The Mrs Sunderland Festival 2018 promises to be the biggest in its history, with entries up and more than 3,000 performers taking part.
Now in its 129th year, the 11-day event, based at Huddersfield Town Hall, provides the region’s gifted and talented with the chance to showcase their abilities in song, speech and music.
The festival, from February 14 to 24, also offers members of the public the opportunity to see and hear everything from large-scale choral works to virtuoso individuals competing for a coveted trophy in one of the many classes. Tickets for sessions cost from as little as £4 and there’s no need to book in advance for most events.
There are, however, major concerts, for which seats should be booked – an Opera for All performance (before the festival); Kirklees Young Musician Contest; and The Last Night Concert.
In recent years the festival has grown to include workshops; an event for special needs schoolchildren and the pre-festival mass choral work, which this year is taking works from well-loved operas and being led by Huddersfield’s celebrated conductor Thom Meredith.
Mrs Sunderland organisers have worked hard to bring the festival into the 21st century in order to ensure its survival and future success. As committee member Hilary Scholes explains: “We have tried to make the festival more relevant, to young people especially, with new classes and events. The festival has developed a lot and has become an inclusive 21st century event. To keep increasing the numbers that take part is really good.”
One of the selling points of Mrs Sunderland is that it now caters for participants of all ages, from under-fives to nonagenarians. There are classes in everything from solo instruments and dialect speaking to Disney songs and jazz. The festival also aims to reach all sections of the population. Next year, for example, there are plans to host a workshop for dementia sufferers.
Highlights of the festival:
Opera for all on Sunday, February 4 – choral singers from the area have signed up for a full-day opera workshop that will culminate in a concert at 5pm (tickets are £4 and £10).
Special Needs Day, on Wednesday, February 14, will bring hundreds of children from Castle Hill School, Longley School and Ravenscliffe High School into the town hall for workshops and performance.
Children’s Singing Workshop The Mighty Sky on Thursday, February 15, for Key Stage 2 children. Children from local schools and their teachers have been learning songs for this event, which will also include an evening concert at 7pm (tickets are £5 for adults, children free).
Kirklees Young Musician Contest, Sunday, February 18, at 2pm showcases eight virtuoso instrumentalists in a concert-length class. Last year the title and £1,000 prize money were won by Flautist Imogen Davey.
The Last Night Concert, Saturday, February 24, at 7pm offers highlights from the festival, including a performance by the winner of the Kirklees Young Musician Contest and the fiercely-contested Choir Challenge class. This is a popular concert, so book early. Tickets are £5 and £15.
For more details of classes and workshops visit mrssunderlandfestival.com Tickets for concerts can be purchased from kirklees.gov.uk For day-to-day admission to the town hall during the festival it’s possible to pay on the door.
Mrs Sunderland Factfile
Mrs Susannah Sunderland (nee Sykes and born in 1819) was a famous soprano soloist from Brighouse, described by Queen Victoria as the ‘Queen of Song’.
In 1889 it was decided to hold a vocal 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. In recent years the event has undergone a re-branding, becoming a festival rather than a competition.
It now attracts thousands of entrants of all ages.