Non-competition festivals, developed in reaction against the practice of giving comparative marks, are little different in other respects (for instance, though marks are not given, adjudications are), but in some instances they allow time for workshops conducted by the adjudicators. The competition type has remained the more numerous and widespread.
Both types are operated by volunteers - often a local music or service club, eg, the Men's Music Club in Winnipeg or the Kiwanis clubs in Toronto and many other cities - and are largely self-supporting, their economies based on the fees of contestants and supplementary monies raised by the sponsoring organizations. Syllabi defining classes and setting test pieces are published months in advance to allow competitors ample preparation time. There are usually some ungraded classes to permit competition by performers who, for one reason or another, are not readily gradable.
In 1990 every province in Canada and the Yukon territory had annual competition festivals, usually lasting from two days to two weeks, and also had established some form of co-ordinating 'umbrella' organization.
For a guide to other EMC articles which treat competition festivals see Competitions.
The competition festival movement as it has taken root in Canada originated in Great Britain, and the earliest of the general type was held in Edmonton in 1908 (see Alberta Music Festival Association), although a competition for fiddlers had taken place in Montreal in 1867, and one for bands took place at the Provincial Exhibition in Toronto in 1858. Band tournaments continued during the 1870s in Berlin (Kitchener), Ont, and in Montreal (see Band festivals). Governor General Earl Grey is credited with being the first to advocate strongly the development of competition festivals in Canada.
The Edmonton festival, which had 30 participants in 1908, was followed by festivals in Regina (1909, 25 participants, see Saskatchewan Music Festival Association), Winnipeg (1918, see Manitoba Music Competition Festival), Vancouver (1923, British Columbia Music Festival), and Nanaimo, BC (1928, Upper Island Musical Festival). Festivals are said to have been held in British Columbia and Manitoba as early as 1909, but these did not become annual.
Support for the festival movement was especially strong in the West, where it contributed to the development of musical activity both in the educational system and in a wider social context and helped to lessen the sense of 'musical isolation'. By 1914 265 participants were competing at the festival in Regina. After World War I Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba began to co-ordinate their festivals, avoiding conflicts in dates, sharing adjudicators, and so on. British Columbia joined this arrangement in 1923, and in 1926 representatives from the four provinces established the Federation of Canadian Music Festivals (FCMF).
In Montreal in 1922 the Delphic Study Club of Canada founded a competition festival known as Music Week. In 1923 the Metropolitan Choral Society of Montreal initiated a competition for choirs and vocal quartets, singers, and instrumentalists. Local school boards in Ontario began sponsoring competition festivals in the early 1920s (see School music). In 1923 and 1924 the Ontario Musical Association held a competition at Toronto's Massey Hall, and in 1927 the North Western Ontario Musical Competition Festival (in 1967 the Lakehead Music Festival) and the Stratford (Ont) Music Festival were established; for several years the Stratford festival was the largest in the province.
The Halifax Cons (Maritime Conservatory of Music) sponsored that city's first competition festival in 1936; Yarmouth, NS, established a festival in 1938; and the Cape Breton Competitive Musical Festival began in 1939. The Saint John Competition Festival of Music was founded in 1936 (although non-competition festivals had been part of the city's school music program for a number of years prior to this).
Manitoba claimed to have held in 1937 the largest competition festival in the British Empire. In the same year more than 5400 competed in Montreal at the first Quebec Musical Competition Festival. Father Alfred Bernier, Léon David, Louis Hasselmans, Bernard Naylor, Sir Hugh Roberton, Thomas Salignac, and Steuart Wilson were among the adjudicators during the four years of its existence, and in 1939 12,000 competed. The Prince Edward Island Music Festival was established in 1946, and the first annual competition festival in Newfoundland took place in St John's in 1952.
Not all teachers and performers have approved of competition. Many have argued that there is little value and even possible harm in young musicians vying with one another for marks and awards. Others have maintained that competition is a part of living and that competition festivals are a benign ordering of this natural tendency. In any case they have survived and increased. By 1990 the FCMF could list more than 235 affiliated festivals. In Music in Canada Richard Cooke spoke out in favour of the movement, calling it 'the most potent factor in operation today... [The] competition festival reaches all ages and nationalities... talented and less gifted performers... It sets a high standard... and in an age beset with many attacks on authentic values it is inspiring to find so many responding to the challenge' (p 206).
For many years Canadian music festivals employed British adjudicators almost exclusively, and among them were distinguished performers and educators whose knowledge, platform experience, and tact justified their near monopoly. With the development of Canada's own musical maturity, however, especially in the years after World War II, Canadian adjudicators came to be used more frequently and with increasingly satisfactory results, and the trend was reinforced by the efforts of the Canadian Music Festival Adjudicators' Association.
Kiwanis Clubs International have made perhaps the most significant contribution of any service club to the competition festival movement. The first Canadian Kiwanis Music Festival took place in Toronto in 1944. Kiwanis festivals were established later in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland, and the responsibility for many competitions begun by other organizations has been assumed by the Kiwanis clubs. In 1990 Kiwanis sponsored 38 festivals in 5 provinces. Several of the Kiwanis festivals named in the appended list are the largest in their provinces. Rotary International has also participated in the competition festival movement and in 1990 supported 14 festivals in 4 provinces. Other service clubs active in music festivals include the Lions Club International, Kinsmen Clubs, and Junior Chamber International (Jaycees).
