The first May Festival, led by no less an eminence than Theodore Thomas, occurred in 1873 and proved such a success that it occasioned the construction of the Music Hall—the largest concert hall in America. The all-volunteer May Festival Chorus, 130 members strong, remains the event’s bulwark and chief attraction, and with good reason. The Festival is to be lauded! David Mermelstein, Musical America

May Festival History

In 1873, a group of visionaries came together with the idea of presenting musical festivals in Cincinnati. These men and women conceived a festival that would transform the musical tastes of America and, at the same time, enhance Cincinnati’s image and national reputation.

Scores of nationally and internationally acclaimed guest soloists and conductors have gladly accepted invitations to participate over the years, attracted by the rich tradition and the musical excellence of the Festival. Explore the May Festival's historical guest artists and repertoire by season here.

From its beginnings, the Festival has also depended upon and fostered the talents of vocal and instrumental musicians living in the community. Local and regional choral groups have always shared the stage with the volunteers of the official May Festival Chorus, and young singers have been included to encourage the next generation of performers.

Families, friends and music lovers as well as astute business and philanthropic leaders have realized that the best of civic pride is reflected in strong support of the arts; they have enabled the Festival to continue to thrive for five generations.

Dive deeper into the history of the May Festival with the Voices of the Past blog from Associate Director of Choruses and May Festival Youth Chorus Director Matthew Swanson. View blog here.