The Mrs Sunderland Festival 2017 bursts into life next month and will be the biggest in the history of the 126-year-old musical event, with more than 3,000 performers taking part.

From the under-fives to 90-year-olds, it’s a festival that celebrates the achievements of all ages in many different classes and is one of the largest of its kind in the country.

While competition is at the core of the 11 days of song, speech and music at Huddersfield Town Hall, the festival is also a series of public concerts, for which tickets cost from as little as £4. In recent years it has also grown to include workshops, an event for special needs schools and a pre-festival mass choral work put together in a single day.

Video Loading

Ann Tallboys, Festival Helpers’ Co-ordinator, says the festival this year has seen an increase in entries from 2016 and expanded and introduced new classes. “Most other music festivals run over a weekend or on a single day, ours is certainly one of the biggest,” she added. “It’s growing and evolving every year. We want to make it an inclusive 21st century event, but also keep the traditions.”

From dialect speaking to ever-popular Disney songs, jazz solos to operatic arias, there’s something for audience members of all tastes. “We want to encourage people to come into the town hall and hear what’s going on,” said Ann. “For people who don’t want to go out in the evening there’s the opportunity to see all the day-time performers at the morning or afternoon sessions.”

While the festival proper begins on Wednesday, February 15, and closes on Saturday, February 25, with a gala concert, there’s a pre-festival warm-up on Sunday, February 5, when volunteer choristers perform songs from West End Musicals at Huddersfield Town Hall from 5pm. The 158-strong choir, made up of choir members and those simply interested in taking part, will spend the day rehearsing pieces from Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera and Wicked before taking to the stage. The performance, conducted by Thom Meredith, will be accompanied by a light laser show.

The festival is also home to the prestigious Kirklees Young Musician of the Year competition, which showcases virtuoso performers destined for life as professional musicians. Last year it was won by 25-year-old cellist Chris Mansfield from Shepley.

But some contestants are at the very beginning of their careers as musicians. The youngest competitors are from Year 3 and under – some barely school age.

Getting young children involved has become a priority for the festival, which this year is hosting a children’s workshop with a Caribbean theme for 800 youngsters.

Tickets are now on sale for the festival - from Huddersfield Town Hall box office or by registering at It’s usually possible to pay on the door for daytime events, however tickets need to be booked for the gala concert on the last evening, February 25.

The Mrs Sunderland website has a full list of all classes, dates and times.

* Mrs Susannah Sunderland (nee Sykes), born in 1819, was a famous soprano soloist from Brighouse. She sang for Queen Victoria, who is said to have described her as the ‘Queen of Song’. In 1889 it was decided to hold a vocal solo competition in her honour. There were 37 competitors and Mrs Sunderland herself presented the prizes. Mrs Sunderland died in 1905 but her legacy lives on. The competition, now a festival, has been held every year except in 1940.