Classical Music, Theatre & Performance
Peter Maxwell Davies CBE
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, (widely known simply as 'Max'), was
born in Holly Street, Salford, son of Thomas and Hilda Davies,
on 8th September 1934, and would become one of Great Britain's
leading modern composers at the end of the 20th century. Later
his family moved home to live in Swinton. Peter attended Leigh
Grammar School, and despite the school's neglect of music in
the curriculum, he won a scholarship to the Royal Manchester
College of Music (now the Royal Northern School of Music) and
was a graduate of Manchester University. While at school, Peter
had fallen fowl of his headmaster (nicknamed the "Pig")
and he got his revenge by performing his first concert at the
RMCM entitled "Funeral March for a Pig". His
time at the so-called "Manchester School" was shared
with many notable colleagues, including John Ogden, Elgar Howarth,
Sandy Goehr and Harrison Birwistle.
After college, and when success and fame eventually came, he
moved to live on the island of Hoy in the Orkneys, from where
he regularly commuted to be the composer-conductor for the BBC
Philharmonic Orchestra, based in Manchester, and now at its
regular home at the Bridgewater Hall. His composed repertoire
numbers over 200 musical pieces for a whole range of ensembles
and is performed throughout the world. In 1981 he was made a
Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in the Queen's New Year's
Honours list and in 1987 he was created a Knight Bachelor for
his services to music.
In December 2004 a series of events was held at Manchester University's
Department of Music in celebration of his 70th birthday, and
his appointment as Master of the Queen's Music. On 29th November
2004 he was made a Freeman of the City of Salford, and a performance
took place of his specially commissioned 5 pieces of music for
Salford, based on his boyhood experiences in the city. Amongst
many international honours, he has Honorary Doctorates of Music
at the Universities of Salford, Hull, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Durham
and Manchester, and an Honorary Doctor of Law at the University
of Aberdeen. He is a Fellow of the Royal Northern College of
Music, a Member of the Royal Academy of Music, and since 1993
has been a Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music. He
is Composer Laureate with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and
a Fellow of the Royal College of Music, London.
Born in Westminster Street in Wigan, the eldest of seven sons,
George Formby was christened William Booth. His father James
had been a well known music hall comedian who also used the
stage name George Formby. He had made a name for himself and
drew large audiences to the Wigan Hippodrome Theatre, where
he was known as the "Wigan Nightingale" in the early years of
the century. It had been his father who is credited with starting
the Wigan Pier joke.
George Formby Junior was a top UK box office draw between 1936
and 1945, during which time he was reputed to be Britain's highest
paid performer. His style was distinguished by his portrayal
of a rather naive Lancashire lad, who held rather staid and
prudish views and attitudes, but whose cheeky twinkle in the
eye, and catchphrase "Turned out nice again an't it?" endeared
him to millions. His act was invariably accompanied by his songs,
and the playing of the ukulele which became popular in their
time. Songs such as "When I'm Cleanin' Winders" and
"With Me Little Stick of Blackpool Rock" made him a popular
film comedian and a best selling gramophone record producer.
As a small boy, Formby had intended to become a jockey and worked
for a time as a stable boy, but after his father's death in
1921 he gave that up and turned to a career on the stage.
He later married Beryl Ingham, (then one half of a clog dancing
act with her sister May), and she was to become his manager
and mentor in show business. Her overbearing and dominant nature,
combined with constant jealousy made her overprotective of Formby,
and the marriage was far from a happy one, though she was also
energetic and pushy and did much to promote and maintain Formby's
Several of his early films were made in Manchester, including
"Off the Dole" and "Boots! Boots!", the latter
filmed above a garage in Manchester. Between 1937 and 1943 he
had the distinction of being the most widely watched British
film star. Practically all of his films were vehicles for his
songs, most of which subsequently became musical hits in their
films by Formby include "Riding at the TT Races", "Come on
George", "Trouble Brewing", "Let George Do It", "Spare a Copper"
and "Turned Out Nice Again". He died in retirement in
also the website at: http://www.georgeformby.co.uk/
Born Grace Stansfield in Rochdale on the 9th of January
1898, as Gracie Fields she was to become much adored by British
audiences in the 1930s and 1940s and a virtual legend in her
Her wartime performances were regarded as a great morale booster
to besieged Britons and to British Troops fighting overseas,
as well as becoming a virtual public hero in her native town.
This former mill-girl achieved her first major success in the
revue "Mr Tower of London" from 1918-1925, which brought
her to the attention of talent scouts - thereafter she was to
make many films in Britain and in Hollywood.
Her stage shows included many Royal Variety Performances between
1928 and 1964. Her style was typically Rochdalian - warm, vigorous
and down-to-earth, with no time for anything pretentious or
bordering on pomposity. Her songs became standard favourites
on the radio, and included "Sally", "The Biggest Aspidistra
in the World", and "Sing as We Go".
In 1937 she was granted the Freedom of the Borough of Rochdale.
She was created a Dame of the British Empire shortly before
her death in 1979 on the Island of Capri, to which she had retired
and lived permanently.
1978, she attended and formally opened the Gracie Fields Theatre,
named in her honour, in Rochdale.
