Farewell to one of the Three Choirs Festival's most distinguished conductors

Sir David Willcocks, who died on 17 September at the age of 95, was best known of course for his work from 1957-1974 as Director of Music at King's College, Cambridge, where his recordings with the choir wereinternationally renowned and had a profound influence on choral singing throughout the UK and beyon ; as Principal of the Royal College of Music; and with the Bach Choir. But betweeen 1951 and 1957 he was Organist of Worcester Cathedral, and conductor of the Worcester Three Choirs Festivals in 1951 and 1954. According to Anthony Boden's history of the festival Willcocks was responsible with his opposite number Meredith Davies in Hereford for significant and hugely beneficial reforms to the rehearsal schedules for the festival chorus, and for persuading the cathedral clergy in Worcester to give permission for the first time for the audience to face the stage rather than facing one another across a central aisle, which had been general practice in Hereford and Worcester, where the stage is at the west end of the cathedral, to avoid the theological offence of turning their backs on the altar. Willcocks was also an inspiring festival conductor and a champion of composers such as Herbert Howells. Anthony Boden wrote that both Davies and Willcocks 'brought imagination and vitality to the festival at a crucial time'.

Willcoks is pictured below left with his predecessor Sir Ivor tkins at the 1951 Worcester Three Choirs Festival, photographed by Brendan Kearney.

Even before he went to King's, David Willcocks was famous, as can be seen by the crowds seeking his autograph in another of Brendan Kearney's photos from 1951:

To the end of his life Sir David was famous for his courtesy; this photo of his 'thank yo'u note to singers and players after the 1951 festivalis one of the treasures of our archive: