Classical Music, Theatre & Performance in Mancherster
Sir Thomas Beecham
(1879-1961) One time resident of Wigan, Thomas Beecham was born on 29 April 1879, the grandson of the founder of the famous “Beecham’s Pills” company. It was this successful business that helped finance his spending on the development of symphonic and operatic music in England and made him a great entrepreneur and promoter of music. Beecham made his debut as a conductor in London in 1905 and within a year he had began a series of concerts with his own New Symphony Orchestra; he went on in 1909 to form the Beecham Symphony Orchestra. Financing operatic presentations from his own personal fortune, he produced operas at Covent Garden in 1910 and others later at Drury Lane. He was particularly fond of the lesser-known operas of Richard Strauss, Frederick Delius, and various Russian composers, and actively promoted their introduction into the English opera repertoire. In particular he was instrumental in bringing Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes to London in 1911. His continued musical work resulted in his being knighted in 1916. Beecham conducted with various orchestras throughout the 1920s and in 1932 he founded the London Philharmonic Orchestra, with which he had a long association. During that year he also became artistic director of the British National Opera Company at Covent Garden. World War II saw him travelling and conducting in many foreign countries including Australia and the United States of America, where he conducted the Seattle Symphony and the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. In 1946 he founded the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London and continued to conduct it until 1960. Beecham also frequently acted as guest conductor at the Halle Orchestra in Manchester. Beecham was admired generally for the wit, energy and elegance of his interpretations, and was a strong and outspoken advocate for the maintenance of high standards in music. He was created a Companion of Honour in 1957. Thomas Beecham died on 8th March 1961.
(Born 1946) Classical music composer Michael Ball, (not to be confused with the popular music singer of the same name), was born in Manchester in 1946. His skills emerged early and he studied at the Royal College of Music, where he studied with Herbert Howells, Humphrey Searle and John Lambert. He received many honours and scholarships, including the Octavia Travelling Scholarship in 1970, which he used to study with Franco Donatoni in Italy. He has received many commissions, including five from the BBC over the last ten years, and has written several large-scale works for orchestra. Both “Resurrection Symphonies” (1982) and “Danses Vitales: Danses Macabres” (1987) were first performed by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. He has also worked on commissions at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester in 1986, worked with Stockport School Wind Band, with Besses o’ th’ Barn Band in 1991, and with the Black Dyke Band in 1997, as part of the BBC ‘Music Live!’ Festival. Important choral works by this composer include ” Sainte Marye Virgine” in 1979, “A Hymne to God my God” in 1984, and “Nocturns” in 1990. Michael has also written several pieces for younger musicians, including his opera “The Belly Bag” , to a libretto by Alan Garner. He has also made successful forays into more popular music with a string of albums released consistently over the years, and has made many television guest appearances. Michael Ball lives in Ireland with his wife Miriam and young son, Alexander.
(1900-1976) Composer Maurice Johnstone, born in Manchester in 1900, is perhaps one of the north west’s lesser known musical talents, who and spent the greater part of his life working in the region. He studied at the Royal Manchester College of Music (now the Royal Northern College of Music). As a young man he worked for a time in the retail trade and later as a journalist. In 1932 he was employed as a secretary to Sir Thomas Beecham, (see above) with whom he worked for three years resulting in an association, through Beecham with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Johnstone did much of the preparation and marking of scores for him. He also composed several musical pieces including “The Tempest” , the “Anthem for Brass” , “Cumbrian Rhapsody”, “Tarn How”, “Dover Beach, “Welsh Rhapsody” and an overture entitled “Sea Dogs” , amongst others. He also wrote many stirring marches including “Pennine Way”, “Watling Street” , “County Palatine” and “Beaufighters” . His song compositions included “At Night”, “Hush” and “So Are You To My Thoughts”. After 1935 he worked in the Music Department of the BBC in London, before moving in 1938 to become Head of the BBC North Region’s Music in Manchester, a position he held until 1953. During these years he was associated with the newly formed the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. On the basis of this excellent reputation, he was recalled to London in 1953 to become Head of Music Sound Programmes, a position he held until his retirement in 1960. Maurice Johnstone died in 1976 at Harpenden.
(1917-1999) Josef Locke, the celebrated Irish tenor spent much of his life living in Lytham St Annes. He was born Joseph McLaughlin, on 23rd March 1917 in Derry, Northern Ireland, the son of a butcher and cattle dealer, and one of nine children. As a 7 year old he sang in local churches in the Bogside, and lied about his age in order to enlist in the Irish Guards. Later he served as a policeman in Palestine before returning to Ireland in the late 1930s to join the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Nicknamed ‘The Singing Bobby’ in the 1940s he had became somewhat of a local celebrity. Later while working in Blackpool, he met the renowned tenor, John McCormack, who advised him on a suitable repertoire, and helped him find a theatrical agent. Subsequently, Locke signed up with bandleader and impresario, Jack Hylton, who booked him into the Victoria Palace, under the stage name of Josef Locke, a professional name which he retained throughout his professional career. Later, he was signed up by Lew and Leslie Grade. He made his first radio broadcast in 1949 on the popular ‘Happydrome’ programme, and subsequently appeared on TV programmes such as ‘Rooftop Rendezvous’, ‘Top of the Town’, All-Star Bill’ and ‘ The Frankie Howlerd Show’. In 1947 EMI Records signed him to their Columbia label and his first record was of two Italian songs, ‘Santa Lucia’ and ‘Come back to Sorrento’ . Also in 1947 he released ‘Hear my song, Violetta’ which became his signature tune. His other songs, many of a decidedly Irish flavour, included ‘I’ll take you home again Kathleen’, ‘Dear Old Donnegal’ and ‘Galway Bay’ , ‘The Drinking song’, ‘My Heart and I’, ‘Goodbye’, ‘Come back to Sorrento’ and ‘Cara Mia’ . Josef Locke made several films, including ‘Holidays with Pay’ for Mancunian films and sang at five Royal Command Performances, before he left the country for County Kildare in 1958, after a prolonged battle with the Inland revenue.He made frequent return trips for charity events and birthday tributes. He was also the subject of a ‘ This is Your Life ‘ programme. His music is frequently reissued as compilations and his music is regularly revived by popular demand. Josef Locke died on Friday 15th October 1999.
