performance of Job. Robin Milford’s A Prophet in the Landreceived its first performance, and Herbert Howells conducted the première of his song group In Green Ways.

Worcester 1932

William Walton conducted his Portsmouth Point Overture and Viola Concerto, and Vaughan Williams the first performance of his Magnificat.

Hereford 1933

The last Festival in which Elgar took part, conducting GerontiusThe Kingdom; and the Concerto in E minor, arr. for Viola. George Dyson conducted the première of his St Paul’s Voyage to Melita.

Worcester 1935

The first performances of The Morning Watch by Arnold Bax, and ofDyson’s Nebuchadnezzar, which was conducted by the composer.

Hereford 1936

Vaughan Williams conducted the first performance of his Two Hymn Preludes for orchestra.

Gloucester 1937

Kodaly conducted both his Budavari Te Deum and Jesus and the Traders.

Worcester 1938

Dyson conducted his Symphony in G; Vaughan Williams, his Dona Nobis Pacem; and Lennox Berkeley, the première of his Domini est terra. The programme included the first Three Choirs performance of Debussy’s The Blessed Damozel.

Hereford 1946

Resumption of the Festival following the Second World War. First Festival performance of Dies Natalis by Gerald Finzi. E.J.Moeran conducted hisSinfonietta in C, and Dyson the first performance of his Quo Vadis? (Part I).

Gloucester 1947

Vaughan Williams conducted his Symphony No.5. Finzi conducted his Lo, the Full Final Sacrifice, and Edmund Rubbra his Symphony No.3.

Worcester 1948

Kodaly conducted his Missa Brevis (partly rewritten for this performance). Rubbra conducted his setting of The Morning Watch.

Hereford 1949

Last appearances of Hull and Atkins as conductors. Vaughan Williams conducted his Symphony No.3 (‘Pastoral’); Finzi, the première of his Clarinet Concerto; and Dyson, Quo Vadis? (Parts I & II).

Gloucester 1950

Howells conducted the première of Hymnus Paradisi, and Vaughan Williams his Symphony No.6 and the première of his Fantasia on the ‘Old 104th’. Finzi’s Ode on the Intimations of Immortality received its first performance, conducted by Sumsion.

Worcester 1951

David Willcocks’s first festival as Artistic Director at Worcester. Finzi conducted his Introduction and Aria Farewell to Arms, and Julius Harrison his Worcestershire Suite. Douglas Fox was the soloist in Ravel’s Piano Concerto for Left Hand. Stravinsky’s Apollon Musagette, Britten’s Les Illuminations, and the Prelude and Scherzo by Shostakovich were featured in a chamber concert.

Hereford 1952

Meredith Davies’s first festival as Artistic Director at Hereford. First performance of Cantiones Sacrae by John Gardner. Aubade Héroique by Constant Lambert was performed.

Gloucester 1953

Richard Arnell conducted his Sinfonia, Op.13. These Things Shall Be by John Ireland received its first Three Choirs performance.

Worcester 1954

First performances of Missa Sabrinensis by Howells and Hodie by Vaughan Williams, both conducted by their composers.

Hereford 1955

First performances in Britain of the Stabat Mater by Francis Poulenc and ofThe Prodigal Son by Paul Huber. Humphrey Searle’s Night Music, and thePreludeElegy and Finale by Peter Racine Fricker were also featured. Sir Arthur Bliss conducted his Colour Symphony, and a Choral Suite, In Praise of Mary, by Geoffrey Bush, received its first performance.

Gloucester 1956

Vaughan Williams’s last appearance at Three Choirs, conducting The Lark Ascending. First full orchestral version of Finzi’s In Terra Pax. First performance of Amore Langueo by Howard Ferguson.

Worcester 1957

First (long overdue!) Three Choirs performance of Walton’s Belshazzar’sFeast. First performances of the Requiem by Julius Harrison and The City of Desolation by Anthony Milner.

Hereford 1958

Melville Cook’s first festival as artistic Director at Hereford. Benjamin Britten conducted his St Nicholas, with Peter Pears as soloist, and theSinfonia da Requiem; he also gave, with Norma Procter and Peter Pears, a recital which included his Isaac and Abraham canticle. Fricker conducted hisLitany for double string orchestra. Kenneth Leighton’s The Light Invisibleby Kenneth Leighton, and Franz Reizenstein’s Genesis received their first performances.

Gloucester 1959

Première of The Dream of the Rood by Howard Ferguson.

Worcester 1960

Douglas Guest’s first festival as Artistic Director at Worcester. Bliss conducted his Music for Strings. First performance in Britain of In Terra Pax by Frank Martin. Kodaly was in the audience to hear a performance of his Budavari Te Deum. Goffredo Petrassi’s Magnificat and The Eternal Gospel by Leos Janacek were featured.

