Musicians tuning up for annual festival

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PREPARATIONS are underway for this year’s Larne Musical Festival which will take place from May 2 until May 4 in First Larne Presbyterian Church Hall.

Under the continuing patronage of the Antrim family from Glenarm Castle, the current patron is Aurora, The Viscountess Dunluce, who hosts an evening in the walled garden of Glenarm Castle for the “Friends of the Festival” in April.

Last year, 1200 competitors enjoyed a feast of music during the three-day period.

This year’s competition will commence with the pianoforte classes which will be adjudicated on Thursday May 2 by William Cairns MBE. A former head of music at Belfast High School, Billy Cairns is still very much involved in musical education as a GCSE examiner and also as an adjudicator at musical festivals.

As a conductor and musical director, he is well-known for his involvement with “Cavalcade of Song” which brings together choirs and musical talent from across Northern Ireland and forms part of the Belfast Festival at Queen’s.

Throughout Ireland, Billy is well-known as a director of musical theatre, and in the 2009 New Year’s Honours List, he received the MBE for his service to music in Northern Ireland. The festival looks forward to welcoming him back to provide his excellent adjudication.

The adjudicator of the choral section on Friday May 3 will be Diane Creighton who has been actively engaged in music education for over 30 years. Head of music in two post-primary schools, and an advisory officer for music in the SEELB. Diane also co-wrote the first Northern Ireland music curriculum and was involved with each subsequent revision, producing several resources for teachers supporting its implementation.

An adjudicator on UTV Choir of the Year, and director of the Ulster Youth Orchestra for 18 years, plus vast experience as an adjudicator at many local music competitions, make Diane an exceptional professional in her field. The festival committee are delighted to welcome her to Larne Music Festival.

Robin Hewitt will adjudicate the strings, brass and woodwind classes on Saturday, and is well-qualified to do so. He was appointed principal tutor, at the City of Belfast School of Music, in 1990, retiring in 2002, and was elected to the executive of the Federation of Music Services, as Northern Ireland representative. Robin has adjudicated at many festivals including the NI Young Musician of the Year, Sligo International Choral, Hollywood and Portadown Music Festivals.

Robin will also be adjudicator for the brass and woodwind classes which will be held on Saturday afternoon (May 4). Always a popular and successful adjudicator, the festival looks forward to welcoming him back this year.

On the final day of the festival, in the evening, a concert of festival winners is held with Archy McNeill as compere. Past winners and present competitors will provide a very pleasant evening of music to suit all tastes and to show the talent that the Festival over the years has helped to develop.

Proceeds from this concert will be donated this year to the NI Children’s Hospice.

A youth concert will be held on Saturday May 4, at 6.30 pm, in the Memorial Hall (festival venue). Admission by donation. All money raised will go to Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice.

Larne Musical Festival was founded in 1925 with the active support of the Earl and Countess of Antrim and with its foundation work done by Mrs J C Tweed, Mrs T L Price and Mr James McQuillan, headmaster, of Larne Grammar School, with the background support of Mr Tweed and Mr T L Price, editor of the Larne Times.

In its early years, the festival attracted thousands of competitors and the festival lasted for a fortnight with classes commencing in the morning and continuing into the evening. Competitors were adjudicated by many famous musicians such as Dr. Stonely, Sir Hugh Roberton, Maurice Jacobson, Eric Thiman and Dr. Havelock Nelson when it was held in the Victoria Hall, Curran Road, Larne. After the Second World War, attendances declined and in the late 1950s, the festival closed.

In 1999, the festival was revived by a dedicated group of musicians from Larne, under the direction of John Dooris, and the festival has continued over the last 13 years and has grown in duration from one to three days.

Patricia McNeill, president, Larne Musical Festival, explained: “The purpose of the festival is to enable those interested in performing their musical talents in public, to compete and have their performance adjudicated by professional musicians with helpful and constructive comments provided by them to encourage their standard of performance.

“Each competitor is given a result’s sheet with adjudicator’s remarks and winners are awarded cups, trophies, certificates and/or monetary awards. In this way, the festival encourages amateur musicians, however young or old, to enter classes ranging from classical music to musical shows/popular music and to have the experience of performing in a very friendly venue with a most appreciative audience.

Patricia added: “With trophies and cups, monetary prizes are presented for top prize winners in various classes. This year again, donations, each of £50, are presented by the First Trust Bank, Larne and Larne Rotary Club. The executive committee would like to express their sincere thanks to Lady Aurora, Viscountess Dunluce for presenting a new trophy, The Dunluce Cup, and also to Dr Thomas Brown for the Dr Thomas Brown Trophy. All these donations and trophies are gratefully received.

“All committee members give their services on a voluntary basis. It costs in excess of £3500 per annum to run this three-day festival as we pay for the festival hall, lighting, heating, insurance, adjudicators’ fees, hire of a grand piano, refreshments for adjudicators/festival stewards, the purchase of medals for festival winners and printing of the festival programme, entry forms and certificates.

“Admission to the festival is free but we request donations towards running costs whilst competitors have an entry fee to enable them to compete. The festival has been fortunate to have been sponsored by Larne Borough Council. Our “Friends of the Festival” scheme goes from strength to strength and we have some 70 members supporting our festival with their donations of £10 per annum and this has helped to augment our income.

“Any donations/grants are published in our festival programme and also in our press articles and new donors are asked to present the awards, to attend our concert as guests and any special publicity events we run.”

The festival web site is: which details all classes, times and awards.

The closing date for entries is April 19 (typing error in syllabus) and entries should be sent, with the appropriate fee, to:- Ann Tinsley, Secretary, 40 Straidkilly Road, Carnlough. BT44 OLQ.