Chichester Festival for Music, Dance and Speech gets under way

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Talents will be tested across the city in a landmark year for the Chichester Festival for Music, Dance and Speech.

2015 sees the festival celebrate its 60th anniversary - and current chairman Jenie Pressdee is delighted at the programme which has come together to mark the occasion.

Jenie

Jenie

Last autumn saw a gala dinner, and a programme of recitals featuring former participants is already underway.

As for the festival itself, events kick off with junior guitars on Saturday, February 7 at the Regis School of Music – the start of a programme which will range widely across the disciplines across various age categories and permutations in the weeks to come.

The speech and drama element of the festival also begins on Saturday, at Chichester’s Central School when the classes will include Shakespeare solo for various ages, dramatic duologues, sight-reading, poems, Bible reading, choral speaking and thematic groups. The musical theatre element of the festival gets underway on Sunday, again at Central Junior School.

Jenie is pleased to say the birthday year has already provoked plenty of interest.

“Numbers of entries this year are over 1,600 which compares well with the previous two years.”

She admits a big ambition remains: to break through more into the state sector. Currently, private schools and private teachers account for well over half the programme, perhaps – Jenie believes – because the private sector is more geared towards competition. But Jenie is determined to extend the interest in the years go come.

“There is room for growth, and it is hoped that with more publicity and public awareness an overall increase in entries will happen in future.”

Already innovations are coming in. Jenie is delighted that this year has seen the arrival of online registration; Jenie has also introduced a quarterly newsletter to keep up interest year round.

The festival will run in various venues in Chichester for the whole of February and March and will finish with the festival concert at Westbourne House School on Sunday, March 22. Tickets are available from Ackerman Music or www.cfmds.org.uk.

The anniversary recital series continues with Ella Rundle on Sunday, April 26 at 3pm at the Regis School of Music.

“Ella will be playing the cello and will have an accompanist. She is a former candidate of the festival and hails from East Dean.”

The origins of the Festival date back to 1955 when Bob Davies, choirmaster at Southgate Church of the Davies Oratorio Choir, Chichester founded the Festival after setting up an Eisteddfod.

Bob Davies and Margo Pink set up the original committee, Bob becoming president and Margo the original chairman.

Fellow founder member Joyce Foote joined the committee in 1959 and later became chairman.

“For many years the committee was under her guidance whilst she taught the piano and ran the piano section and became president in 1993 until she retired in 2009,” Jenie said. “This culminated with the presentation of an MBE for all her commitment over the years. She was always saying ‘The aim of the festival is to give people, particularly the young, a platform to enjoy performing in public with a little competition thrown in and above all we must always be a happy and friendly festival.’ This was her legacy which we all hope to continue.”