BUDDING rock and stage stars are being invited to show off their talents to competition judges as a long-established North East music festival attempts to keep moving with the times.
Tradition has long been the keynote of the annual Wansbeck Music Festival, which celebrated its centenary in 2006 and has nurtured thousands of young musicians and singers over the decades.
Ashington-born opera singers Janice Cairns and Sheila Armstrong both went on to find fame after appearing at the festival as youngsters.
Now new classes have been added to this year’s event in a bid to appeal to a wider cross-section of performers all over the region, and keep the competition fresh and relevant.
The March festival includes classes for rock bands and a vocal solo from a film or show, as organisers respond to requests from schools for more modern-day musical challenges.
The new additions take their place in the syllabus for the seven-day festival alongside long-established classes such as recorders, woodwind, brass, piano and orchestras.
It will be held from March 7 to 9 for recorders and woodwind, and from March 21 to 24 for other classes at venues in Morpeth and Newbiggin-by-the-Sea.
Yesterday secretary Gillian Stewart said: “Like all music festivals we are trying to keep up with the times, and we openly ask for ideas and suggestions on how to keep the syllabus fresh. We had a request to hold a class for rock bands last year, because quite a few high schools have bands now, and we have also added a class for ukulele bands after being asked to by one of the music teachers.
“People tend to think of festivals like ours as very traditional events, but if we don’t offer young people what they want then their schools won’t continue to come every year.
“If people ask for new classes such as rock bands or songs from the shows then we try to incorporate it to help keep us alive.”
Wansbeck music competitions started in 1906 and have evolved over the years into what remains one of the largest music festivals in the North of England. It is affiliated to the British and International Federation of Festivals of Music, Dance and Speech.
This year’s festival will feature about 800 performances in 74 different classes. Adjudicators are Colin Touchin for recorder and woodwind and Steven Roberts for the general festival.
Entry forms can be downloaded at www.wansbeckmusicfestival.co.uk, and the closing date for entries is January 18.
The opening session for recorders will start at 9.30am on March 7 in St George’s URC Church, Morpeth, and the final brass classes will be held on March 24.
A closing concert, featuring some of the festival prizewinners, will be held on the final Sunday at St George’s Church.
If we don’t offer young people what they want then their schools won’t continue to come