The relationship with Mendelssohn and the Birmingham Festivals commenced in 1837. He was invited to take part in the festival and did so as both conductor and soloist on piano and organ. He conducted his own Oratorio, St Paul, and was the soloist in the first performance of his Second Piano Concerto. He also performed various solo organ pieces. His appearance at the festival was met with great enthusiasm and contributed to it being one of the most succesful.
He returned to Birmingham in 1940 and conducted a performance of his Hymn of Praise (Lobgesang) and Midsummer Night's Dream Overture. Again, he also performed various solo organ pieces. He did not appear at the 1843 festival but was invited by the Committee to return in 1846 and to act as conductor. He was also asked if he would consider writing a new Oratorio for the festival. He informed the Committee that he would not conduct anything other than his own works and suggested that his friend, Ignaz Moscheles conduct the other pieces. He did, however, accept the offer of a commission for a new work but with the caveat that if he could not complete it he would conduct Walpurgisnacht or A Midsummer Night's Dream instead.
He was, however, able to complete a new work and the outcome was the Oratorio Elijah which received it's first performance on 26th August 1846. The performance was a major success and consequently 1846 became possibly the greatest year for the Birmingham Festivals. Elijah was to be performed at every subsequent festival. The score was bought by Birmingham City Council in 1991 and is now in Birmingham Central Library.