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Celebrity Drawings by John
Moss

Classical Music, Theatre & Performance
in Manchester


Kathleen Ferrier

Kathleen Ferrier

(1912-53)
Kathleen Ferrier was born
in Blackburn, Lancashire on 22 April 1912, and from humble beginnings
as a telephonist in the 1930s she went on, within a decade, to
become what many consider to be the finest contralto England has
ever produced. From the outset she regarded her singing as little
more than a hobby. She had no formal music training, but was a
fine pianist and a good musician. She was also an accomplished
painter. Her singing career really took off in 1942 when, on the
advice of Sir Malcolm Sargent, she moved from Carlisle in Cumberland
(now Cumbria) to live in London. In 1944 she made her first records.
She became very much in demand during the war years and performed
in many tours for the Council for the Encouragement of Music and
the Arts (CEMA), developing an ever broadening repertoire of music,
including Handel’s “Messiah” , and Elgar’s “Dream
of Gerontius” , as well as songs by Brahms, Mahler, Schubert
and Schumann.
She also performed operatic works by Benjamin Britten ( “The
Rape of Lucretia” ). After the war she travelled extensively
to perform in Europe, America and Canada. During the 1950s her
voice became popular with an ever widening home audience through
radio, and songs like “Blow the wind southerly” and
“What is life to me without thee?” were ever popular
requests long after her death. In the event, her performance of
Gluck’s “Orfeo” at Covent Garden in 1953 and was to
be her very last and she died on 8 October of that year.

Charles Alexander Calvert

Charles Alexander Calvert

(1828-1879)
Charles Calvert is perhaps best remembered for lavish Shakespeare
revivals presented in the Prince’s Theatre in Manchester in the
1860s and 1870s, at a time when Shakespearean plays were not very
popular. He was born on 28th February 1828 in London, the son
of a wholesale silk merchant, who had planned for his son to enter
a career in Law. Charles refused this, however, and chose the
church – unable to agree, his father eventually allowed him to
enter trade, and set him to work in one of his silk warehouses.
Calvert was an ardent theatregoer, and inspired by the actor Phelps
performance in “Macbeth “, he determined to enter the acting profession.
His first walk on role was in a play in Weymouth, and within 2
years he had become juvenile lead and stage manager in a theatre
in Surrey. In 1856 he married the actress Adelaide Biddles, who
frequently appeared beside him in dramatic productions. In 1859
he was invited by John Knowles to join his company as leading
actor and stage manager at the Theatre Royal in Manchester. During
his time in Manchester he achieved great acclaim as a Shakespearean
actor, starring in most of Shakespeare’s leading male roles –
Wolsey in “Henry VIII” , “King Lear” , Brutus, Shylock and Iago.
Later he moved on to manage the Prince’s Theatre in Manchester,
where his productions were earmarked by their lavish settings,
enormous cast lists and elaborate costumes. In 1873, for example,
he hired 170 local people as extras for “Henry V” . He insisted
on hiring the best available – the best scene painters, costumiers,
make-up artists, etc, and insisted that Shakespeare be spoken
accurately and word perfect. In 1875 Calvert left for the United
States of America and revived his Manchester production of “Henry
V” which was met with widespread applause. His last performance
in 1879 was at the Queen’s Theatre in Manchester, where he performed
in “Aesop” , a play which had been specially written for him.

Annie Horniman

Annie Horniman

(1860-1937)
Annie Elizabeth Fredericka Horniman, made a great contribution
in pioneering work in the theatre and in the repertory theatre
movement in Manchester. She actively encouraged writers like Shaw,
Yeats and Synge and offered financial backing to their works.
Born in Forest Hill in London in 1860, the daughter of a wealthy
family, she used what inheritance she had in backing theatrical
enterprises, and is responsible in many ways for sustaining much
that was creditable in the Edwardian and early 20th century theatre
in England. She had been educated at the Slade School of Art and
travelled extensively.
Her first contact with the theatre was when she supported a season
of plays by Bernard Shaw at the Avenue Theatre in London. Later
in Ireland she supported Yeats and gave financial backing to the
Irish National Theatre Society in Dublin.
In 1907 she came to Manchester to form a drama company where they
opened in the Midland Theatre at the Midland
Hotel
. In 1908 she purchased the Comedy Theatre in Peter Street
and renamed it the Gaiety Theatre. From then until 1921, when
the theatre was sold, her repertory company performed hundreds
of plays, many as debut performances of original works commissioned
from local playwrights – the so-called “Manchester School”. Amongst
these were Stanley Houghton’s “Hindle Wakes” (See below), and
Harold Brighouse’s “Hobson’s Choice” .
Many famous actors and actresses performed at Horniman’s Gaiety
Theatre – amongst them Cybil Thorndike and Lewis Casson. In 1933
she received an honorary MA from Manchester University and was
made a Companion of Honour. A plaque inside Television House in
Peter Street marks the former site of the Gaiety Theatre.

William Stanley Houghton

William Stanley Houghton

(1881-1913)
Probably the best known of the so-called ‘Manchester School’ of
dramatists, Stanley Houghton was born in Ashton-upon-Mersey in
Cheshire. A delicate boy whose family were continually moving
house, he was educated at many schools, and excelled as a talented
scholar.
In 1896 his parents moved to Alexander Park in Manchester, and
Houghton attended the high-flying Manchester Grammar School. Choosing
not to follow an academic career at university, he went directly
from school into his father’s cotton business, while spending
every spare moment developing his skills at writing plays. He
supplemented his income by writing critical reviews for the “Manchester
Guardian” and the “Manchester City News” , though frequently he
did this work without pay. He also acted in several small dramatic
productions and wrote a few melodramas, a genre which he was persuaded
to abandon by Annie Horniman (see above). Eventually, his writing
gained popular acclaim, and in 1908 Horniman’s Gaiety Theatre
produced his one act comedy “The Dear Departed” , followed by
his “Independent Means” in 1909 and “The Younger Generation” in
1910.
In 1912, his play “Hindle Wakes” was so successful that Houghton
felt at last able to take up playwriting full time. The play,
representing a close observation of Lancashire life, and presented
by Miss Horniman’s Company, was first performed in the Aldwych
Theatre in London. Houghton was hailed as a dramatic genius, and
he took a flat in London. Later he moved to Paris. However, after
only a few weeks in the French capital, he was taken ill suddenly.
After a partial recovery, he worked on a novel entitled “Life”
, but recurrent bouts of illness saw his health gradually deteriorate,
and it developed into meningitis. He was moved back to Manchester,
and he died on 11th December 1913 – only a month after moving
to Paris, and a year as a full-time writer. A plaque commemorating
Houghton can be found in the Local History Library in Manchester
Central Library
.

 


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Copyright
© John Moss, Papillon Graphics AD 2013 Manchester, United Kingdom – all rights reserved.
This page last updated 23 Dec 11.