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date: 20 February 2020


  • Percy M. Young,
  • Edmund A. Bowles,
  • Charles Edward McGuire
  •  and Jennifer Wilson


A generic term, derived from the Latin festivitas, for a social gathering convened for the purpose of celebration or thanksgiving. Such occasions were originally of a ritual nature and were associated with mythological, religious, and ethnic traditions. From the earliest times festivals have been distinguished by their use of music, often in association with drama. In modern times the music festival, frequently embracing other forms of art, has flourished as an independent cultural enterprise, but it is still often possible to discover some vestige of ancient ritual in its celebration of town or nation, political or religious philosophy, or living or historical person. The competitive music festival has also retained combative features reminiscent of festival events of former times.

The present article is concerned with the evolution of the musical festival in Western Europe and North America, and with developments elsewhere in the world that have sprung from these traditions; discussions of individual festivals may also be found in the articles on the relevant towns and cities....

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