Lisa Stansfield was born on 11th April 1966 in Heywood near
Rochdale. Since she first came on the music scene in 1989 with
a style heavily influenced by Diana Ross & The Supremes, she
has sold over ten million records world-wide and had numerous
top ten singles. Her
talent was evident from her earliest days and she won a Manchester
Evening News Talent Contest at the age of 14, held at The
Talk Of The Town club in Manchester city centre. She
then went on to appear on the TV show 'Razzamatzz' at
the age of 15. In 1983, she formed "Blue Zone" with former
school mates, Andy Morris (later to be her husband) and Ian
Devaney; subsequently she was signed up by Arista Records.
series of record successes followed, including in 1989, "People
Hold On" which reached Number 11 on the UK charts and won
Lisa a contract as a solo act. Notable
Stansfield record hits included 'This Is The Right Time',
which reached Number 13 in the UK charts in 1991, and "All
Around The World" - a UK Number One hit (No.3 in USA). Other
hits followed, including "Down in the Depths", "Real Love",
"Change," "All Woman," "Time To Make You Mine", "Set Your Loving",
"These Are The Days Of Our Lives", "So Natural", and "In
All The Right Places". Currently
she still works on and produces albums, though perhaps not quite
so much in the limelight as she had been in the early 1990s.
Russell Watson born in the Salford area of Manchester
in 1967. The only son of a working class family he grew up
in the suburbs of Manchester and after leaving school at 16
he began work in a local engineering factory. Russell had
already displayed a talent for entertainment and kept his
workmates amused by mimicking his works foreman. His desire
to sing and entertain soon led him to enter the annual "Search
for a Star" competition run by a Manchester-based radio
station, where he sang Neil Diamond songs and won the competition.
He then left his job, found a manager and set out working
on the sometimes harsh pub/club circuit of the Northwest of
The next seven years were hard for Russell, as he sang most
typically to audiences more interested in their beer and bingo
games than his crooning of Michael Bolton and Elvis songs.
Russell's first glimpse of a possible better future came after
he was famously advised to sing "nesty doormat" by "pavarooti"
("Nessun Dorma" made famous by Luciano Pavarotti),
one of Russell's idols. Russell immediately learnt the song
and tried it out on his next unsuspecting audience. He had
discovered a voice he never knew or dreamed existed, and the
audience responded with a standing ovation. His reputation
grew and he went on from the small smoky clubs of his earlier
days to sing at major rugby and football matches.
A dream was realised when he was asked to sing in front of
a capacity crowd at his beloved Manchester United Football
Club. The Old Trafford crowd stood in awe at his performance
of "Nessun Dorma" and rapturous applause followed. Russell
was soon to be found in the recording studios with Shaun Ryder
for Barcelona and then the England Rugby team for "Swing
In October 2000 he released his debut album, "The Voice"
which broke all world records by remaining in the No.1
spot of the classical charts for over 52 weeks. A most successful
professional career followed in the next 12 months - two Classical
Brit awards, a performance in Hyde Park with Pavarotti, concerts
in New Jersey in the USA, the Royal Albert Hall and the new
Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles. November 2001 saw the eagerly
awaited release of his second album, appropriately named
"Encore". Russell Watson currently stands at the top of
the classical music world.
In late 2007 Russell Watson underwent further intensive surgery
to remove an 'aggressive' brain tumour, and seems to have
survived the ordeal - we wish him good health, total recovery,
and a long career giving us great music! Russell's
official website is at www.russell-watson.com.
are indebted to Ms Sonia Derbyshire for providing the text
biography for Russell Watson.
William Walton was born on the 29 March 1902 at 93, Werneth
Hall Road, Oldham, Lancashire, into a musical family. His father
Charles had been one of the first students in 1893 at the Royal
Manchester College of Music, as well as being organist and choirmaster
at St John's Church, Werneth for more than 20 years; his mother,
Louisa Maria Turner, was a good amateur contralto. William had
an obvious musical talent and he and one of his brothers sang
in the St John's choir. Later, William was a chorister at Christ
Church Cathedral at Oxford where he also studied.
However, he left Oxford without a degree, and from 1920 lived
in London with the famous Sitwell family. Here he was introduced
to important musical and literary figures of the time, including
Delius, Diaghilev, and T. S. Eliot. By 1921, his "Façade"
soon became popular as an orchestral suite and ballet followed
by "Portsmouth Point" in 1925 which brought him international
acclaim. This was followed by a succession of virtual masterpieces
including "Belshazzar's Feast" in 1931 first performed
at the Leeds Festival, his "First Symphony" in 1935,
and a "Violin Concerto" in 1939. By now he had become
a celebrated composer and as a result in 1937 he was commissioned
to write the march "Crown Imperial" for the coronation
of King George VI.
This was the height of his career and his work was compared
to to that of Sir Edward Elgar, to whom he was seen as rightful
successor. However, after the Second World War, Walton's popularity
declined and he was somewhat eclipsed by Benjamin Britten, and
Walton considered to be a little staid and old-fashioned by
was to spend the later years of his life, Living on the island
of Ischia, near Naples where he continued to write music until
his death in 1983.
George Samuel Claude Lockhart, known as the "King of the Ring",
was the most celebrated circus ringmaster in the region, having
worked for 30 years at Blackpool Tower Circus before moving
Manchester's Belle Vue Circus, where he spent 32 years. His
father had been a ringmaster in Sweden before him, and had died
by being crushed by two stampeding elephants in a circus at
Walthamstow in London. George was well known and loved in the
world of the circus, instantly recognisable in his red tailcoat,
high top hat and smoking a big cigar, (a model for all circus
masters since then), and stories of his life as a ringmaster
abound. He was, apparently, involved in an unprovoked attack
by an elephant called Burma in 1962, when seized by the arm,
George calmly gave the elephant a chocolate treat and continued
with the show, despite having suffered multiple fractures to
his arm. He finally retired in 1970 at the age of 83. He died
at Blackpool at the ripe old age of 94 in 1979.