Hereford 1961

Britten and Pears returned to Hereford to appear in a chamber recital. Britten also conducted his Nocturne, Op.60. Fricker’s The Vision of Judgement was given, as was the first British performance of the Requiem ‘For Those We Love’ by Paul Hindemith.

Gloucester 1962

First performances of The Beatitudes by Bliss, under the direction of the composer; the Te Deum by John Sanders; the Te Deum by Tony Hewitt-Jones; and, surprisingly, the first complete Three Choirs performance of theSea Symphony by Vaughan Williams.

Worcester 1963

Britten’s War Requiem given its third performance anywhere, conducted by Douglas Guest.

Hereford 1964

First performances of The Water and the Fire by Anthony Milner and theStabat Mater by Bernard Naylor. Also included were the War Requiem, Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms and Poulenc’s Gloria.

Gloucester 1965

Anthony Milner’s Salutatio Angelica was featured, with Janet Baker as soloist.

Worcester 1966

Christopher Robinson’s first festival as Artistic Director at Worcester. First Three Choirs performance of Michael Tippett’s A Child of Our Time. Sir Adrian Boult conducted Tippett’s Concerto for Double String Orchestra. First performance of Changes by Gordon Crosse.

Hereford 1967

Richard Lloyd’s first festival as Artistic Director at Hereford. Performances of Alun Hoddinott’s Dives and Lazarus and Bernard Naylor’s The Annunciation were featured.

Gloucester 1968

John Sanders’s first festival as Artistic Director at Gloucester. Boult conducted the Symphonic Variations for Orchestra by Parry.

Worcester 1969

The première of Jonathan Harvey’s Ludus Amoris and the first Three Choirs performance of Janacek’s Glagolitic Mass were given. Elizabeth Maconchy was present for the first performance of her And Death Shall Have No Dominion. Luigi Dallapiccola was also in the audience for performances of his Due Liriche di AnacreonteQuadro Liriche di Antonio Machade; andCanti di Prigionia. Peter Maxwell Davies’s Five Carols for Boys’ Voices was also featured. A setting of Psalm 150 by William Mathias was heard for the first time at the Opening Service.

Hereford 1970

First performance of John McCabe’s Notturni ed Alba, conducted by Louis Frémaux.

Gloucester 1971

First performances of The Tree of Life by Alun Hoddinott and the Organ Concerto by Peter Dickinson.

Worcester 1972

First performances of John Joubert’s Three Office Hymns of St Oswald, andVoyage by John McCabe. First Three Choirs performance of the Stabat Mater by Krysztof Penderecki.

Hereford 1973

A short orchestral work, Voices of the Night by Lennox Berkeley, was performed under the composer’s direction. Other new works included The Fire of Heaven by Geoffrey Burgon and Let there be Light by Bryan Kelly.

Gloucester 1974

First performances of two commissions: Wilfred Josephs’ overture The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and Philip Cannon’s unaccompanied triptychThe Temple, and the first public performance of Christopher Steel’sParadise Lost.

Worcester 1975

Donald Hunt’s first festival as Artistic Director at Worcester. First performances of Spells by Richard Rodney Bennett and Sequentia V by David Ellis. First performance in Britain of the Requiem by Frank Martin, at which the composer’s widow was present. Hunt conducted, inter alia, a memorable performance of Messiaen’s Trois Petites Liturgies de la Présence Divine.

Hereford 1976

Roy Massey’s first festival as Artistic Director at Hereford. First performance of the Requiem by Geoffrey Burgon..

Gloucester 1977

250th Three Choirs Festival. New works by Harrison Birtwistle, Peter Maxwell Davies, Rory Boyle, Ronald Tremain and Tony Hewitt-Jones; and the centrepiece — the Mass of Christ the King by Malcolm Williamson.

Worcester 1978

The first complete British performance of the Requiem Mass, Op 54 by Saint-Saëns. Sir Lennox Berkeley conducted his Antiphon for String Orchestra, and his motet Judica me, as well as Anthony Payne’s cantatasAscensiontide and Whitsuntide received their first performances. The British premières of Jean Martinon’s Chant des Captifs and the African Sanctus by David Fanshawe were heard, and the Festival ended with the first Three Choirs performance of Mahler’s Symphony No.8 in E flat, The Symphony of a Thousan’.

Hereford 1979

The première of John Joubert’s Herefordshire Canticles. Peter Maxwell Davies’s The Martyrdom of St Magnus was the first complete opera to be staged at Three Choirs. The first Three Choirs performance of Hymnus Amoris by Carl Nielsen.

