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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.