So called “Competitive Festivals” first began in Britain in the late 19th Century. In Essex they began a little later in 1906. The Essex Musical Association (EMA), formed from local choirs, organised an annual choral singing competition which tested various singing skills such as sight reading. This was followed in the evening by a concert for the public and used to take place on the 1st Saturday in May at the Chelmsford Corn Exchange until this was demolished in 1969. The Festival continued to be held at various other Essex locations for example in Thaxted in 1979.
Well known composers for example Ralph Vaughan Williams and David Willcocks, came as adjudicators to the Festival. BCS joined the EMA in 1946 and, two years after joining the association, won the Division II trophy. Other Brentwood wins occurred in 1969 and 1970.
Over time, the Festival became unsustainable financially and the competitive element was dropped in 1985 at the suggestion of Dr Brice, mainly because of the disparity between the resources of the various choirs. (EMA 1906-2006). The co-operative element continued until the Association finally wound up in 2009. But the spirit of the original organisation continues in the form of the biannual Essex Choirs Festival.
2 Lenten Concert in Brentwood Cathedral March 2016
 “The competing choirs were: Bentley ……Choral Society, …..Brentwood Choral Society ( Dr E P Brice), Saffron Walden Musical Society…..Shenfield W.I. and Stansted Musical Society…
Brentwood who were first in three classes and second in two others, were awarded the trophy for best all round choir of the day. The adjudicator Mr Edric Condell, praised them for the quality of their voices and their imaginative singing…….
Results in the various classes:-
Accompanied chorus “Soul of the world” (Purcell)- Brentwood 84,Saffron Walden 81, Stansted 78, Bentley 77.
Madrigal “Come Shepherds Follow me” (Benet)- Brentwood 85, Saffron Walden 83, Stansted 82, Bentley 82.
Test passages from “Sleepers Awake!” (Bach)- Brentwood 85, Stansted 80, Saffron Walden 77, Bentley 75.
Male Voice Choirs “Dr Foster” (Herbert Hughes)- Saffron Walden 80, Bentley 78, Stansted 76, Brentwood 75.
Female Voice Choirs”Where my Thoughts” (Scarlatti) Shenfield W.I. 82, Brentwood 81, Stansted 80, Bentley78, Saffron Walden 77.
Sight reading – Stansted 9/10,Saffron Walden 8/10, Brentwood 7/10, Bentley 6/10” (Essex Chronicle 14th May 1948)