(1928-2007) Composer and musical arranger Ronnie Hazlehurst was born in 1928 in Dukinfield, Cheshire – now in the Borough of Tameside in Greater Manchester. At first, he tried to make his living as a trumpet player, and after some session work for the BBC, he joined the corporation in London in 1961 as an arranger and conductor, eventually becoming Director of Light Entertainment Music. During the 1960s and 70s, Hazlehurst composed or arranged the theme tunes to very many of the BBC’s light entertainment shows, including such hits as ‘Blankety Blank’, ‘The Two Ronnies’, ‘Yes, Minister’, ‘Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em’ and ‘Are You Being Served?’ . But he is probably best known as the composer of the theme tune to the ever-popular “Last of the Summer Wine” comedy series. Ronnie was also the musical director of the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974, 1977 and 1982, and famously conducted the UK entry in 1977 using a rolled-up umbrella! At the BBC he created incidental music for ‘The Likely Lads’ and ‘The Liver Birds’ , and a tune for ‘It’s a Knockout’. He often worked for small fees, but greater responsibility eventually arrived in 1971 when he took charge of the orchestra for the then top-billing ‘The Two Ronnies’ shows. He went on over the next 15 years to compose theme music for many other hit shows, including ‘ Three Up, Two Down’, ‘To the Manor Born’ and ‘The Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin’. In 1997 he moved from his home in Hendon to live in the island of Guernsey and in 1999 Hazlehurst received a gold badge award from the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters.Ronnie died peacefully on Tuesday 2nd October 2007 at the age of 79 at the Princess Elizabeth Hospital in Guernsey, where he had been admitted a week earlier suffering a stroke. He is survived by his partner, Jean Fitzgerald, and by two sons from his second marriage.
Henry Hall CBE
(1898-1989) Legendary dance band leader and broadcaster Henry Hall was born on the 2nd May 1898 in Peckham, London and had a long association with Manchester. He was one of the most popular radio personalities of the 1930s and 40s big dance band era, in the days before television. His family were keen members of the Salvation Army and Henry was encouraged to play the cornet in the band as well having piano lessons. After leaving school he worked for a time in the Salvation Army’s Music Editorial Department. In 1916 he joined the Royal Field Artillery but his musical talent was soon recognised and was transferred to the Cadet School where he played the piano as a member of the band and wrote arrangements for revues. After he was demobbed he looked for employment in the music industry, and worked for a time as a cinema pianist to finance his studies at the Guildhall School of Music. In 1922 he moved to Manchester to work as relief pianist in a dance band and was soon leader of the Trafford Band at the Midland Hotel, one of the old LMS Railway chain of hotels. In this capacity he advised on music at the new LMS Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland and arranged a radio broadcast to advertise the hotel’s opening. Thus Scotland’s first ever outside broadcast took place on 4th June 1924, and it was probably then that the talents of Henry Hall first came to the attention of the BBC. Afterwards, the band moved to the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool from whence they were offered a contract by Columbia Records. Most of the band’s subsequent recordings were actually made in Manchester though the band continued to be known as ‘ The Gleneagles Dance Band’. By 1932 Hall was running 32 bands in all for LMS, and it was inevitable that his rising notoriety should attract the attention of the BBC, who invited him to lead the BBC Dance Orchestra. He soon established a distinctive and individual musical style and his opening announcement of “…this is Henry Hall speaking” became somewhat of a radio institution. Such was the popularity of his radio orchestra that in 1934 the BBC launched ‘Henry Hall’s Guest Night’ , which ran for almost 1000 broadcasts. His arrangements of ballroom and jazz music endeared him to the nation and he became probably the most celebrated broadcast band leader of his day. In 1936 Hall was invited by Cunard to form and conduct a band for the maiden voyage of The Queen Mary ; it first sailed on May 27th, and as part of the publicity, Hall wrote a special song for the trip ‘ Somewhere At Sea’. Henry Hall and his Orchestra continued to record and tour throughout Great Britain and Europe until their last performance in 1947. Later he moved into theatrical management, producing several hit West End shows and summer spectaculars at Bournemouth and Blackpool. He retired to Eastbourne in 1970, shortly after being awarded the CBE in recognition of his services to music. Henry Hall died on the 28th Oct 1989.