Gloucester 1980

World premières of Lord of Light by Philip Cannon, Gerard Schurmann’sPiers Plowman, Elis Pehkonen’s Buccinate Tuba, and the first English performances of Nicholas Maw’s Serenade, Anthony Payne’s Footfalls echo in the memory, and Peter Maxwell Davies’s Solstice of Light.

Worcester 1981

First British performances of Aulis Sallinen’s Dies Irae, Knud Jeppesen’s Te Deum Danicum, the Trois Preludes by Pierre Villette and, surprisingly, theMissa Solemnis by Liszt. First performances of Herbert Sumsion’s In Exile: By the waters of Babylon, Jonathan Harvey’s Resurrection, Paul Trepte’sGod’s Grandeur and Pierre Villette’s Messe en Français.

Hereford 1982

First performances of the Hymn to St Thomas by Geoffrey Burgon and Lux aeterna by William Mathias.

Gloucester 1983

First performance of Mass of the Sea by Paul Patterson. Simon Rattle conducted a luminous performance of Mahler’s Symphony No.10, given in the late Deryck Cooke’s completed edition.

Worcester 1984

First performances of William Mathias’s Let us now praise famous men, Richard Rodney Bennett’s Sea Change and Peter Racine Fricker’s Whispers at these curtains. BBC television cameras were present for a performance ofThe Dream of Gerontius, conducted by Andrew Davis, in which the soloists were Janet Baker, Stuart Burrows and Benjamin Luxon, and for a concert of music by Copland and Bernstein.

Hereford 1985

Michael Berkeley’s Or Shall We Die? And the first performance of Veni Sancte Spiritus by William Mathias.

Gloucester 1986

The first Three Choirs performances of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Requiemand Paul Patterson’s Stabat Mater. Revival, after thirteen years, of Elijah.

Worcester 1987

The first performance of Richard Rodney Bennett’s Symphony No.3, conducted by its dedicatee, Edward Downes. The Te Deum of Krystof Penderecki was conducted by the composer, whose Capriccio for Oboe and Strings, and String Quartet No.1 were also included in the Festival programme. Howard Blake’s oratorio Benedictus was also performed.

Hereford 1988

The Darling of the World by Paul Spicer and the first performance of the Te Deum by Paul Patterson.

Gloucester 1989

Music by Parry was featured on seven days of the Festival, including the Ode on the Nativity, the Symphony No.5 in B minor, and the Symphonic Variations. The Russian Requiem by Elis Pehkonen received its first Three Choirs performance.

Worcester 1990

The first UK performances of Leonard Bernstein’s Missa Brevis, Ned Rorem’s Te Deum and George Lloyd’s Twelfth Symphony, the latter conducted by the composer. The première of Mussorgsky’s Saint Nicholas Mass, ‘an unashamed hybrid’ as Philip Lane, who realized and edited the work, described it in his programme note.

Hereford 1991

Brian Kay was the narrator in a performance of Morning Heroes; the largest of the works by Sir Arthur Bliss included in the Festival to mark his centenary year.

Gloucester 1992

Sine Nomine and the Kent Yeoman’s Wooing Song were among the works included in the programme to mark the centenary year of Herbert Howells. The newly-discovered manuscript score of Brewer’s Emmaus, orchestrated by Elgar, enabled the work to be heard at the Festival for the first time since 1907. Parts for this performance were prepared by Nigel Taylor.

Worcester 1993

The European première of the Te Deum by Dominick Argento, and the first performance of Robin Holloway’s Serenade for Strings. The British première of Tu esPetrus by Pierre Villette.

Hereford 1994

The first performance of Alan Ridout’s Canticle of Joy.

Gloucester 1995

David Briggs’s first festival as Artistic Director at Gloucester. First UK performance of The Legend of King Arthur by Elinor Remick Warren, conducted by Richard Hickox. Premières of My Heart Dances by Francis Grier and Paul Patterson’s Overture: Songs of the West.

Worcester 1996

Donald Hunt’s Hymnus Paschalis and the première of Edwin Roxburgh’sConcerto for Clarinet. First Three Choirs performance of Veni, veni, Emmanuel by James MacMillan, and the British première of the Trumpet Concerto by Pierre Villette.

Hereford 1997

Donald Hunt’s A Song of Celebration and the first performance of Judith Bingham’s Below the Surface Stream.

Gloucester 1998

The programme included several works by Sir Hubert Parry, including hisSymphony No.4 and The Soul’s Ransom; the first performance of the Te Deum by David Briggs; The Damnation of Faust by Berlioz; and the first act of Parsifal by Wagner.

Worcester 1999

Adrian Lucas’s first festival as Artistic Director at Worcester. The Stabat Mater by Karol Szymanowski and the première of Francis Pott’s A Song on the End of the World.