Just before WW1, a photograph of five members of the London Symphony Orchestra returning from the 1912 tour of USA on the liner SS Potsdam reveals very close connections with Manchester.
Prof John Miller
Jesse Stamp, Harry Barlow, John Bridge, Walter Hatton, Arthur Gaggs (front) on board the SS Potsdam in 1912.[i]
Jesse Stamp (1885 – 1932) was without doubt the virtuoso trombonist of his day. He was brought up in Chorlton, a son of a professional musician (at times a circus musician), studied and graduated at the MRCM 1904 – 1907, and by 1911 was the breadwinner for three brothers and two sisters living in Southport. At this time he appears to be a boarder in Brixton when undertaking work in London.[ii] He joined the LSO in 1909 and was made principal trombone in 1911. He was on the board of directors for the 1923-24 season and left the orchestra in 1928. In addition he played in the orchestra of the Royal Philharmonic Society at its centenary in 1912[iii] and was a founder member of the BBC Symphony Orchestra in 1930.
Jesse Stamp, like Ernest Hall, fellow trumpeter from Liverpool, moved south and stayed south. On the outward voyage to USA in 1912 he was subject of a practical joke. The diary of LSO timpanist Charles Turner reads:
“Monday 1 April 1912
I forgot to mention this is the 1st of April and at breakfast 7.30am someone called out that war ships were to be seen. Jesse Stamp (trombone) bit and getting up from the table got his glasses and getting on the couch gazed earnestly over the sea for the ships which of course he did not find, In the meantime, all the people in the dining room found it out and Jesse received a great storm of laughter and applause much to his discomforture and he sat down very sheepishly to resume.”[iv]
Harry Barlow (1870 – 1932).
The composer Havergal Brian wrote: “I was sorry to read of the death of Harry Barlow, the well known tuba player. As long ago as 1906 I heard the late Dr. Richter, while talking of the personnel of the Hallé Orchestra, refer to Barlow as the finest tuba player in all Europe. He was sure to be found in the London Symphony Orchestra, or in the Covent Garden Opera Orchestra, when Richter was conducting. Barlow’s genius lay in focusing the tone-colour of his tuba into the three trombones, and making it sound a real trombone bass: this is impossible to the ordinary trombone player. […] Barlow was a native of Besses o’ th’ Barn, and was possessed of a fine sense of humour, which undoubtedly helped him along life’s way. […] Like the late Jesse Stamp, the well known trombonist, Barlow had been playing recently in the BBC orchestra; it is curious that he should have died so soon after his fellow-Lancastrian.”[v]
Barlow first shows up in the Hallé Free Trade Hall programmes in 1893, playing ophicleide, and he continues until 1895 conducted by Adolph Brodsky, just after Hallé’s death. He first appears playing the tuba in 1896, under Frederick Cowan. He can be regarded as one of the first great modern tuba players, and amongst his many activities he designed several models of instruments, including one played in the Hallé by Stuart Roebuck until retirement in 1984. Barlow has been described as a “man of many parts”, for example directing the Oxford Road’s Grosvenor Picture House orchestra from the piano, or conducting Besses o’ th’ Barns Band.[vi]
Arthur Gaggs (1879 – 1961)
Arthur Gaggs came from a Manchester musical family. His father Joseph (described as a Professor of Music in the 1891 census) played 2nd cornet with the Hallé from 1868 – 70.[vii] Arthur probably studied with Franz Paersch (1857-1921) who was principal horn of the Hallé and also the Royal Italian Opera (Covent Garden) from 1883 – 1914. Paersch certainly took Gaggs under his wing as second horn in Manchester before WW1. Gaggs had a long career as a horn player in Manchester and moved to the BBC Northern Orchestra in 1934.
I wonder whether the photograph was taken by Joseph W. Gaggs, a Mancunian violinist in the LSO on the USA tour?
John Bridge (1872 – 1945)
John Bridge became a member of the Hallé in 1893, the year of the foundation of the MRCM, and rose steadily through the orchestra’s ranks. Richter took him (along with Barlow) to the ROH for the 1904-5 spring season, and he was appointed principal second violin of the Hallé in 1914. During WW1 he stayed in Manchester and in addition to his orchestral activities was most notably a member of the Catterall Quartet, playing for the Ancoats Brotherhood, in the Midland Hall, Leighton Hall, The New Islington Hall and other venues. Two of his brothers enlisted for the services; Harry served with the Machine Gun Corps., and his younger brother Herbert was killed in Belgium whilst serving with the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. Later in his career, in 1928, John Bridges joined the MRCM staff.[viii]
Walter Hatton (1869 – 1939)
The most senior member in the photograph had perhaps the most distinguished career. Hatton was the cellist in the original Brodsky Quartet from 1915 – 1925 and a highly regarded Manchester teacher.[ix]
What became of the Potsdam?
The five musicians in the photograph all survived WW1, but what became of the ocean liner? The Dutch liner, the SS Potsdam was to experience a wartime fate at a later date. It was renamed the Stockholm in 1915 by the Swedish American line, and later renamed the Sonderburg when captured by the Germans in 1941. It was finally scuttled in Cherbourg in 1944.[x]
[i] Permission LSO Archive.
[ii] The 1911 census shows him as the family head at 30 Myrtle Grove Southport, and as a boarder at 13 Robert Road, Brixton (with a birthdate of 1886 recorded).
[iii] Robert Elkin, Queen’s Hall (Rider & Co, 1944) pp 49, 55.
[iv] Courtesy LSO archive.
[v] Musical opinion, August 1932, p.901.
[vi] See Clifford Bevan, The Tuba Family (Piccolo Press, 2000), pp 378 – 382 for information on Harry Barlow. A portrait of Stuart Roebuck with his “Barlow F tuba” is found on page 383.
[vii] The 1891 census shows the family living in Chorlton when père Joseph is age 45 and Arthur is age 12.
[viii] For more detailed information see Stuart Scott, John S Bridge, A Manchester Musician in www.musicweb-international.com written December 2011, accessed 10/09/2016.
[ix] See Michael Kennedy, The History of the Royal Manchester College of Music 1893 – 1927, pages 74 – 79.
[x] www.norwayheritage.com accessed on 10/09/2016