Edward Hamilton, Founder of the Worchester County Music Association. Photo courtesy Music Worchester, Inc.
Worcester Music Festival
The United States' oldest music festival, the
Worcester Music Festival, began as a four-day music convention
in 1858 to improve "the taste of singers and listeners of
sacred music" and to increase the "knowledge of works by the
great masters." The fall convention was organized by
self-taught musician Edward Hamilton, who had been conductor
of the Mozart Society, and Hamilton's assistant Benjamin F.
Baker, a music teacher and founder of the Boston Music School.
In 1889, the nationally renowned conductor, pianist, cellist,
Victor Herbert, began a three-year affiliation with the
festival as assistant conductor and soloist. In 1893, the
world-renowned Czech composer, Anton Dvorak, made his only
festival appearance. He "wielded his baton in a vigorous,
During the mid-twentieth century, the Worcester Music
Festival entered a golden age when Worcester saw performances by
the world's greatest vocalists and instrumentalists. Pianist Van
Cliburn, fresh from his first triumph at the 1958 Tchaikovsky Piano
Competition, performed to an audience of 3,200. Other stars who
appeared were Arthur Fiedler, Peter Nero, Birgit Nilsson, Itzhak
Perlman, Beverly Sills, Isaac Stern, Joan Sutherland, Andre Watts,
Duke Ellington, and Andre Previn. The 1944 festival began a 13-year
association with the Philadelphia Orchestra, under the direction of
Eugene Ormandy. From 1958 to 1974, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra
became the resident orchestra. In 1976, the week long music
festival was replaced by a season-long concert series format. The
festival in 2000 continues its traditional hallmark of musical
excellence with distinguished featured artists, who include pianist
Krystian Zimerman, the Boys Choir of Harlem, the Festival Orchestra
of Poland, and the Russian National Orchestra.
Documentation includes a narrative report, copies of
historical documents, a 1999 newsletter, an 1873 program, a
1999/2000 season program, and historic photographs.
Originally submitted by: James P. McGovern, Representative (3rd District).
The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.