Vocal Classes 

The Vocal classes of the Music Festival had a good year with 170 solo and duet entries over the three days.  As well as the large numbers of children taking part, I was delighted to see an increase in the number of adults performing in the Senior Vocal classes.  This is an area we are keen to develop further, alongside out ever-popular Music Theatre and Singer-Songwriter classes. On the morning of the fourth day, nearly 500 children took part in the choir classes and we are grateful to the Temple Methodist church for accommodating and supporting us so well.

Throughout the week, we were most fortunate to have the expert adjudications of Gaynor Keeble, who gave positive, insightful feedback to performers, all pitched perfectly for whichever age group she was judging.  

 Piano Day

 We had a very informative and entertaining day in the Gwyn Williams Room at Taunton School. Our adjudicator, Roy Robinson, gave everyone, from the youngest to the oldest, something to think about. Good posture so as not to put strain on your body, heel on the floor when using the pedal, practicing scales every day…  (his searching glance caused some guilty giggles) When Roy spoke to the children about their own performance, he was hugely positive, celebrating the good points and giving suggestions for making it even better. With the older students his language became more technical, but was also concerned with thinking about the effect they wanted to create, and using their skills to produce it. Nothing demonstrated this better than the outstanding recital given by Brian Crook who had driven from Wimborne and said it was definitely worth it!

Recorder, Woodwind and Brass Day

Congratulations to all the winners.  Of course we all like to win and be awarded a cup, but these days this is truly a Festival of music –making rather than a musical competition where there are winners and losers. It was so uplifting by the end of the day to have enjoyed many excellent performances, and it provides confirmation that music continues to be healthy in this area.  Our adjudicator, Anne Hodgson, commented many times on the high quality of our local brass and woodwind tuition.

Of special mention should be the young recorder players at the start of the day who stood at the front of the Temple Methodist church and showed their talents with such assurance. They so obviously enjoyed their music making.

We finished the day perhaps at the other end of the spectrum with a concertina band.  This performance turned out to be quite an exciting surprise.  What an unusual, marvelous sound.

During the day a good range of musical instruments was represented, ranging all the way from tuba to flute.  While the ages of the majority of these performers were at the younger end, with some of the performances, with closed eyes, it would have been difficult for a listener to guess their age.

Anne Hodgson gave many helpful comments and often asked the performer whether their teacher might concur with her suggestions.  Usually,’ yes’ was the answer.  Anne was able to reinforce ideas of good performance in a constructive and kindly way.

All in all we enjoyed a wonderful day of music making. 

 Strings Day

This year TFA had a staggering 112 entries in just the strings classes. 64 entries (mainly for bowed string instruments) took place on the first day, and the other 48 were guitar entries.

The day’s  programme  began with delightful performances given by Taunton Children’s orchestra. This stunning opening was followed by some exquisite playing by Taunton School String Quartet who produced some beautiful sounds with excellent tuning and dynamics and was duly awarded a Distinction. As one might expect, Distinctions can be quite rare, but the adjudicator, Christopher Daly, chose to give them to three out of the four harpists and to many of the advanced bowed string players who also richly deserved them for their beautiful playing of some very difficult pieces.

All the entrants, throughout the day, whatever their age, and whatever their level of playing, managed to perform with great confidence and musicality showing the results of much dedication, preparation and commitment and it was wonderful to see them perform so well.

Snow on day two meant that only 7 of the 48 guitarists managed to get to the venue. We were lucky that, as well as being an adjudicator for all stringed instruments, Christopher Daly’s main expertise was as a guitarist. This meant that he was able to give detailed and specific help to all the performers and this was appreciated by all.

 The shining star for that day, Chester Johnson, gained two distinctions for his amazing playing of very demanding pieces all from memory. His truly stunning performances showed maturity, sensitivity and technical expertise.

Christopher Daly concluded that there was obviously a lot of excellent teaching and learning going on in the Taunton area re stringed instruments and he was impressed by what he had seen and heard on both days.

 Dance Festival

 The Dance Festival was held at Queen’s Hall, Queen’s College, Taunton on the 28th May to the 1st June.

Building up to the festival was very exciting as we did not anticipate that we would have to add 2 days to the event. Although it meant finding volunteers to cover the extra days it also showed us just how popular this festival had become.  The dance committee were very hands on to ensure all areas had been covered before the festival started and with great thanks to them, we had a very enjoyable and successful festival.

Our adjudicator Jayne Cooper was very charming and gave fantastic feedback throughout the festival. Despite the additional days ahead of us, spirts were high and the relaxed atmosphere was commented by all.

The dancers who came from all over the South West and performed at high standards making the adjudication harder and, in some cases, joint awards going to 1st, 2nd & 3rd places.

We welcomed dancers from previous years and dancers from schools that haven’t been to the festival before. It was a truly successful and memorable time at the Dance Festival. We look forward to new adventures next year.


