What makes the Aberdeen Music Festival unique?
The Aberdeen and North East of Scotland Music Festival Association, formed in 1909, is the oldest in the country. War years apart it has provided the City of Aberdeen with Festivals of Music, Speech, Drama and Dance for 95 years.
It offers performing opportunities to all participants before a sympathetic audience. Like many other competitive Festivals it retains the old motto
Not to gain a prize but to pace one another on the road to excellence
Contradictory? No, the ethos of the festival is to promote, encourage, inspire. There may be some silver to be gained, by way of trophy or cash, but this is incidental to the aims of this longstanding annual event.
Aims and objectives
The objects for which the Association is established are:
- To advance, promote and encourage generally and by means of the Competitive Festival Movement in particular, the study and practice of the arts of Music, Dancing, Speech and Drama, Literature and Acting in all their branches;
- To be affiliated to the British & International Federation of Festivals for Music, Dance and Speech and to co-operate as far as possible with the said Federation;
- To do all such other lawful things as are incidental or conducive to the attainment of the above objects.
The Festival is very much open to all. Classes are structured according to age and ability. The Festival is primarily competitive, but anyone can enter any class on a non-competitive basis. There are some specifically non-competitive classes. Entry fees for performer and audience members are kept low, to facilitate participation.
Timing of Main Activities: the two Festivals
Preparations for the annual Festivals are ongoing throughout the year and are undertaken solely by volunteers. Other activities, such as concerts and workshops are arranged periodically.
The Festivals are run independently by separate Committees:
- the Scottish Country Dance Festival runs for two days in March.
- the Music & Drama Festival is in the first week of June, concluding with a competitive recital on Friday evening.
Other Activities: Performing Arts and Community Engagement
Throughout the year, the Association undertakes a number of projects to promote the performing arts. These include workshops, masterclasses and short concerts. Please see Events page for further details.
Rehearsal space, with a grand piano in situ, is available at the Festival Office at H1, Hill of Rubislaw free of charge to supporters. Within the office there is a Library of music open to all.
Syllabus and entries
The Dance syllabus is available in the Autumn and the Music, Speech & Drama syllabus at the end of the year. Both are updated annually following consultation with teachers and others interested in the performing arts.
Entries for the Music Festival close in March and should be made online. Postal entries can be made too. Entries for the Dance Festival close in November.
The Music and Drama Festival Syllabus
Over 400 classes in 6 different categories are offered, with many different options within each.
- Adult Performance
- Instrumental Music
- Chamber Music
- Concerto Class
- Piano & Percussion
- Bowed Instruments
- Music for Groups
- Recorder & Wooodwind
- Speech & Drama
- Solo readings & verse
- Solo Public speaking
- Creative Performance, Mime, Improvisation
- Own compositions
- Local North East Stories from the Past
- Traditional Music
- Vocal & Choral
- Choirs & ensembles
- Scots, Folk Hebridean
- Gilbert & Sullivan, Operatta
- Light Music
All are welcome to the Festivals, and an appreciative audience is key to the performers' experiences. To help cover the costs of the Festival, all audience members are asked to pay an admittance fee.
There is no charge for:
- children and students in full time education.
- admittance to the closing concert (donations are invited)
- any Sunday concert sponsored by the Co-op Community Fund.
Ensuring access to festival activities
The Association strives to make its activities generally accessible:
- Entry to classes is open to all. The majority of participants come from the North East of Scotland, but a some travel from further afield to take part. Age is no barrier: classes are open to children under 7, and the oldest performer in 2017 was in her eighties.
- Entry fees are kept at a nominal level, in line with those of other Scottish festivals.
- Any performer can elect for their performance to be adjudicated as non-competitive. There are a number of specifically non-competitive classes.
- Performances are open to the public and audience attendance is welcome.
- Admission prices for concerts are kept at a nominal level. Day tickets are £5, weekly tickets £15
- Venues are local to the Aberdeen town centre, or in areas with easy parking.
- Membership of the Association is open to all for a fee of £15 per annum.
- The Committees review, consult and update the festival classes annually
Prizes, Bursaries and other Awards
The Association awards a number of trophies to encourage performers and has a number of funds established for the purpose of making small monetary prizes.
The Music Festival has two bursaries available to a promising student in each of the piano and vocal sections.
For 2020, sponsorship is being sought to raise prize money for the winners of the final competitions, the Challenge Classes.
The Association continually explores ways in which prizes can be used to promote its objectives and inspire performers. Examples have included complimentary tickets to concerts in the city and consultation lessons at a local music school.