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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.


Throughout the festival movement classes are provided for children and adults, but these almost invariably exclude music students attending recognised university departments or colleges of music in preparation for professional careers. In 1977, the Wharfedale Music Festival Committee decided to bridge the gap between school age children and adults by running a special competition for music students, whose study at college might well have precluded their inclusion in the normal festival classes. In addition to creating an added dimension to the festival's activity, this competition gave valuable experience to students who were still studying, but wished to obtain a serious opportunity to perform a full recital before an audience which included professional adjudicators.

The first three competitions (1978/79/80) were known as the 'Young Performers Competition', but this title was found to be a trifle ambiguous, resulting in the next two competitions being entitled 'Competition for Yorkshire Music Students'. It should be explained that the purpose of this special competition was to give opportunities to Yorkshire-bom music students whether or not they were still residing in the county. By 1983 it was obvious that if these activities were to continue, it was necessary to widen the geographical areas to include the counties of Lancashire, Cumbria, Northumberland and Durham.

Competitors had to be aged 18 but not over 26 years (30 years for singers) on the competition date, and to have been awarded a performer's diploma by a recognised college of music, or have achieved an equivalent standard verified by the tutor. The application forms stipulated that at the time of entry they should have prepared an hour's recital, full details of which were submitted to the adjudicators who selected items or movements totalling twenty minutes. The competitors, therefore, had to prepare a sixty minute recital, but were not given advance information of the adjudicator's selections. All the performers were heard by the adjudicators during the morning and afternoon sessions, from which five finalists were chosen to perform a further twenty minute selection at the evening session.

The adjudicators for these competitions included Noel Cox, who was then Warden of the Royal Academy of Music; Lionel Salter, former B.B.C. Assistant Controller of Music; Derrick Cantrell, former organist at Manchester Cathedral; Gordon Stewart, former Chief Producer (Artists) B.B.C. Radio 3 Music Department; Hubert Dawkes, Professor, Royal College of Music; Mark Rowlinson, B.B.C. Music Producer, Manchester; Philip Cranmer, former Secretary Associated Board, Royal Schools of Music; James Langley, Senior Music Producer, B.B.C. Manchester; Jillian White, Music Producer, B.B.C. Bristol, and Glyn Bragg, Senior Music Producer, B.B.C. Scotland.

Throughout the whole series of competitions the official accompanist was Geoffrey Hamilton, but students were permitted to use their own if they so wished, thus giving platform experience to aspiring young accompanists.

The winner of the first competition received a prize of £100, with £50 for the runner-up. At the last competition held in 1991, the winner received £500, with smaller prizes down to £100 for fifth place, and £75 for the best student accompanist.

The prize winners were offered a lunch-time recital in the Bradford Library Theatre, or a concert engagement with Cantores Olicana in their 'Music at St. Margaret's Church', Ilkley. Many of the winners expressed the view that the platform experience was invaluable, and their success in the competition itself gained them entry into further large-scale events.

The adjudicators highly acclaimed the competition, and in 1986 Jillian White, in supporting the next year's event, quoted Brahms as saying 'Music must speak from the heart to the heart'. She went on to say:

It can, of course, only do this when there are willing bodies to provide those hearts. At Ilkley there is certainly a sizeable body who have, as it were, 'seen the light'. But I want to encourage more people to support this competition. Last year's winner went on to win a most prestigious prize in London, and other contestants have continued to develop their careers. I am convinced that the five finalists we heard on Saturday 15th November, in the Kings Hall, will continue to develop their careers.

It was a matter of great regret that the committee were unable to obtain a regular sponsor for this prestigious competition, but were nevertheless grateful to Guinness (1978), Yorkshire Bank (1979), Lloyds Bank (1982-1989) and Yorkshire Television (1991).
A sad end to a much needed platform for music students.

Robert Lantaff (C) 1976 & 1996

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