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The earliest roots of the modern music festival can be traced to 17th-19th century Europe. In this period, royalty had gained control over their nation's culture and classical music was at the height of its popularity.
Classical music was popular with the European elite
Typically, up until this time, festivals were joyful celebrations organized by the common folk – so that they could temporarily forget their normal working lives.
Festivals in the 17th-19th centuries became exclusive to royal families, elites, their lackeys and the highly educated. In these newly indoor festivals, royal families would sit in their high and mighty position above the other attendees.
Advancements in technology had enabled the creation of new musical instruments, which were not affordable by the ordinary people. This meant that music had become increasingly inaccessible to them, except for a few roaming folk artists.
The world's oldest surviving piano made by Bartolomeo Cristofori in 1720, a harpsichord maker sponsored by the Italian Medici family
Three Choirs Festival
The Three Choirs Festival, founded in 1715, is the oldest non-competitive classical music festival in the world.
This still-active religious program, which includes choral and orchestral concerts, rotates between the English cathedrals of Hereford, Gloucester and Worcester.
It has brought together royalty, including King George III and Queen Victoria, and fans of composers such as Handel, Haydn, Bach, Rossini, Elgar, Mozart and Beethoven for over 300 years.
Hereford Cathedral, one of three hosts for the Three Choirs Festival
The German Bayreuth Festival was founded in 1876 by the composer Richard Wagner.
This event was primarily established to showcase Wagner's operas and required the construction of a theater called the Bayreuth Festspielhaus. This was funded by Wagner’s former patron, King Ludwig II of Bavaria.
Present at the first performance was Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany, Dom Pedro II of Brazil and other members of the nobility.
Also in attendance was the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and King Ludwig II in disguise. Ludwig wanted to avoid the Kaiser, who (10 years earlier) had defeated him in the Austro-Prussian War.
The opera house Bayreuth Festspielhaus, home of the Bayreuth Festival