Singer Emma goes back to where it all started ...

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A music festival which was founded by famous Brighouse singer Susan Sunderland will mark its 125th anniversary this month with a number of special events.

The Mrs Sunderland Festival, held in Huddersfield, celebrates the achievements of Yorkshire’s ‘Queen of Song’ and has provided a platform for many national and international singers at the outset of their careers over the years.

This year’s festival, which will be held at Huddersfield Town Hall from February 13 to 22, will feature a concert by four professional singers, including Halifax-born Emma Williams, who made her name in the West End show ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’. Other highlights include a ‘Reach for the Stars’ concert celebrating the achievements of children with special needs and workshops with Dr Paul Whittaker, founder of Music and the Deaf.

Festival chairman Michael Hampshire said: “Over the years the festival has expanded considerably to include all aspects of music, speech, drama and the written word and now caters for more than 2,000 performers of all ages and abilities.

“We are proud to be able to give all our performers the opportunity to perform in such a superb venue as Huddersfield Town Hall.

“We are also proud that Huddersfield Choral Society, which recently celebrated its 175th anniversary, will perform Elgar’s ‘The Music Makers’ at our gala concert, the words of which celebrate the beauty of music.”

Mrs Sunderland, nee Sykes, was born in 1819 at Spring Gardens, Slead Syke, and was trained to sing by Luke Suttle, a Brighouse blacksmith and later choirmaster at Brighouse Parish Church. Her talent as a soprano earned her the title ‘The Halifax Nightingale’ and she regularly performed at Leeds Music Festival and with Halifax Choral Society. She performed for royalty on several occasions. She died in 1905 at the age of 86 and is buried in Brighouse.

Emma Williams will participate in the Celebrating Success concert on February 15. She trained at Stage ‘84 and with Michael Hampshire and has taken a number of roles on the West End stage, on radio and TV. She recently played Melinda in George Farquhar’s comedy The Recruiting Officer.

The festival has more than 100 classes for music, song, speaking and drama. Visit