FOR the first time in its history, Woking Music Festival was prevented from staging live events where entrants performed in front of the judges.

The 94th festival had to become virtual because of the COVID-19 restrictions, with videos of performances – including entries by barbershop choirs – submitted online.

Despite the circumstances and orchestras and large choirs being unable to compete, there was a positive response. More than 300 entries were received, including some from other parts of the UK and three from Hong Kong.

Each entrant performed via a video link which was forwarded to the adjudicators who assessed and marked them with constructive comments. The adjudicators commented on the high quality of many of the recordings as well as the high standard of many performances.

The festival committee received some positive feedback. One parent wrote: “We really enjoyed participating in the Woking Music Festival this year. It was great to have it and it gave us a sense of normality.”

Another said: “Thank you so much for a wonderful festival this year. Even though it was all virtual, our daughter enjoyed it immensely and she is very grateful for the experience.”

Founded by Nancy Leigh in 1926, the festival is now one of the largest of its kind in Surrey and more than 1,000 people of all ages and abilities take part each year. The event is affiliated to the British and International Federation of Festivals (BIFF), which provides support for amateur festivals.

Because of the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the organising committee has reluctantly decided not to stage the Woking Young Musician of the Year ompetition, which is usually held at the beginning of February.

It hopes to run a showcase performance, with musicians appearing in person, later in the year. Information on the event will be posted on when a decision is made.

See the 10 December edition of the News & Mail for more pictures and the 2020 class winners