The rise of Sir Thomas Beecham and the reputation of ‘Musical Manchester’

In 1913 critics were claiming that music on the stage was on the wane and the ‘Musical Manchester’ was merely running off its reputation. It was within this this slump that Sir Thomas Beecham began his rise to fame.

Critics had been claiming for months that music in Manchester was on the wane, this was cemented when Herr Denhof’s operatic festival was cut short due lack of attendance. It was due to run for 2 weeks at the Theatre Royal but the second week was cancelled with the lack of support. It was claimed the poor attendance was due to high prices, lack of advertising and bad timing, since many people were still away on holiday, however critics and columnists did not think these excuses were good enough. One columnist wrote “little miss Manchester is in disgrace and nurse Polymnia has sent her to the corner to contemplate her artistic shortcomings”. This same columnist claimed that ‘Musical Manchester’ was merely running off the reputation it had built in the nineteenth century. At that time Charles Halle provided the only orchestra in the north, however, even his shows were poorly attended by 1913.

It was at this precise time that Thomas Beecham seized the opportunity to take a step up the musical ladder. He had been the conductor for Herr Denhof and when the show was cancelled he invested £20,000 and in turn became manager of the orchestra. He extended the tour, even staying in Manchester for a further 5 nights and so began Beecham’s rise and Denhof’s fall.

Katrina Ingram

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