Competing in Sheffield: The David Clover Festival of Singing

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I recently took part in my first singing competition outside of the conservatoire environment at The David Clover Festival of Singing in Sheffield which was a great learning curve. I entered 4 of 6 classes and was selected to perform in the final for two of my classes: ‘Oratorio or sacred aria’ and ‘Lieder’. In this blog I would like to tell you all, firstly, a little bit about the set-up of the competition and, secondly, some of the things I have learnt from the experience. Getting exposure in an increasingly saturated and competitive industry like opera is difficult, however, entering competitions is a great way to ‘put your face (and voice) out there’. The David Clover Festival of Singing had a warm and friendly atmosphere making it a safe place to perform at your best. With substantial cash prizes to be won, it’s a competition young singers should be considering.

‘The Singers’ Platform’ at The David Clover Festival of Singing is a competition for singers between the age of 19 and 28 who are studying at undergrad or postgrad level at a conservatoire or university, or are being privately tutored. There are six classes in total details for which are as follows:

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The festival takes place during the last weekend of January on Friday evening, all day Saturday and Sunday, concluding with the final on Sunday evening. You may bring your own accompanist or request one of the festival accompanists who were Catherine Hall-Smith and Tim Kennedy this year- they’re both brilliant! Due to the number of singers who enter the festival and the distances that some of them travel, more than one session can be held for each class across the weekend i.e. there may be 3 sessions held for Class 2 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday depending on how many singers subscribe. The festival endeavoured to schedule singers on the same day to avoid lots of travelling. As I was travelling from Plymouth, all 4 of the classes I entered were scheduled on Sunday. Although I only took part in one day, the distance I travelled meant that I needed to book two nights of accommodation in Sheffield as classes began at 10 AM on the Sunday. Also, I knew that if I had proceeded to the final on the Sunday, which wouldn’t have finished until 10 PM, there’d be no late night train home for me. Unless you can drive and don’t mind travelling late, this is something you should consider, especially when budgeting.

I’ve compiled a short list of tips to help any singers who are thinking of entering a singing competition and more specifically this one:


If you’ve entered more than one class, make sure you pace yourself. On the day, I warmed-up, rehearsed the repertoire for each class with the festival accompanist and then performed in my classes. I was fortunate enough to proceed to the final in 2 classes but come the evening I was a little tired vocally. I was at the venue for a total of 12 hours- looooong day!


If you are travelling from a distance, like myself, I would recommend that you ask whether it would be possible to perform on the Saturday rather than the Sunday. If you proceed to the finals, you will then be eligible for a £50 travel bursary- it also means you’ll be nice and fresh vocally for the final. What’s more, it states in the handbook that up to 4 of 5 finalists can potentially be selected for the final of the recital and opera classes on the Friday and Saturday and only 1 on the Sunday. Having said this, not as many were put through to the final on the Friday and Saturday this year and all finalists were well deserving- something to consider though!


Many opera singers that I speak to have never heard of Theatre Digs. It’s much like ‘Air BnB’ but for theatre professionals and cheaper- you need to CHECK. IT. OUT. !


I’d travelled all the way up to Sheffield so I feel I should have just entered all six!


Remember to consider all expenses… not just travel. I’ve included mine below to give you an idea.

£66 return train + £36 two nights with Theatre Digs + £15 on food + £75 entry for 4 classes = £192

**If I had performed on the Saturday not the Sunday, I would have received a £50 travel bursary to return for the final, so even though I would have had to book another night in Theatre Digs at £18, I would have had £32 to go towards my overall expenditure**


Don’t leave entering to the last minute as you need to send off all of your music photocopies (which is always time consuming) for the festival accompanist. Your application will need to arrive in the post by the deadline date, so leave a good week to ensure your post arrives on time.

2020 DATES

Festival dates for 2020 will be the weekend of the 24th, 25th and 26th of January, if the deadline is around the same time as this year then it will be around the 24th of November 2019. Hope you’ve found this post helpful, any questions please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below.

Charlotte xx