Chipping Norton to come alive with music as popular festival returns

One of the longest-running music events in Britain returns to Chipping Norton this week.

The 107th Chipping Norton Music Festival takes place from Friday, March 8, to Sunday, March 23.

Originally started in 1904 in Shipston on Stour, the festival moved to Chipping Norton in 1911 and has remained there ever since.

It has expanded to more than two weeks of events for children of all ages and abilities, along with adults, and also now includes professional concerts and masterclasses.

The festival is non-competitive and adjudicated by professionals, giving constructive feedback to all participants. There are classes in music and drama for all ages, individuals and groups ranging from piano, voice and composition through to verse-speaking and folk.

Additions in the last 15 years or so include speech and drama, folk and the Youth Jazz Band Challenge in 2009.

Chairman Sarah Cobb said: “The festival encourages performers of all ages to perform to a supportive audience, receive helpful feedback from our team of friendly adjudicators and simply share the joy of performance and music making with other like-minded members of our local community.

“We offer a wide range of classes and are always happy to add new ones if someone has an unusual instrument to add to the festival – last year we heard a xylophone for the first time.

“We try to offer a supportive and friendly atmosphere made possible by our brilliant volunteer organisers and helpers.”

The participatory classes are accompanied by a series of professional concerts, and the culmination of the festival is a concert presenting the highlights of the fortnight where various trophies are awarded for outstanding performances from musicians and performers of all ages.

There is also a children’s workshop giving children from local primary schools the opportunity to perform and this year they will be working closely with Chipping Norton School as they come together to sing songs from the school production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

To keep the format fresh and updated in 2019, the festival’s Folk Night will now take place at The Chequers in Chipping Norton.

The format will be an informal evening with the feel of a traditional folk night, and space for individuals or groups to perform with feedback from an adjudicator, like the usual festival classes.

Everyone will be welcome to join in and take part, making music together.

Performers will be given encouragement and feedback by the eminent David Oliver, a leading Northumbrian dance band accordionist and caller.

From school jazz bands, junior choirs, guitar and flute through to speech and drama, the festival covers a broad spectrum of music and arts and involves more than 30 volunteers, and will be in four venues across the town.

In total more than 800 participants took part in last year’s festival, proudly supported by parents, grandparents, friends and their peers.

All participants will be presented with a range of promotional merchandise to commemorate their involvement in this year’s event, ranging from recycled water bottles to pencils.

Sarah Cobb added: “Every year I am amazed by the hugely talented performers we have – it’s a real pleasure to hear their performances and to be part of this event, which has added to the musical life of Chippy and the surrounding area for so long.”

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