1950 (Gloucester) 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.
1951 (Worcester) 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.
1952 (Hereford) 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.
1953 (Gloucester) Richard Arnell conducted his Sinfonia, Op. 13. These Things Shall Be by John Ireland received its first Three Choirs performance.
1954 (Worcester) First performances of Missa Sabrinensis by Howells and Hodie by Vaughan Williams, both conducted by their composers.
1955 (Hereford) First performances in Britain of the Stabat Mater by Francis Poulenc and of The Prodigal Son by Paul Huber. Humphrey Searle’s Night Music, and the Prelude, Elegy 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.
1956 (Gloucester) 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.
1957 (Worcester) First (long overdue!) Three Choirs performance of Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast. First performances of the Requiem by Julius Harrison and The City of Desolation by Anthony Milner.
1958 (Hereford) Melville Cook’s first Festival as artistic Director at Hereford. Benjamin Britten conducted his St Nicholas, with Peter Pears as soloist, and the Sinfonia da Requiem; he also gave, with Norma Procter and Peter Pears, a recital which included his Isaac and Abraham canticle. Fricker conducted his Litany for double string orchestra. Kenneth Leighton’s The Light Invisible and Franz Reizenstein’s Genesis received their first performances.
1959 (Gloucester) Première of The Dream of the Rood by Howard Ferguson.
1960 (Worcester) 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 Janáček were featured.
1961 (Hereford) 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.
1962 (Gloucester) 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 the Sea Symphony by Vaughan Williams.
1963 (Worcester) Britten’s War Requiem given its third performance anywhere, conducted by Douglas Guest.
1964 (Hereford) First performances of The Water and the Fire by Anthony Milner and the Stabat Mater by Bernard Naylor. Also included were the War Requiem, Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms and Poulenc’s Gloria.
1965 (Gloucester) Anthony Milner’s Salutatio Angelica was featured, with Janet Baker as soloist.
1966 (Worcester) 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.
1967 (Hereford) 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.
1968 (Gloucester) John Sanders’s first Festival as Artistic Director at Gloucester. Boult conducted the Symphonic Variations for Orchestra by Parry.
1969 (Worcester) The première of Jonathan Harvey’s Ludus Amoris and the first Three Choirs performance of Janáček’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 Anacreonte, Quadro Liriche di Antonio Machade, and Canti 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.
1970 (Hereford) First performance of John McCabe’s Notturni ed Alba, conducted by Louis Frémaux.
1971 (Gloucester) First performances of The Tree of Life by Alun Hoddinott and the Organ Concerto by Peter Dickinson.
1972 (Worcester) First performances of John Joubert’s Three Office Hymns of St Oswald and Voyage by John McCabe. First Three Choirs performance of the Stabat Mater by Krysztof Penderecki.
1973 (Hereford) 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.
1974 (Gloucester) First performances of two commissions: Wilfred Josephs’ overture The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and Philip Cannon’s unaccompanied triptych The Temple, and the first public performance of Christopher Steel’s Paradise Lost.
1975 (Worcester) 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.
1976 (Hereford) Roy Massey’s first Festival as Artistic Director at Hereford. First performance of the Requiem by Geoffrey Burgon.
1977 (Gloucester) 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.
1978 (Worcester) 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 cantatas Ascensiontide 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, Symphony of a Thousand.
1979 (Hereford) 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.
1980 (Gloucester) World premières of Lord of Light by Philip Cannon, Gerard Schurmann’s Piers 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.
1981 (Worcester) First British performances of Aulis Sallinen’s Dies Irae, Knud Jeppesen’s Te Deum Danicum, the Trois Preludes by Pierre Villette and, surprisingly, the Missa Solemnis by Liszt. First performances of Herbert Sumsion’s In Exile: By the waters of Babylon, Jonathan Harvey’s Resurrection, Paul Trepte’s God’s Grandeur and Pierre Villette’s Messe en Français.
1982 (Hereford) First performances of the Hymn to St Thomas by Geoffrey Burgon and Lux aeterna by William Mathias.
1983 (Gloucester) 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.
1984 (Worcester) 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 of The 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.
1985 (Hereford) Michael Berkeley’s Or Shall We Die? and the first performance of Veni Sancte Spiritus by William Mathias.
1986 (Gloucester) The first Three Choirs performances of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Requiem and Paul Patterson’s Stabat Mater. Revival, after thirteen years, of Elijah.
1987 (Worcester) 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.
1988 (Hereford) The Darling of the World by Paul Spicer and the first performance of the Te Deum by Paul Patterson.
1989 (Gloucester) 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.
1990 (Worcester) 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.
1991 (Hereford) 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.
1992 (Gloucester) 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.
1993 (Worcester) 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 es Petrus by Pierre Villette.
1994 (Hereford) The first performance of Alan Ridout’s Canticle of Joy.
1995 (Gloucester) 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.
1996 (Worcester) Donald Hunt’s Hymnus Paschalis and the première of Edwin Roxburgh’s Concerto for Clarinet. First Three Choirs performance of Veni, veni, Emmanuel by James MacMillan and the British première of the Trumpet Concerto by Pierre Villette.
1997 (Hereford) Donald Hunt’s A Song of Celebration and the first performance of Judith Bingham’s Below the Surface Stream.
1998 (Gloucester) The programme included several works by Sir Hubert Parry, including his Symphony 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.
1999 (Worcester) 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.
2000 (Hereford) Francis Grier’s Around the Curve of the World and the first performances of Judith Weir’s Otherworld and Kenneth Leighton’s Concerto for Oboe and Strings.
2001 (Gloucester) The Festival was billed as ‘A Celebration of British Music’ and included the first public performance of Whispers of Heavenly Death by Vaughan Williams and the first Three Choirs performance of A Mass of Life by Delius.
2002 (Worcester) The first performance of The Vision of Piers Plowman by Andrew Gant.
2003 (Hereford) Geraint Bowen’s first Festival as Artistic Director at Hereford. The first performance of Air and Angels by Anthony Powers.
2004 (Gloucester) Andrew Nethsingha’s first Festival as Artistic Director at Gloucester. Five composers were each invited to contribute a variation on ‘Down Ampney’ as an orchestral tribute to Ralph Vaughan Williams: Orchestral Variations on Down Ampney. The five were John McCabe, James Francis Brown, Judith Bingham, David Matthews and Robert Saxton. The new work was conducted by Martyn Brabbins.
2005 (Worcester) Adrian Lucas’s Creation Canticles. The first performance of Songs of Truth and Glory by Howard Blake.
2006 (Hereford) The UK première of Sun-Dogs by James MacMillan, conducted by the composer. The first Three Choirs performance of Schumann’s Das Paradies und die Peri.
2007 (Gloucester) The UK première of Robin Holloway’s orchestration of Debussy’s En blanc et noir, originally for two pianos. Unfortunately, a scheduled performance of the First Symphony by Arnold Bax had to be abandoned following the collapse of the conductor, the late Vernon Handley, during a rehearsal.
2008 (Worcester) The first performance of A British Symphony by Andrew Gant and an innovation: an orchestral concert of Classic British Film Music.
See the previous section of the timeline.