THE 109th annual Swindon Music Festival got off to a rousing start at Christ Church in Old Town on Friday evening with choral performances and organ recitals.

The Roger S Mant Church Organ Trophy was presented to Sasha Rachel Fernandes who scored 86 points with her performance in the Church Organ - Grade 4 and under category, while Julian Pinn was awarded The Bill Ruck Church Organ Shield in the Church Organ - Grade 5 and over category, also with 86 marks.

Gemma Wright was awarded The Jack Winter Memorial Trophy in the Novice – any voice category which saw the adjudicators score her with a mark of 86.

Christ Church's own choir won The Church Choir Shield in the Adult Church Choirs category after scoring 85, while The Hill Challenge Shield went to Bel Canto in the Adult Choirs who scored 88.

Adjudicating was Christopher Daly who said: "The Swindon Music Festival commenced its 2018 season at Christ Church with a wide variety of music from Church Organ, Adult Vocal Novices and Adults Choirs of the highest standard which bodes well for the next 7 days of musical competition at the Arts Centre."

Classes will continue this week, with james Kirby overseeing the categories at the Arts Centre on Devizes Road today, tomorrow and Wednesday.

Chairman of the Swindon music Festival Geoff Walters said: "The Swindon Music Festival, which is fimrly established as the event which annually makes the biggest single contribution to the cultural and artistic life of our town, owes its beginnings to a trip to Wales more than 100 years ago by Mr R.G. Cripps, the grandfather of one of our helpers of many years, Jill Austen.

"During his visit, Mr Cripps, who later became a member of Swindon Town Council and was mayor from 1938-29, attended Eisteddfod and was profoundly impressed.

"he returned home convinced than an event of this kinf would find ready support in Swindon, and which would give a great deal of pleasure.

"How right he was on both counts, the support for the festival remains very strong and the pleasure that it has given over so many years cannot be underestimated.

"Once again, I must stress how provileged we are in Swindon to enjoy the quality of music to which we have become accustomed. Thanks must go o the many excellent teachers, both private and in schools who develop and encourage the amazing musical talent, vocal and instrumental that we are fortunate to have in this area.

"Each year I refer to the fact that we are so licky to have so many children and adults who are prepared to give up so much of their time to making music.

"All your support is greatly appreciated, and I appeal to you all to support the 2018 Swindon Music Festival, and may we all find in it some enrichment of life and plenty to encourage and inspire us."