The Bromsgrove International Musicians Competition was originally part of the Bromsgrove Festival which was started in 1960 by Joe Stones, a violinist and founder of the Bromsgrove String Orchestra. In 1980 its new Chairman, Dr Mary White, on the advice of the Festival’s Artistic Director, Dr Donald Hunt, added a Young Musicians Platform as part of it, to give an opportunity for talented young musicians to perform publicly. She invited Joyce Messenger, an acclaimed local musician and music lecturer to run the Platform and she in turn recruited Peter Ward to assist her. This International Platform was then successfully held annually from April 1981, at first in the Bromsgrove College Hall and latterly at the New Guesten Hall in the Avoncroft Museum of Buildings in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire.
The Competition has always been judged by a panel of distinguished adjudicators, well-known musicians, providing a wide spread of expertise. Their first chairman was Richard Butt, a member of the BBC staff at Pebble Mill, the Birmingham Radio and Television Centre. Subsequently, Sir John Manduell, then Principal of the Northern College of Music, Manchester, served as chairman for many years until in turn his place was taken by Sir Philip Ledger, prior to his sad and untimely death in 2012. The present chairman, Edmond Fivet CBE, was then appointed.
In early 2013 Dr Mary White was unable to continue as Chairman through ill-health. The Festival itself faced a number of difficulties that put its future in jeopardy. Enthusiasts believed that the Platform should be saved, and a steering committee was formed. Their view was that the Platform should continue separately from the Festival, and the Directors of the Festival Company were consulted and agreed.
The Competition’s objectives were to further, encourage and advance the teaching and learning of music by the playing of musical instruments and singing by young people through the promotion of musical competitions in Bromsgrove.
In pursuit of those objectives in 2013 the steering committee was encouraged by Matthew Horton, a local solicitor, to form a closer partnership with Bromsgrove School of which he had been a governor and which had supported the Competition in earlier years. The fruition of the discussions he initiated was that Bromsgrove School became an important partner. They generously provided a new venue for the Competition, the Routh Hall, and accommodation for competitors and adjudicators. The school intends to develop the Routh Hall to include a new concert hall and rehearsal rooms. It is hoped that this will become the Competition’s permanent home.
Under the Chairmanship of His Honour Ian Morris the Platform then became The Bromsgrove International Young Musicians Competition, later in 2016 renamed as The Bromsgrove International Musicians’ Platform. It became a registered charity run by a board of trustees with public accountability and a professional management structure. Its sustainability depends as in the past on the generosity of music lovers. It is now widely known particularly in musical circles simply as ‘The Bromsgrove’.
In 2015, the 35th Anniversary Competition ran for five days in order to expand the number of competitors that could be accepted to fifty four. The prize money and performing opportunities were significantly increased to attract the highest calibre applicants. The President generously continued his prize of £1,000 for the best performance of a piece of music composed after 1950. Extracts of the winning performances may be seen and heard under the 2015 Competition tab.
The Bromsgrove in 2016 attracted over eighty applicants from all over the globe. Fifty four were accepted on merit to be competitors who travelled to take part from twenty two countries. These talented musicians contested the competition with vigour and an outstanding double bassist won first prize. A highlight of his performance may be listened to under the 2016 Competition tab. The Sir John Manduell Prize has been continued by the Trustees as a mark of appreciation following Sir John’s retirement as President in 2015. He continues to show a keen interest in the development of the competition. Professor Julian Lloyd Webber, now Principal of the Birmingham Conservatoire, presented the prizes and spoke of the importance of maintaining such prestigious competitions as The Bromsgrove.
In 2016 The Bromsgrove Young Musicians’ Platform also made its debut for those young musicians still at school. Its Chairman, Alison Webber, secured a strong team of supporters to launch it successfully. Worcestershire Music Services supported the venture in providing communication to State Schools. Nearly fifty potential finalists were auditioned at the Elgar School of Music in Worcester. The Finalists’ Concert took place at the Huntingdon Hall, Worcester on Thursday 10th March. There were two sections – a Junior Section for those 9 to 13 years of age and a Senior Section for those 14 to 17. The quality of the young musicians, even though as a pilot the Platform was restricted to entries from Worcestershire alone, was extremely high. Generous bursaries were awarded to winners and runners up in each section aimed at developing their musical talent.
Peter Ward who was so involved in the early days has written about how the first competitors, who were hosted by Bromsgrove families, always commented on the friendly and relaxed atmosphere of the competition. The present trustees have been gratified to hear from the last three years’ competitors that they have enjoyed a similar experience and that The Bromsgrove is one of the best organised international competitions they have attended.
The trustees aim to continue raising the international profile of the Competition and to ensure that the significant growth in the number of world class applicants continues. The first prize is being raised to £6,000 in 2017. Additional opportunities to perform are being sought apart from those currently offered by the Birmingham Conservatoire, Bromsgrove Concerts and Three Choirs Festival.
The Bromsgrove Young Musicians’ Platform, after evaluation of a highly successful first year, will for the 2017 Platform expand the geographical to cover the Three Counties (Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Herefordshire). All young musicians who are either resident or at school in any of those three counties will be able to enter. Auditions will take place at the Elgar School of Music in Worcester but the Finalists’ Concert will take place in Bromsgrove.
The trustees intend that through the futures of both The Bromsgrove Competition and The Bromsgrove Young Musicians Platform classical music will reach out to a much broader public.