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Flyer for the Festival of Music at Chester, 1821

Chester Musical Festival, 25-28 September 1821

September 2021

This event was the seventh of sixteen musical festivals held in Chester between 1772 and 1900.  As was the case in all the Chester musical festivals up to that of 1829, The Messiah took pride of place, this year being performed on the first morning.  The remaining morning performances consisted of selections from the oratorios The CreationJudas MaccabeusJoshua and Mozart’s Requiem, &c. All morning performances were held in the Cathedral.  In the evenings there were dress balls at the Royal Hotel on Tuesday and Thursday and concerts on Wednesday and Friday at the King’s School.  On each concert night there was the alternative of an ‘undress ball’.

Angelica Catalani who had sung in the previous festival of 1814 had been approached but “… was not engaged.  The demands of that deservedly celebrated Lady were deemed too exorbitant, even for consideration.  One account states, that she demanded a thousand guineas for four days’ performance! another, that she asked a third part of the gross receipts.  Mr. TAYLOR, it is rumoured, was so offended by her extravagant demand, he would not deign to negociate.”  Mr Mascie Taylor, Clerk to the Dean and Chapter, had died in London in July 1821 “…whither he had lately gone, to transact some business in relation to our approaching musical festival ….”, his death perhaps hastened by the above experience.

The music festivals had started in 1772 with further festivals in 1783, 1786, 1791, 1806 and 1814.  The 1821 festival was followed by just one more in 1829 before an interval of fifty years, after which they were held triennially from 1879 until 1900.

It is not absolutely clear why there was a break of fifty years but in the late 1830s the subject was raised in The Chester Chronicle.  A letter was published from the Dean of the Cathedral George Davys answering a request from the Mayor for use of the Cathedral for the sacred ‘department’ of the Musical Festival in which he writes

I know that our Bishop has strong objections to the church connecting itself with the festivities usual on such occasions …. There has, moreover, of late, been so violent an outcry against the Church for allowing her edifices to be applied to other purposes than her own services, that this, in many places has been wholly forbidden; and I should be very sorry to have the Church of Chester exposed to the attacks which have been so unsparingly made on other Churches, for what is considered by the objectors, as improper in itself and leading to much evil.

That the Festivals were revived again in 1879 was largely due to Dr Joseph Cox Bridge (1853-1929), younger brother of Sir Frederick Bridge and organist of the Cathedral, conductor, composer and chronicler of the Chester Musical Festivals.  Several of the later festivals feature his compositions.

Advertisements for the first and last Chester Musical Festivals