Announcing William Shield Festival


The innovative CMWS is the powerhouse behind the William Shield Festival, a cornucopia of delights designed to celebrate the life and times of this great, but often forgotten, local musician of yesteryear.

William Shield was born in Swalwell in 1748 and rose to the position of Master of the King's Musick and was principal violinist at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. He is buried at Westminster Abbey.

Events to celebrate the life and times of this local lad done good will take place in Swalwell (Shield’s birthplace), Whickham and Newcastle upon Tyne. 

For details of individual events please see our Facebook page.

Please come along, there will be something for everyone!


Timetable of Events
Click here to download a list of events during the festival.
leaflet reverse.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 443.6 KB

Events in the Festival

You will be

  • enthralled by the Concert Royal’s presentation of Jane Austen’s Musical England, a fun introduction for all the family to music from earlier times
  • enchanted by the new William Shield the Musical , a mini opera composed by John Treherne, with a libretto by Pauline Piddington, performed by CMWS musicians and local school children
  • delighted by the strings of Amelie Addison and the Akenside Trio
  • soothed by Kevin Mantu’s piano recital of works by Shield's contemporary, Joseph Haydn and Clementi, the virtuoso pianist and piano manufacturer
  • uplifted by the performance of Grieg’s cello sonata by Gordon Dixon, cellist extraordinaire and Chief Executive of the Avison Ensemble
  • entertained by lectures, recitals, poetry readings and family concerts.


For details of individual events please see our Facebook page.

Guest Performers

Amelie Addison, a talented violinist and cellist is currently undertaking PH D research into the music of Shield at Leeds University. She will be giving a presentation on his life and works with musical extracts provided by herself and the excellent multiple prize winning Akenside Trio.


Kevin Mantu, a young German Concert pianist, was a major prize winner in the Young Pianist of the North piano competition in December 2015. His programme will include music by composers associated with William Shield, such as Muzio Clementi and Joseph Haydn and will reflect the turbulent age of revolution, Napoleonic conflict, Trafalgar and Waterloo. His recital will be played on the wonderful Bosendorfer grand piano housed in the church of St Mary the Virgin, Whickham.


Gordon Dixon, cellist extraordinaire and Chief Executive of the Avison Ensemble, has agreed to perform the Grieg cello sonata. Strongly influenced by folk song, Grieg has a strong relationship with William Shield, whose compositions are imbued with the spirit of traditional music.


Other events will take place in Newcastle’s Literary and Philosophical Society, where a significant quantity of Shield’s music is securely housed.

Who was William Shield Anyway?

In 1754, a baby boy named William Shield was born in Swalwell and 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, William 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, in the same tomb as Salomon, the virtuoso violinist and orchestral impresario.

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. All of this has generated a long-term, spirited controversy about the origins of the splendid Scots song.  During the Festival, you will have the opportunity to compare the various melodies and draw your own conclusions!

You may like to spot the local area’s memorials to Shield: a striking monument in Whickham St Mary’s Churchyard and a modern plaque presented by Gateshead Council in 2009 and displayed near his birthplace at a site in Swalwell. A clue: the site is now a garage.

Shield died in 1829 and many local folk 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.

Donors and Sponsors

We would very much like to thank the following friends who have helped to make the William Shield Festival possible:

  • AkzoNobel International Paint Fund @ the Community Foundation
  • Linden Family Fund @ the Community Foundation
  • Sir James Knott Trust
  • Alan England
  • Friends of Gateshead Music Service
  • North of England Musical Tournament Trust
  • Church of St Mary the Virgin in Whickham
  • Holy Trinity Church in Swalwell
  • The Literary and Philosophical Society, Newcastle
  • The Young Pianist of the North Competition
  • The Avison Ensemble
  • St Mary's Visitor Centre
  • The Beamish Museum Choir
  • Swalwell History Society
  • Whickham History Society


Wow, we are so lucky to have your support - thank you so much everyone!