Festivals under the FCMF umbrella are held at local, provincial and national levels. Local festival adjudicators recommend competitors for the provincial level competition, where competitors are selected for the CIBC National Music Festival. All tenor provinces hold provincial festivals. In 1991 there also existed numerous festivals outside the FCMF sphere of influence, often sponsored by commercial enterprises and private conservatories.
Greater Victoria Music Festival
Upper Fraser Valley Music Festival (Lion's Club, Chilliwack)
Kiwanis festivals in Vancouver and Kelowna
Grande Prairie and District Music Festival
Kiwanis festivals (in eight centres including Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge, and Red Deer)
Rotary festivals in Medicine Hat and Fort McMurray (Oilsands Rotary Music Festival)
Moose Jaw Music Festival
Regina Music Festival
Saskatoon Music Festival
Yorkton Music Festival
Brandon Festival of the Arts
Portage La Prairie Festival of the Arts
Rockwood Festival of the Arts
Winnipeg Music Competition Festival
Brockville Lions Music Festival
Lakehead Music Festival, Thunder Bay
Peel County Music Festival, Brampton
York Region Lions Music Festival, Newmarket
Kiwanis festivals in 23 centres including Brantford, Chatham, Guelph, Hamilton, Kingston, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, North Bay, Oshawa, Ottawa, Owen Sound, Peterborough, Sault Ste Marie, Sudbury, and Toronto
Rotary festivals in 5 centres including Belleville (Quinte Rotary Music and Dance Festival), and Walkerton (Midwestern Ontario Rotary Music Festival)
Quebec Music Competitions (Quebec Music Festivals 1960-71)
Festival de musique du district #5
Fredericton Festival of Music
Greater Moncton Music Festival/Festival de musique du Moncton métropolitain
New Brunswick Competitive Festival of Music, Saint John
Bridgewater Kinsmen Music Festival
Lunenburg and District Music Festival
New Glasgow Music Festival
Truro Music Festival
Kiwanis festivals in Halifax and Sydney
Prince Edward Island
East Prince Music Festival
Kings County Music Festival
Queens County Music Festival
West Prince Music Festival
Kiwanis festivals in Carbonear (Trinity Conception Music Festival), Clarenville, Gander, Grand Falls (Central Newfoundland Kiwanis Festival), and St John's
Rotary festivals in Stephenville and Corner Brook
Yukon Music Festival in Whitehorse
Higgin, Clifford. 'Musical festival competition movement,' CQR, vol 1, Feb 1919
Bantock, Granville. 'The festival movement in Canada,' Musical News and Herald, 2 articles, 11, 18 Aug 1923
Greene, H. Plunkett. 'A trip to the Canadian festivals,' Music and Letters, vol 4, Oct 1923
MacMillan, Ernest. 'Competition festivals in western Canada,' CQR, vol 11, Summer 1929
Greene, H. Plunkett. 'Another trip to the Canadian festivals,' Music and Letters, vol 13, Jan 1932
Coutts, George. 'Music festivals in western Canada,' CRMA, vol 2, Oct-Nov 1943
Peaker, Charles. 'Canadian competitive musical festivals,' Music Teachers National Association Proceedings (1946)
Duncan, Chester. 'Competition festivals,' Northern R, vol 3, Aug-Sep 1950
Cooke, Richard W. 'Competition festivals,' Music in Canada
Payzant, Geoffrey. 'The competitive music festivals,' CMJ, vol 4, Spring 1960
'Forum: the music festival controversy,' ibid, Summer 1960
Collier, R.F. 'Music festivals in Canada,' CanComp, 22, Oct 1967
'Music festivals in Quebec involve 40,000 young musicians,' CanComp, 26, Feb 1968
MacFarlane, Dalton. 'Music festivals and the Canadian composer,' MSc, 243, Sep-Oct 1968
Abbott, Eric. 'The evolution of the Canadian festival movement as an instrument of musical education,' D ED thesis, Boston U 1969
Fiske, Dr. H.E. 'Adjudication: are we doing it all wrong?' Recorder, vol 18, Mar 1976
Kaplan, David. 'Canadian music at Canadian music festivals,' CME, vol 27, Sep 1985
The Federation of Canadian Music Festivals. Digest Report, annual
Listen to the Prairies (NFB 1945); shorter version titled A City Sings
Links to Other Sites
Banff International String Quartet Competition
Features a concert schedule and brief profiles of the quartets participating in the annual Banff International String Quartet Competition.
The Kiwanis International Music Festival
The website for the annual music festival that features classes and competitions for amateur and professional soloists, school choirs, bands, orchestras, chamber ensembles, and more.
Canadian Music Competition
The Canadian Music Competition is a national organization working in the field of classical music with the goal of supporting and encouraging young Canadian performers.