Inverclyde Music Festival

The Inverclyde Music Festival is one of the oldest music festivals in Scotland. The first Festival was held in Greenock Town Hall over 95 years ago, on the 25th and 26th April, 1914. Every subsequent Festival links since then has been held at the same venue. The Festival has always had strong connections with the local community and with local musical groups and traditions and this has been reflected in the sources of many of the prizes and trophies awarded at the Festival. This connection was evident at the first Festival when trophies were presented by “The Greenock Telegraph" and “The Greenock Musical Association”.

The development of the Festival was halted by the First World War but it resumed on the 23rd and 24th April, 1920 when the second Festival was held. Again the close connection of the Festival with local musical roots was demonstrated with trophies donated by Greenock Male Voice Choir, the Sir Michael Street Church Ladies' Choir and by the Festival President, Robert Finnie McEwen.

The Festival proved so popular that the 3rd Festival required four days to accommodate all the entries. Renamed the Renfrewshire Musical Competition Festival, which it remained until 1928 when the word "Competition" was removed. The Festival had now grown to 7 days duration, i.e. Saturday to Saturday and in 1925 the Festival introduced Scottish Country Dancing classes.

The Festival was badly hit by the depression and unemployment during the 1930s with a reduction of entries but they continued until 1940. There followed a hiatus until 28th and 29th January, 1949 when the 24th Festival was a Youth Festival lasting for two days for competitors 18 years and under. In 1950 the Festival was extended to three days.

In 1951 the Festival resumed adult classes and by 1952 the Festival had 605 entries and 3,228 competitors, many of whom had travelled from distant parts of the country. The Festival went from strength to strength and in 1961 new classes for Gaelic Junior Solo, Scottish Ballad, Mixed Scottish Dance and Recorder were added and in 1968, the total number of entries passed the 1000 mark. The 1970s saw the number of entries increase to more than 1200.

Nowadays the Inverclyde Music Festival is a competitive festival of vocal and instrumental music, speech and Scottish country dance. Much of the organisation of the modern festival is computerised and the various music classes reflect the changing tastes in musical styles enjoyed by younger people. The Festival is organised by a committee of volunteers supported by Inverclyde Council, parents and friends of competitors and the public. The Inverclyde Music Festival starts on the last week of January and runs for a fortnight culminating in a Grand Concert on the final Saturday evening featuring a selection of the highlights from the two weeks. In 2010 the 85th Festival will be held, as always, in Greenock Town Hall.

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