The William Shield Festival returns to Tyneside after last year’s success, which saw nearly 1000 performers and listeners take part in twelve eye-catching events.

William Shield is Tyneside’s neglected musical genius, and the Festival 2017 aims to bring him to a wider audience through a series of inspiring recitals, talks and other events during the first week of July.  Born in Swalwell in 1754, William Shield started life as a shipyard apprentice but eventually became famous as England’s leading composer of ballad operas and also as Master of the King’s Music under George IV.  

A pupil of the illustrious Newcastle Cathedral organist, Charles Avison, Shield became a virtuoso viola player, toured widely and settled in London, helping to found the Covent Garden Opera House.  He made a large amount of money, and was constantly associated with royalty and on his death, willed his favourite viola to King George IV.  He was the Founder of the Roast Beef Club and is buried in Westminster Abbey.

Amongst many other works, Shield composed a light opera ‘Rosina’ which was set at Gibside and was the smash hit of 1783!  The overture contains a melody strikingly similar to that of ‘Auld Lang Syne’, the melody of which is also close to that of a traditional English folk song.  This has generated a long-term, spirited controversy about the origins of the Scots song.  During the festival, Community Music Whickham and Swalwell (CMWS) will perform the opera giving audience members the opportunity to compare the various melodies and draw their own conclusions.

Shield died in 1829 and many local residents do not know much, if anything, of this fantastic talent the area fathered.  CMWS wish to rectify this and so you will hear, during the festival, more intriguing facts of William’s life, his contemporary musicians and the literati of the times.  

The festival will take place from Saturday 1st July to Saturday 8th July across a number of local venues in Whickham, Swalwell and Newcastle’s Literary and Philosophical Society and will include performances from CMWS students and prestigious guests with local connections.