Waart, Edo de. 56 Wachmann, Eduard 56

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City in England. In the Middle Ages Worcester was the site of a Benedictine cathedral-priory which by the 9th century was already noted for its classical tradition of Roman chant derived from the monastery of Corbie, northern France. A considerable repertory of 13th- and early 14th-century sacred music of Worcester Cathedral-Priory provenance has been recovered, shedding light on the early history of the motet (see Worcester polyphony). After the dissolution of the monasteries (1536–9), the cathedral-priory was refounded as a cathedral church under a dean and canons. Organists of the cathedral since that time include Nathaniel Giles (1581–5), Nathaniel Patrick (1590–95), Thomas Tomkins (1596–1656), William Hayes (1731–4), Jeremiah Clarke (ii) (1806–7), Hugh Blair (1895–7), Ivor Atkins (1897–1950), David Willcocks (1950–57), Douglas Guest (1957–63), Christopher Robinson (1963–74), Donald Hunt (1975–96) and Adrian Lucas (from 1996). Other musicians of varying degrees of note born in or close to the boundaries of the city include A.J. Caldicott, E.T. Cook, Edward Elgar (at Broadheath), the celebrated trumpeter Thomas Harper, Battison Haynes (at Kempsey) and J.P. Hullah. Minor church musicians who worked in Worcester are W.H. Havergal, hymn-tune composer and historian of psalmody, who was rector of St Nicholas's, Worcester, from 1845 to 1860, and two writers of once popular but now forgotten anthems, E. Vine Hall, precentor of Worcester Cathedral, 1877–90, and H.H. Woodward, minor canon (precentor from 1890) of the cathedral from 1881 until his death in 1909.

Nothing survives of the organ built by Thomas Dallam for the cathedral in 1613–14, or of the rebuilding with additions thereto by George Dallam in 1661 and Thomas Harris between 1666 and 1667 (for further details of Harris's organ see ‘Organ’, Grove's Dictionary, 1st and 2nd edns). An organ of three manuals and pedals was built for the cathedral by Hill & Son in 1842, afterwards rebuilt and modified in 1874, in which year also a four-manual instrument by Hill was installed in the south transept to accompany services in the nave. But the history of the present instrument goes back to 1895, when both these were replaced by a new four-manual organ built in characteristically idiosyncratic fashion by Robert Hope-Jones; this has at various times from 1925 been modified and rebuilt, most recently in 1967 and 1972 by Harrison & Harrison of Durham. A mobile two-manual organ by Harrison & Harrison for use in the nave was replaced in 1988 by a versatile electronic organ built especially for the cathedral by Ahlborn UK of Bradford. The cathedral also possesses a single-manual chamber organ built by Father Smith and restored by Samuel Green in 1774, understood to have been at one time in the Holywell Music Room, Oxford, and to have associations with William Hayes (popularly, with Handel). There is an interesting old organ in St Swithun's, whose Great manual incorporates, apparently unchanged, the pipework and draw-stop knobs of an early 18th-century single-manual instrument with G compass; the original maker is unknown. In the 19th century the case was enlarged and a small Swell organ (to c) and an octave of pedal pipes were added, since when the pipework has not been further modified. From 1841 until removal to Malvern in 1954 the organ building firm of Nicholson & Co. was situated in Worcester.

The Three Choirs Festival has been held in Worcester once every three years, since the early 18th century. The chief musical organizations based in Worcester are the Worcester Festival Choral Society (founded in 1870 as the Worcester Musical Society, with Caldicott as its first conductor), which gave the first performances of Elgar's The Black Knight in 1893 and From the Bavarian Highlands in 1896. The Worcestershire Orchestral Society, founded in 1949, continues to promote an annual competitive music festival, though its players, both amateur and professional, now form the Worcestershire SO. The Worcester Concert Club, founded in 1951, lost its main venue in 1966, but many of its functions were taken over and expanded by Cathedral Arts, an independent organization formed four years later using the cathedral for the presentation of both chamber music and choral and orchestral concerts. In 1988 a triennial competitive event, the Elgar Choral Festival, was founded to encourage the performance of choral and vocal music by Elgar and other British composers. In 1994 links with the Netherlands were established by the launching of the Drei Koren Festival held each year in turn at Breda, Haarlem or Worcester.

Of earlier organizations now defunct, two had associations with Elgar: the Worcester Glee Club, founded in 1810, meeting in the Crown Hotel (later demolished) and surviving until a little after World War II, to which he belonged as a young man, and of which he was afterwards patron; and the Worcestershire Philharmonic Society, an orchestra founded in 1898 and conducted by Elgar from then until 1904, when he was succeeded by Granville Bantock. In the 18th century concerts were given in the Assembly Room of the Guildhall and in College Hall, the refectory of the former monastery. In 1848 the city corporation built the Public Hall as a small concert hall, and it was in this (not, as frequently stated, the Shire Hall, which has no concert accommodation) that Elgar's Froissart was first performed in 1890. It was pulled down in 1966, and for concerts other than those held in the cathedral, the city relies on the Countess of Huntingdon Hall, a beautiful Georgian chapel restored and converted into a small concert hall in 1987, to which is attached the Elgar School of Music, founded in 1983. Since 1990 the Perdiswell Leisure Centre (built in 1981) has also provided a venue for larger concerts.


J. Noake: The Monastery and Cathedral of Worcester (London, 1866)

I. Atkins: Early Occupants of the Office of Organist … of the Cathedral Church of … Worcester (Worcester, 1918)

H.W. Shaw: The Three Choirs Festival … 1713–1953 (Worcester and London, 1954)

D. Stevens: Thomas Tomkins (London, 1957, 2/1967)


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