Sybil Harris MBE

Sybil was born in 1908. She lived at Tregorrick as a girl on a small farm and attended Mount Charles Infants and Girls Schools followed by the County School for Girls.  It was a musical family and there were hours of family music making on Sunday evenings after the service at Tregorrick Chapel. 

After teaching as a probationer at Mount Charles Infants School and a Mevagissey Girls School, Sybil joined the staff of the tiny Tywardreath Boys School in 1929. With the head, Francis Paynter, she formed the Tywardreath Boys School Orchestra. The orchestra flourished and entered many music festivals, even undertaking tours to Germany. Many boys continued with their music after they left the school; the most famous was Denis Brain, who became a player in the London Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. He ended up as Professor of Horn at Kneller Hall. When the orchestra was in danger of folding after the death of Francis Paynter in 1950, Sybil enlisted successfully the support of no less a person than Sir David Willcocks!

When the St Austell Music Festival was formed in 1948, Sybil became the Festival Clerk. In 1952, she was appointed the Competition Secretary and in 1967, the Honorary Secretary. After she retired from this post in 1997, she was happy to become a consultant and Friend of the Festival. The Festival started out at the Public Rooms, but then in 1956 moved to the Capitol Theatre, where “the seating was comfortable, but the sound went up into the roof”! In 1978, the festival moved to its present home, St John’s Methodist Church, where Sybil described the acoustic as “perfect”. Gradually, from the late 1950s, Speech was also introduced into the Festival, championed particularly by Jean Sales, but with Sybil’s blessing. Sybil herself was a perfectionist and was always determined to protect her adjudicators, keep order in the church during festival sessions and make sure that the officials did their duties properly! She worked tirelessly to prepare the syllabus and programmes, always making good use of her telephone to keep the festival running smoothly. Sybil was only ever satisfied with the very highest standards!  

In 1957 Sybil was awarded the Cornish Gorsedd Shield for years of work with Tywardreath Youth Orchestra

In 1976 She was awarded the Gorsedd Shield for service to the community and the cause of music through the St Austell Music Festival.

In 1989 came the MBE for voluntary service to music. 

In 1998 Sybil received the Treverva Shield for the encouragement of music by young people.