May Festival (Cincinnati)
- Robert Copeland
The oldest primarily choral music festival in the United States. Held on two weekends in May, the festival was established in 1873 under the direction of Theodore Thomas. German singing societies had earlier laid a strong foundation of choral singing in the city. In 1871 a committee led by Maria Longworth Nichols persuaded Thomas to accept the direction of a new and broader festival patterned after the Birmingham and Lower Rhine festivals. The May Festival Chorus was established in 1872, drawing on singing societies, church choirs, and other Cincinnatians. The first festival included an orchestra of 108 and a chorus of 800, and by 1875 citizens began to collect funds to build the present Music Hall primarily for the May Festivals. The festival was held essentially biennially until 1967, since when it has been held annually. Its focus has been on choral works and opera (usually in concert performance).
Thomas conducted all 16 festivals until his death in ...