 The Taunton Drama Festival of 2019 was once again held at the Temple Methodist Church, Taunton from Monday 11th – Friday 15th March 2019. It was a hugely successful and enjoyable week, with the number of competitors/entries very consistent from last year, which was great to see. It was great to welcome back Thalia Squire as our adjudicator (who filled in last year for one day). Thalia is an experienced examiner and adjudicator, and well known in the Somerset area for her Speech & Drama expertise. Thalia had a very busy day start to the festival, with two large classes of Year 1 and Year 2 Verse Speaking. Throughout the week, Thalia was both informative and thorough. She shared her expertise with the competitors, but also kept well on time! It was a fantastic week, with great feedback from parents and teachers. I am also always so grateful for the support of Joanna and her team at Temple Methodist Church. They are always ready with fresh tea/coffee and biscuits, as well as preparing us with a delicious lunch each day. The Hilda Chapman Memorial Cup (highest acting mark) was awarded to Toby Burrell from Kings Hall, and the Margaret Way Adjudicator’s Cup was awarded to Mollie West and Millie Gubby from Queen’s. These performers also delighted us with their talent at the Gala Concert at Queen’s last June. I would like to thank many people, who give up their time to help run the Drama week, without whom the Drama Festival wouldn’t run: Nicola, Gillian (and her team of stewards), Martin, Mike, all at Temple Methodist and Jill/Ian at Brookfield Guest House. The Drama Festival continues to grow and thrive. It is always such a fun and exciting week and a highlight of the school year. We are now busy preparing for the next one and hoping to make it as successful as 2019.


 Report on TAUNTON YOUNG SINGER and TAUNTON YOUNG MUSIC THEATRE SINGER Competition  - Sunday 24th February 2019

For the second year running the vocal competitions were set up as a weekend event taking place at the end of the Spring half term break.   The Juniors, up to 13 years, participated on the Saturday afternoon and the 14 to 18 year group on the Sunday morning and afternoon.   Hopefully the concentration of singing activities into one day for the Seniors is recognised as a good plan at a time when young people are encouraged not to divert too far from academic studies during their GCSE and A level years.

Unfortunately the numbers were down this year as only five singers entered for Taunton Young Singer, compared with twelve last year.   There were some interesting and committed performances but two stood out as worthy prize winners, namely Ava Fitzhugh, (making her first entry into this competition at the age of 14) from Queen Elizabeth’s Academy, Crediton, who was awarded first prize of £200 and Ellen Steward from Wells Cathedral School, second place, with a prize of £100.   Third place was not awarded but all singers were commended and encouraged.

The introduction of Music Theatre into the Taunton competitive arena a few years ago has worked well.   The combination of singing and characterisation has appealed to young people and produced some extraordinary performances.   There were ten entrants this time, versus twelve the year before, but a very high standard was reached vocally and dramatically.   Spike Maxwell (14 years of age, making his first appearance in the Senior competition) , from Kingsmead School, Wiveliscombe, gained the first prize of £200.  Amelia Kelly-Slogrove from Blundell’s  School, Tiverton, was awarded second prize of £100, and Abi Govey from Wellington School was third prize winner with £50.

Our congratulations go not only to our winners but to all who ventured to take part.   It is valuable and rewarding experience for all.

We were fortunate indeed to have Penny Jenkins as adjudicator for both competitions.   She is an experienced performer over a wide variety of styles, skilled adjudicator and perceptive in her judgement.  Her comments were valued and appreciated and her adjudication sheets very sensitively drawn and helpful.

Once again we were well served by our skilled official accompanists, Andrew Carter and Mark Shelvey.   Our thanks go to them and to all the teachers, directors of music and accompanists who supported their students and made this day possible.   May I also sincerely thank the team of helpers, Mike Chapman, Martin and Gill Parker, Kathy Shovelton, Gillian Greig and Hannah Deason-Barrow.   I would like to record our gratitude to Taunton School and Mark Cracknell who made the Music School available for our use.   The combination of intimate performing space and use of practice rooms is invaluable.

An additional bonus came in the form of a lunchtime recital offered at St. John’s Taunton in July when five of our competition winners and runners up performed a very high standard concert to a truly appreciative audience.   

TJYS 2019 Report

 9 competitors.

Adjudicator Charlotte Ashley

Thoughts – in no particular order

1.      Thank you to Martin and Mike for organising front of house etc.

2.      It worked much better with Martin being adjudicator’s steward

3.      I got far too many programmes. Perhaps no. of competitors x3 + 20 or something like that

4.      I needed to give clearer instructions to my adjudicator about feedback. I think this could have been more detailed and perhaps critical in person as well as on paper.

5.      Younger singers should be given mainly encouragement but those at the top end of the age-range might be given more to think about.

6.      With only 9 competitors the feedback to each could have been greater

7.      Certificates of participation – with only 9 participants and certificates for three prizewinners and two highly commended the 4 who got nothing felt left out – perhaps if there are fewer than 10 competitors then I should do certificates for all…?

8.      Audience was a bit disappointing – could we do more to encourage a bigger audience

9.      The competition clashed with another somewhere in Devon so the Exeter entries that bolstered the 2018 event were not forthcoming.


 Unfortunately, last year’s TYTP competition was cancelled due to a lack of interest and lack of entries. This was a particular shame as we had tried to ‘revamp’ the competition and were also very excited to invite back Jeremy James Taylor (former Artistic Director of the NYMT). We are going to re-think this competition for 2020 and hopefully involve more groups/theatre companies.