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Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (1852 – 1924) was an Anglo-Irish composer, music teacher, and conductor of the late Romantic era. Born to a well-off and highly musical family in Dublin, Stanford was educated at the University of Cambridge before studying music in Leipzig and Berlin.

Stanford's list of appointments is large, and contains highly influential posts. Some of which being:

  • Organist of Trinity College, Cambridge.
  • Founding member of the Royal College of Music.
  • Professor of Music at Cambridge.
  • Conductor of the Bach Choir.

Among Stanford's pupils were rising composers whose fame went on to surpass his own, such as Gustav Holst, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Stanford as a young man.

Credit: Leopold Dix

Stanford was never an easy-going teacher. He insisted on one-to-one tutorials, and worked his pupils hard. One of them, Herbert Howells, recalled, "Corner any Stanford pupil you like, and ask him to confess the sins he most hated being discovered in by his master. He will tell you 'slovenliness' and 'vulgarity.' When these went into the teacher's room they came out, badly damaged. Against compromise with dubious material or workmanship Stanford stubbornly set his face.

Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, pencil and chalk.

Credit: Sir William Rothenstein, c. 1920; in the National Portrait Gallery, London

Stanford premiered 4 works with the Three Choirs Festival, being:

  • Festival Overture (1877)
  • Last Post (1900)
  • Ye holy angels bright (1913)
  • Fantasia (on the hymn tune Intercessors by Parry) (1922)

In 2024, The festival will feature his Three Latin Motets, Start Mater and his The Blue Bird. You can listen to these pieces below.

The festival will also feature the premiere of a new work by Jeremy Dibble, his Sonata for String Orchestra, which uses material created by Stanford.