My first visit to this longstanding music festival proved a most enjoyable and inspiring day of music making by people of all ages.
I tend to agree with Bartok’s assertion that “competitions are for horses” and I do not think music should be treated like some kind of Olympian sport: it was written to be shared and enjoyed, and that is very much the ethos of the W&DMF. This is, unusually, a non-competitive festival. I say “unusually” because most music festivals are competitive with participants receiving graded certificates and placings for first, second and third etc. Yet the word “festival” suggests a celebration and that is what W&DMF is – a celebration of music and music making. And its relatively small scale makes this the friendliest festival I’ve attended, which undoubtedly helps participants play better.
Classes are organised by instrument and ability level, but within those categories participants have free choice of repertoire rather than being tied to an exam syllabus, for example, or a specific selection of pieces. This makes the performances all the more enjoyable for all – performers get to play pieces they really like and adjudicators and audience hear a wide variety of music. There were some impressive performances even in the most junior classes and it was really heartwarming to see quite young children stepping up to play with confidence and poise. It was also very nice to find parents accompanying their children on the piano, and in one instance in a recorder duo. Many participants remained after their classes to hear friends or schoolmates perform, and generous enthusiastic applause was given for each performance.
The adjudicators offered supportive and helpful comments to foster confidence and encourage productive practising, advice on technical aspects and hints about good stagecraft. For example, Claire Jackson, adjudicator for woodwind, brass and instrumental groups, emphasised the importance of feeling comfortable before one begins to play by ensuring music stand and instrument are correctly set up/tuned (this also applies to pianists of course, who should always make sure the piano stool in at the correct height).
Overall, this was a most enjoyable festival with a strong sense of shared music making. Next week selected participants will perform in a concert at St Aldhelm’s Church, Weymouth. Further information here