HUNDREDS of voices rang through Huddersfield Town Hall at the weekend as this year’s Mrs Sunderland Music Festival kicked off.
From Handel to Rodgers and Hammerstein, there was something for competitors and audiences of all ages to enjoy as the 119th contest got into full swing.
The prestigious event is set to be as popular as ever, with hundreds of musicians, singers and performers flocking from all over the country to compete in the 130 classes in the nine-day programme.
Festival spokesman David Hirst said the contest had kicked off well.
He added: “The entries are quite healthy and we’ve been very busy with the opening vocal weekend, so it’s been a good start.
“The great thing about this festival is that it attracts adjudicators of great pedigree.
“This is important for the performers because they can learn from them and improve further, which is what the festival is all about.”
The weekend of predominantly vocal classes opened with a bang on Friday night with some impressive interpretations of songs from the musicals.
Ann Wilkes, of Beaumont Park, wowed the judges with her version of the song Show Me from the musical My Fair Lady and took home first prize.
Other vocal classes on the Friday night included vocal duets, operatic solos and traditional songs in English, French and German.
On Saturday the concert hall, reception room and old court room in the Town Hall were packed with singers eager to impress their audiences.
Classes included male and female solos, junior music theatre, unaccompanied folk song and traditional British folk song, while yesterday there was the vocal recital class for singers aged 21 and over.
Also taking place on the Saturday in Huddersfield University’s recital hall was the popular African drumming and percussion classes.
Judges said they were greatly impressed with the high level of talent displayed by competitors and gave glowing praise to many classes.
Festival chairman Michael Hampshire commented: “There has been some really promising talent.
“The soprano class was of the highest standard we’ve seen for some time, which was reflected in the fact that we had so many winners for it.
“The young men’s solo class was also superb. It’s lovely to see so many young lads all under the age of 18 taking part and singing so well.”
One familiar face returning to this year’s festival was 23-year-old Sarah Ogden, from Shelley.
Talented Sarah has been going to the competition since the age of 17 and has won a number of titles, including the open recital class last year and the hotly contested Kirklees Young Musician of the Year in 2006.
This year was no exception as she entered six events and came top in the French song open, soprano solo open and British composer open classes, winning the Samuel Firth Silver Rose Bowl for being the top performer in several classes.
She also came second in the German lieder, operatic solo class and third in the oratorio solo open class. And all this despite suffering from a cold!
Sarah said: “I am really pleased to have done so well, I never expect it because there’s always a really high level of competition; you have to work hard at it.
“The comments I got from the judges were fantastic, particularly in the soprano class which meant a lot because it was tough and there was a lot of talent there.”
Sarah has been singing since the age of 15 and her ambition is to become an opera star.
She said: “I started off playing brass, but singing soon became more important to me because I’m more capable at it and I enjoy it.
“I love the theatricality of opera and I would love to be an opera singer. But it takes years to develop your voice, so I’m still training.
Sarah finished her music degree in 2005 and now aims to achieve a diploma in singing.
But she has to put her plans of achieving greater things on the back-burner for a short while as she is getting married in September!
The festival continues today with piano and speech and drama classes in the Town Hall. During the festival the Ramsden Street entrance will be open for public access.