Until 1980 the National Competitive Festival of Music was held regularly in August or September at the CNE, Toronto. In 1981 the Festival took place in Edmonton and thereafter it has been held in a different city each year. Festival competitors must first qualify at a local music festival in the province where they live or study. They must be recommended by the adjudicator(s) to proceed to the provincial level of competition. The winner in each category (piano, voice, strings, brass, woodwinds, or beginning in 1975, instrumental ensemble) is then eligible to compete in the CIBC National Music Festival.
Cash awards, provided by the CIBC, have been given to first-, second-, and third-place winners in each category. In 1974 the Bank of Commerce Rose Bowl was introduced to reward the most distinguished performer at the final concert of winners. This award was a piece of Canadian scuplture until1987 when it became a cash prize of $7500. Winners have included the cellist Cameron Lowe 1974, the Riverdale String Trio 1975, the pianist Douglas Finch 1976, the pianist Walter Prossnitz 1977, the oboist Elizabeth Lambert 1978, the mezzo-soprano Irena Welhasch 1979, the violinists Martin Chalifour 1980, and Renée Thibodeau 1981, the trumpeter Guy Few 1982, the violinist Martin Beaver 1983, the soprano Lyne Fortin 1984, the violinists Patricia Shih 1985, and Catherine French 1986, the saxophonist Susan Cook 1987, the pianists Minna Shin 1988, and Karen Wong 1989, the mezzo Janice Paterson 1990, and the violinist Pascale Giguère 1991.
Choirs, judged from taped performances, compete for cash awards and the City of Lincoln Trophy, George S. Mathieson Trophy, Richard W. Cooke Trophy and Dr and Mrs J.F.K. English Trophy trophies. The George S. Mathieson and City of Lincoln trophies are awarded annually to the outstanding junior and senior choirs heard in competition festivals across Canada. The City of Lincoln Trophy was donated by the Lincoln Musical Festival in England in 1948 to the Manitoba Music Competition. The trophy was cut from 700-year-old cathedral oak and bears minutely detailed representations in silver of two sides of Lincoln Cathedral. Due to its importance and historical significance, it was made a national award in 1949, when it was awarded to the Vancouver Bach Choir.
The chairmen of the Festival have been D. Crawford Smyth 1971-77, Jean Crittall 1978-80, Kathleen Keple 1981-85, Barry McDell 1986-87, Colleen Wilson 1988-89, succeeded by Elizabeth Lupton Enns.
Leblanc, Michael R. 'Festival is Canada Games of music,' Moncton, NB Times-Transcript, 24 Aug 1985