The Mrs Sunderland Festival

Susannah Sunderland (1819-1905) was born in 1819 to James and Hannah Sykes, and would become one of the most well-known singers in the country. Her singing was encouraged by local musicians including John Denham, who was choirmaster at Bridge End Congregation Church, Rastrick; Luke Settle, who was choirmaster at Brighouse Parish Church and Henry Goldthorpe, who taught her music and singing.44


The Mrs Sunderland Festival

Huddersfield Town Hall, Corporation St, Huddersfield HD1 2TA, UK

Music Festivals


In 1838 Susannah married Henry Sunderland. Susannah toured England and Scotland extensively, including performing in front of Queen Victoria at the opening of Leeds Town Hall in 1858. This led to her giving a private concert at Buckingham Palace for Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, and guests on 1 July 1859. Victoria reportedly said, ‘I may be the Queen of England but you are the Queen of Song.’ Locally this gave her the title Yorkshire’s Queen of Song.45

In 1888, when Henry and Susannah celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary, a concert was held in their honour. Some of the money raised was used to fund the first Mrs Sunderland Music Competition on 12 April 1889. The festival has taken place every year since except 1940.46

The festival now covers nine days. It includes a wide range of vocal sections; there are sections for adult and junior choirs, piano, brass, woodwind, recorder, strings and percussion, as well as school orchestras and bands. In addition, choral workshops have been introduced for both juniors and adults, plus workshops for children with special educational needs.

The entries for the 2020 festival open the first week in September and the syllabus will be available from 2 September on the website by following this link.

The footage below features Mrs Sunderland Festival Centenary in 1989. © The Huddersfield Movie Makers Club.

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