THE search is on for the next supreme champion of the Swindon Music Festival.

Musicians and singers of all ages are being urged to polish up their brass, pluck up their strings, warm up their vocals and pick up a copy of the 2018 syllabus, which is out now.

Last year’s Supreme Champion was Zoe Tan, who scooped the CS Macpherson Trophy.

Those entering need to sign up for the 109th annual festival before Friday, January 12, 2018.

Over the past few years there has been a marked rise in the number of pianists entering the competition so, this year, organisers have decided to give them a competition of their own.

The Beatrice Plaum Challenge Cup will be awarded to the winner of the Junior Piano Competition, which will take place on March 21, the same evening as the Instrumental Championship.

The festival begins on March 16 at Christ Church with classes in church organ and choirs.

Chairman Geoff Walters said: “It would be nice to have more choirs entering.

“The evening at Christ Church is so lovely and they can sing hymns, sacred music, anthems or their own choice of song.’’

The bulk of the classes then move to the Swindon Arts Centre, in Devizes Road, Old Town, from March 17 to 24, including the Junior Vocal Championship, in which competitors will battle it out for the RG Cripps Challenge Trophy.

Other trophies and cups awarded throughout the festival include the Swindon Advertiser Cup for Girls’ or Boys’ Solo under eight, The Holmes Music Woodwind Trophy and The Senior Guitar Solo Trophy.

And there will be the Vocal Championship Cup Contest for the Free Church Council Challenge Cup.

All singers will be accompanied by Swindon’s own concert pianist Paul Turner, the founder of the Swindon Recital Series.

Paul has played at the Wigmore Hall recitals with Patricia Rozario and Caroline Dale, recorded concerts with Elizabeth Watts for the BBC, played concertos with the English Chamber Orchestra and broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s In Tune programme.

The adjudicators will be Christopher Daly, James Kirby and Andrea Calladine.

While Swindon has produced more pianists, the older singers seem to have fallen away from the festival and Geoff would like to encourage the adults to return.

“We have so many really good older singers in this town. The festival is for people to enjoy singing, people are not there to criticise,’’ he said.

Geoff himself has been involved with the festival since 1952 when he first entered aged nine.

“I love going and taking part. It is a special week in my calendar,’’ he said.

Geoff’s father, Arthur Walters, was a previous festival chairman, who served until 1990 and his mother Betty was on the committee.

“My grandfather was on the first committee which was set up following the success of the first festival in 1909, when there were just six choirs in the Mechanics Institute,’’ said Geoff.

He is keen to help the next generation with their first steps in music, as well as provide an entertaining festival for everyone, covering everything from folk to pop, choral to opera, gospel to jazz.

“One of my biggest wishes for this year is to persuade the many older people living in Old Town to pop down for a session to see some great music during the day,’’ said Geoff. Visit