Festival awards reveal new talent

Cressey Osborne receives her award from Dr Gordon Pearce, National Music Festivals adjudicator.
Cressey Osborne receives her award from Dr Gordon Pearce, National Music Festivals adjudicator.

A wealth of musical talent was uncovered at the first of a new series of annual awards.

Singers and musicians of all ages competed in the inaugural Northumberland Music Festival Awards.

They took place at Eshott Hall Hotel on the penultimate day of the festival, and attracted a total of 25 entries.

The competition was adjudicated by National Music Festivals adjudicator Dr Gordon Pearce, who was also senior music adviser for North Yorkshire Education Authority.

The festival’s artistic director Jeremy Peaker, who introduced the event, said: “We have been delighted this year with the way the audiences have been responding to some of the new ideas, and we’re especially pleased that so many people have applied to take part in the festival in this way.”

The winner of class one, for under-16 singers, was Cressey Osborne, from Alnwick.

Her performance of Mozart’s Laudate Dominum set a high standard for the others.

Dr Pearce complimented them all on intonation, clear diction and empathy with their audience.

For him, Cressey was a first among equals, with good tone, secure intonation, dynamics and diction.

The instrumentalist class winner was 12-year-old cellist Seth Collin, from Newcastle, while Holly Walker, a student at Newcastle University living in Jesmond, won the 16+ Opera Class.

The 16+ Open Class was won by Ray Howell, from Berwick, with a resonant, dynamically-controlled performance of Dougherty’s arrangement of the traditional American sea shanty Shenandoah.

Showing that a career in music can begin at any age was Terry Patterson, from Ulgham, whose performance of Love Changes Everything won the hearts of everyone.

It was the first time he had ever sung solo in public. As part of his post-retirement project he had joined a choir, and the festival was his debut.

Presenting the awards, festival producer Robert Parker, whose hotels play host to its galas and concerts, confessed that the entries had moved him greatly, and often to tears.

He said: “I have no musical ability, but remember the many occasions when I was involved with music at school with great pleasure.

“Those personal occasions have all been evoked by these talented performances, showing that Northumberland is a wonderfully musical county.

“Next year I would love to see our award winners taking part in one of the festival galas.”

Dr Pearce added: “I was intensely engaged by the commitment of all the entrants to their songs and instruments.They all showed skill, an ability to connect with the audience, and an engagement with their music. They made the competition an extremely worthwhile occasion.”

The winners in two of the classes went on to enjoy a masterclass with bass baritone Graeme Danby on the final day of the festival, which ran over three weekends in November.