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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.


The full scope of this festival is amply displayed in its official programme, one which typifies the variety of classes in music, verse and mime made available at many competitive festivals. From time to time adjudicators have complimented the committee on its adventurous and stimulating choice; it has always been the practice to try and select pieces which provide some form of challenge to technique and artistic sensitivity.

Wharfedale was one of the first to introduce classes for pianoforte trios, the selection from a somewhat limited repertoire being made more difficult by the physical limitations imposed by accommodating three pairs of hands at one keyboard. This class was very popular - 15 teams competed in 1932 - but has recently been discontinued through lack of support. Chamber music classes have earned high praise from adjudicators, but again, their popularity has unfortunately declined.

Percussion group classes for infant and junior schools were a firm favourite for many years, their inclusion being praised by adjudicators as a means of training young performers and encouraging them to venture forth in other musical fields. Kenneth Anderson referred to his ten year old daughter who had a predilection for rock and roll, and for whom such training would have been of benefit in improving her musical taste. At a more senior level orchestras, brass and military bands have provided some really thrilling moments. What is thought to be the highest mark ever awarded at Wharfedale was given by Watson Forbes to the Ripon Schools Orchestra in 1964, for their performance of Britten's Simple Symphony, 'Never have I heard it played better' he said when he awarded them 98 marks.

Audience participation, sometimes limited to the singing of Parry's Jerusalem at the Finals Concert, has always been a feature. Special permission had to be obtained from the publishers and Parry's widow, in order that it might be taught to festival audiences. The composer's England was used as an alternative on five or six occasions. The 1917 festival concluded with Walford Davies conducting choirs and audience in the hymn Lead Kindly Light.

Robert Lantaff (C) 1976 & 1996

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Festival Secretaries

General Secretary
Mrs Patricia Dibb
01943 865180


Speech & Drama Secretaries
Mrs Julie James
01943 433444

Mrs Elizabeth Whiteley
01943 830780

Piano Festival Secretary

Piano Festival Secretary


Piano Festival