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Matlock Bath: Musical Festival, 1961
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Programme, initialled by one of the contestants
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Fish Pond Stables

Fish Pond and Pavilion

For a number of years Matlock Bath held an Annual Musical Festival in the early summer[1]. However, when they began in 1923, and for some years afterwards, the festivals were held during September[2]. The village's second Musical Festival, in 1924, was held at the Grand Pavilion, in the Palais Royal (previously knwn as the Royal Pavilion) and the Wesleyan Chapel. There were 206 entries, with 22 choirs and 22 quartette parties[3].

Winners were presented with certificates and some were awarded prizes or cups. The event, which was spread over three days, concluded with evening concerts performed in the Grand Pavilion. These performances were all of a high quality. Large crowds of music lovers attended the very first Saturday programme in 1923 when the main event was to decide the choirs championships. Among those taking part that year was Matlock Prize Choir who won the "Key" Challenge Cup and first prize in the mixed voice choir (local) section. They also won one of the Venetian Fete Challenge Shields[2] and in 1924 they won all three shields, came second in another category and Mr. A. S. Moreton (also a choir member) won the open tenor solo[3].

After a lapse of ten years the event was revived in 1948 and was such a success by 1955 that the organizers considered the possibility of having to limit the entries. The numbers had risen from 600 in 1950 to 1,031 entries that year. Nevertheless, the event was run at a slight loss and was only kept solvent by fundraising dances at the Pavilion[a].

1954 programme cover

Contestants of all ages were drawn from a wide area. In 1961 Woodlands School was well represented by its pupils and they were joined by youngsters from Ashbourne's Methodist Junior School on Church Street. One of the competitors in 1961 was Stuart Flint, then aged nineteen. Stuart sang second bass in the Zion Male Voice Quartet which he had just joined[4]; the four young men were related. The group gave concerts throughout Derbyshire and beyond and contested at the Music Festival in Matlock Bath and probably at Selston. They also helped fund-raise for charity. Louis Spencer was first tenor, John Dickinson Senior was second tenor and Frank Land of Bonsall[5] was first bass. They began with a test piece "Down In Yon Summer Vale" and went on to the hymn tune "Raichie" to the words of "Who Is On The Lord's Side". This last was probably chosen to please the adjudicators and it clearly did so as they won their section with 192 points. Second prize went to The Lea Harmony Quartet from Manchester, a semi professional group, who scored 190 points; third prize was awarded to The Gresley Quartet who were given 187 points.

Some years earlier, in 1954, Anthony Gell's School Choir sang at the Musical Festival under the baton of Gloria Hollingworth (nee Wildgoose), the school's Music and Sports Mistress. They sang "Rose of England" and "Brother James' Air"[6]. They were perhaps a late entry as the choir does not appear in the programme for that year.

The organisers were all local and post war Harry Boden, his wife Winifred, daughter Marian and son Francis played a key role in running the event. In 1961 the Festival's officers were:

President : H. Boden, Esq.
Chairman : L Coun. P. F. George
Vice-Chairman : R. Turner, Esq.
Hon. Treasurer : L. R. Standen, Esq.
Hon. Secretary : Miss M. W. Boden
Hon Life Members: R. J. Jackson Esq.; T. W. Smith, Esq

There were 69 classes or categories in total that year, including:

1. Reading / Elocution

Open Bible Reading - divided into age groups
Open Choral Verse Speaking
Open Elocution, Boys or Girls, under 8 years
Open Elocution, Girls - divided into age groups from under 10 to under 16 years
Open Elocution, Boys - divided into age groups from under 10 to under 16 years
Open Elocution, Ladies or Gentlemen
Open Prose Reading, Ladies or Gentleman

2. Music.

Old Age Pension, Ladies, Male Voice and Mixed Voice Choirs, Quartets, Operatic Soloists, Oratorio Soloists and Pianoforte Solos and Duets from those aged under 11 and upwards

Top of one of the certificates

Grand Pavilion
(Kursaal) 1910-12

Grand Pavilion
(The Kursaal) 1915

Pavilion, Obelisk & Spar Shop

Grand Pavilion,

Grand Pavilion 1920s

The Ballroom, before 1928

Grand Pavilion, 1930s

Pavilion, 1938

Pavilion Grounds

Industrial Exhibition 1946

1954 Programme with thanks to Susan Tomlinson for finding it for me.
1960 Programme (initialled by one of the contestants) and winner's "Distinction" certificate (part of) from 1960 in the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
With grateful thanks to Stuart Flint of Wirksworth for his contribution.
Intended for personal use only.


[1] A railway poster advertising the Musical Festival, dated June 1932, is published in Julie Bunting's book. The event ran for only two days at that time and the railway company was offering excursion rates to the event. See Bunting, Julie (2002) "Matlock and Matlock Bath", Tempus Publishing Ltd., The Mill, Brimscombe Port, Stroud, Gloucestershire, GL5 2QG 128pp. 220 illus. ISBN 0-7524-2455-6

[2] "Derby Daily Telegraph", Monday 10 September 1923.

[3] "Derbyshire Times", 20 September 1924.

[a] From the "Belper News" of 12 August 1955 and "Derby Daily Telegraph" of 23 June 1950.

[4] When Mr. Mabbutt, Town Clerk at Wirksworth, was part of the Quartet they had contested at Music Festivals as far away as Morecambe and Blackpool. Stuart was invited to join the Quartet when Mr. Mabbutt left the district; he replaced him as second bass.

[5] Frank Land was the last General Manager at Masson Mill before it closed as a Cotton Mill.

[6] From Jennifer Macgregor Brown (nee Flint).