Thank you to Ruth Carlyle for allowing me to reproduce this article which she contributed to my end-of-term newsletter in December 2016:
Have you thought about taking part in the Lichfield Festival of Music, (or indeed, another Festival closer to you), but not been sure what to expect? I had my first experiences of both stewarding and performing at the 2016 Festival. I am sharing my reflections in the hope that they will encourage others to take part in future years.
The competition depends upon people volunteering to act as stewards, welcoming participants and ensuring that there is no background disturbance when people are performing. I acted as a steward on the first day of the Festival in 2016, which gave me a sense of the layout (the adjudicator sits at a desk facing the performer, with audience members in chairs either side) and the process. Each steward has a specific task for half a day, so it is a manageable time commitment.
The adjudicators listen to each performance in a class, taking notes between each performance. At the end of the class, they provide general feedback and specific comments to each of the participants. Depending on the number of participants in a class, there are up to three awards (first, second and third), but all participants receive written feedback from the adjudicator and a grading (fair, moderate, merit, commended, distinction or outstanding). The tone of the feedback is encouraging and is intended to help performers to develop their skills.
Although it is a ‘competition’, it is a very supportive environment in which to perform, as the audiences for the classes consist of fellow performers and their friends or family members. It is also an opportunity to perform in a hall – generally a school hall with reasonable acoustics. I chose a song that I knew I could sing well, ‘Gavotte’ by Herbert Howells.
So how did I do?
I have never taken any singing Grades and my experience is largely of choral and church singing, so the Festival was my first experience of singing a secular solo in public. I therefore wanted to have the performance experience and some feedback. I was utterly amazed to have my performance graded as Outstanding and to be given a First Prize in my class. I was also invited to perform in the festival concert. My reflection is that I had chosen a piece of music that suits my voice and that I could perform well. I would not necessarily expect to receive the same feedback with a different piece on a future occasion, but the Festival provided a valuable focus and I would definitely take the opportunity to participate in the future.