[1909 Handel-Mendelssohn Festival Crystal Palace, 1909.] Printed ‘Book of Words & Programme for the Rehearsal Day’.

The Great Handel Festival and Mendelssohn Centenary at the Crystal Palace, London,1909 [Dr Frederic Cowan, conductor; Walter W. Hedgcock, organist]
Crystal Palace
Publication details: 
Sydenham: The Crystal Palace Company, 1909.
SKU: 24438

A scarce item: the only other copy located is at the Foundling Hospital, London. 30pp, 4to, with a further 7pp of advertisements at the back. Stapled into grey wraps printed in red. A delicate survival, on browing high-acidity paper, in worn wraps chipped around the edges. On the front cover the item is described as ‘Book of Words & Programme for the Rehearsal Day’.At top right-hand corner of the title-page are the pleasing ownership initials of ‘A. G. / June 19th.’ A seven-page introduction is followed by four pages of background information, and then by the fifteen pages of the ‘probable programme’ (‘Choir and Orchestra, 4000 Performers / Organist . Mr. Walter W. Hedgcock. / Conductor . Dr. Frederic Cowan.’). The following passage from Michael Musgrave, ‘The Musical Life of the Crystal Palace’ (CUP, 1995), sets the explains the background to this extraordinary event: ‘The Handel-Mendelssohn Festival of 1909 required a more complete change, [...] In this year, the combining of the two great names of the Palace’s choral tradition finally took place through the celebration of Mendelssohn’s centenary. The choir consisted of upwards of 3,000 voices, London and the suburbs contributing 2,700, with the remainder from the chief provincial centres: Sheffield, Leeds, Bradford, Bristol and, for the first time, South Wales. The orchestra now numbered around 500, of whom about 270 were experienced amateur performers but the London Symphony Orchestra led by W. H. Reed were specially engaged to accompany the solos ‘and leaven, so to speak, the instrumental force’. The doyen of the soloists was Santley, who had first appeared in 1865. The pattern was as follows: Grand Rehearsal, Saturday 19 June; ‘Elijah’, Tuesday, 22 June; Selection (Handel) and ‘Hymn of Praise’ (Mendelssohn), Thursday 24 June; ‘Messiah’, Saturday 26 June. This time, praise for Cowen’s preparation was unstinting and ‘The Musical Times’ commented boldly that, ‘with a long experience of Handel festivals, we have no hesitation in saying that no finer technique has very greatly improved during recent years with the result that, we venture to say, no other country could produce a choir so intelligent, so artisically vocal and so efficient.’