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Affiliated to the British & International Federation of Festivals for Music, Dance and Speech

Important Dates


1 March 2022 - Closing date for entries to the Wharfedale Festival of Performing Arts Speech, Drama and Music Festival 2022.

17th- 20th May 2022 - 2022 Wharfedale Festival of Performing Arts Speech, Drama and Music Festival.

To celebrate the 70th festival in 1976 Robert Lantaff prepared a short history up to that date. A number of interesting events and developments have occurred since then which are well worth reporting and have therefore been included in this update (1996). Since the historical background obviously remains the same, I have merely included the original text with suitable amendments and additions.

In this series of articles, "I" refers to Robert Lantaff and the original copyright remains with him. These articles are repeated for anyone interested in the history of the Wharfedale Festival.



Over the years many famous musicians have adjudicated, but lack of space permits the specific mention of just a few - Arthur Somer Walford Davies, Percy Hull, Thomas Dunhill, Julius Harr Geoffrey Shaw, Hugh Roberton, Maurice Jacobson, Herbert Wise, Sydney Northcote, Henry Hoist and Michael Head. For many years after the Second World War, it was the policy to invite specialist  musicians as adjudicators; these include Joseph Cooper, Watson Forbes, Hervey Alien, John Alldis, Marcus Dods, Ranken Bushby, Carl Dolmetsch, Sidney Harrison, Robert Irwin and David Parkhouse. Church musicians have also been represented by George Sinclair of  Hereford Cathedral who was portrayed, (together with his bulldog, in Elgar's Enigma Variations), Harold Darke, Herbert Brewer, Richard Terry, Edward Bairstow, Gordon Slater and Melville Cook.

Of all these impressive names in British music, perhaps the most revered and respected at this festival was that of Walford Davies, who visited no fewer than seven times, firstly as plain 'Dr.' in 1914,1915,1917,1918, ... as Professor, University of Wales in 1922, and finally as Sir Walford Davies in 1924 and 1925. Two of his many highly quotable aphorisms express the philosophy of those responsible for the organisation of this or any other music festival, 'Festivals are in the nature of a concert, examination, and music lesson', and the oft quoted 'Competitors are not rivals, but comrades pacing one another on the road to perfection'. Maurice Jacobson, when adjudicating in 1941, paid tribute to Sir Walford Davies whose death had occurred a few months beforehand, and as a further tribute the Skipton Ensemble String Orchestra played Grieg's Andante Doloroso at the end of the festival.

Not a festival passes without amusement being caused by adjudicator's remarks, sometimes assisted by competitors. Walford Davies (in 1927), 'What do you do before you shoot at a target?' he asked the boy soloists. Tak aim', said one of the lads. 'Then take aim at this note. If you will do a little target shooting for about three minutes each day, you will get clever at it, and you will get a bull's eye nearly every time'. The boy in question was competitor number six, one James F. Elder, better known to countless Ilkley residents as 'Jimmy'. Incidentally, 1976 was Jimmy's twenty-fifth and last festival as caretaker at the Kings Hall. One of Jimmy's duties in the past was to empty a bottle of beer into a teapot which duly appeared on the adjudicator's table - this particular gentleman being unwilling to drink festival tea or coffee - but to produce a bottle of beer on the exalted table would have offended the sense of decorum.

Regular festival goers will agree that it is the adjudicator who by his criticisms transforms a sequence of performances into a constructive and interesting session, thereby giving considerable enjoyment and help to competitors and audiences. Not all adjudicators, however, succeed to the same extent, and from time to time competitors and members of the public have voiced their objections to the manner in which the task has been approached, such criticism including rudeness, disinterest and verbosity. In the very nature of a festival there bound to be seemingly inconsistent decisions which are difficult to accept. Generally speaking, adjudicators have been able to exp admiration for the work presented to them; there have, however, been some exceptions:

We have had some startling examples of bad musicianship in the soprano class. I am addressing singers all over the world when I say that possession of a lovely voice does not give release from all that appertains to music. Some of the phrasing has been bad. lam paying the compliment of being a little severe because you are here to leam. I am not attacking you. We are good friends. (Herbert Howells, 1949)

A pretty poor Lieder Class! There is nothing much you can do when you have wrong notes, wrong mood, wrong pronunciation, and singer and pianist apart where they should be linked into one another. (Gordon Clinton, 1966)

One boy competitor lost marks through being handicapped by shes nervousness, and this led Sir Walford Davies into reminiscences:

I know the feeling and I know the cure. I adopted it when I was a kiddie. I had to sing to King Edward once. I was fearfully wrought up with nervousness, but I said to myself, "You silly fellow. Pretend you are at home!' I did pretend, very hard. I forgot all about myself, or about the King, and was able to continue. Nervousness at the root comes from thinking of yourself instead of thinking of the song. If you lose yourself in the job you are doing you won't feel nervous a bit.

From W.H. Reed (in 1928) comes:

It is not so very long ago that two old gentlemen who play the violin used to meet together to play duets. They did this for some years. At last they succeeded on one occasion in finishing together, they were so impressed by their success that they solemnly shook hands. Then one said, 'Now let us play the slow movement.' 'The slow movement!' said the other, 'But I have played it already!'

In 1937 a song entitled May by Benjamin Britten was sung by the choir from the Addingham High School conducted by Mr. W. Lemmon, in the non-competitive class for Elementary School Choirs. Mr. Howells had some prophetic things to say about the composer and the choir:

In the opinion of many people Benjamin Britten is probably going to be one of the great people, and I think this little choir will look back to the day when they sang a Ben Britten work in 1937. He is now about twenty-four but he is going to make the British Empire sit up in the next ten years.

Dr. Hull, when commenting on the two performances in the class for soprano and contralto duets in 1938, said each couple had a little trouble with intonation. 'But then it is an awful time of day to sing anything!' 'A dry time?' suggested one of the singers. 'Well I'm sorry I cannot take you out to a cocktail, it isn't my job' returned Dr. Hull. A moment later he was saying they were both almost equally good in their performances, and observed: 'There is as much difference between you as between a Cherubim and Seraphim. Do you know the difference between Cherubim and Seraphim?' One of the competitors immediately flashed back the answer, 'They both continually do cry!"

At least two adjudicators had local connections; Dorothea Campey is the daughter of H.L. Everette Loosey, one time conductor of the Ilkley Municipal Orchestra in the years following World War I. She played 'cello in this orchestra in which her father was pianist. Charles Woodhouse, one time leader of a B.B.C. Orchestra, was the uncle of Stuart Woodhouse, a founder member of the well known Ilkley Consort.

Adjudicators Arthur Rooke, Gordon Clinton and Alee Redshaw first appeared at this festival as competitors in their early years.


Robert Lantaff (C) 1976 & 1996



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