Music Making, Musicians and Gender

Part of my Volunteer role at the RNCM Archive has been to select content for the final pop-up banners. It has been surprisingly difficult choosing which documents to highlight and write about when telling the stories of the Hallé and the Royal Manchester College of Music during WW1 as there are so many fascinating items. We wanted to tell 3 stories on 3 banners; the changing repertoire, how the musicians, students and teachers were affected and the role of gender within the organisations. As I have now finished this, I thought I would write about some of the items I have chosen here, including items which didn’t make the cut but still give an insight to the changes the war created.

Halle. HA.PR.2.1.61.2 (11)In a Hallé Concerts Society Programme for 1918-1919 there is an advertisement for Forsyth Bros. Ltd. It explains that there is a vast shortage of Pianos as manufacturers were instead made to produce planes for the war. I love the honesty in the advertisement as it admits that the prices for the Pianos are high but reasonable in consideration to the war situation. It also shows how the war must have really effected their Music Business, although there would have been more female students who would have played the Piano during the war, which may have helped.

 

 

Behrens4 (91c)This is the last page of a speech by Gustav Behrens addressed to members of the Hallé Concert Society in 1914. The speech tells of the complications the war would create but the need to continue putting on the Concerts. This last page gives a list of possible Conductors who would be willing to work for free to save the Hallé’s expenditure. Notice how they are all of British, or Allied origin. Finally, it is made clear that the music played will be ‘bright and cheerful’ to keep up moral during Wartime.

 

 

There are various items belonging to Carl Fuchs and amongst them is a Christmas card sent from his Prisoner of War camp in Germany. Carl Fuchs was a German Cello teacher at the Royal Manchester College of Music who had travelled to Germany in 1914 to visit family. Unfortunately, having been in the UK for so long, he was seen as suspicious and was interned at the Rhuleben Internment Camp when war broke out. The camp was quite relaxed and whilst there Carl Fuchs even helped to create a band.

CF.1.30. (2)

The 1918 Annual Report for the Royal Manchester College of Music highlights the broad spectrum of troubles the College had coped with during the year such as male students and teachers leaving the college to fight in the war, as well as the teacher Carl Fuchs being detained in Germany. The Roll of Honour lists the names of students who had left the College to fight, including those who were killed in action. With so many male students having left, the College took in a large amount of female students during the war to take their place and were able to keep afloat because of this. There then came such a huge overhaul when after the war, returning men were given grants by the government to attend the college as a sort of rehabilitation programme and the demographics of the college changed once again.

RMCM.B.3.3. (1918 roll of honour)

 

HS.3.3.3.2 (66)It was particularly difficult finding evidence of the Hallé’s introduction of female players, but it was finally discovered whilst scouring through the Halle Society’s Librarian Notebooks where I found a list of names of players in the Hallé Orchestra Concert for February 15th 1917 including 5 women playing second violin. Before the war there were no female players in the Hallé apart from singers or guest players. As the numbers of men dropped during the war, the Hallé had no choice but to introduce female players for the first time. Unfortunately, when Hamilton Hartly became Conductor in 1920 it was all reversed as he was widely apposed to women playing in his Orchestra.

By Volunteer, Kezi Porter

 

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How the Hallé adapted during WW1

Recently I have been looking through the Henry Watson Music Library, in particular  Gustav Behrens’ notebooks. Behrens was the Chairman of the Hallé Orchestra Society and his collection of notebooks contain News clippings, letters sent to members, speeches by Behrens, and annual and financial records. Altogether they give an insightful look at the effects WW1 had on the Hallé Orchestra and how different people came together to keep the concerts running during a financially tense and difficult time.

Thomas Beecham

With the war beginning in 1914 the Hallé came into trouble firstly with their conductor Michael Balling being away in his German homeland. A letter addressed to Balling from August 24th 1914 says ‘the whole matter of your conducting the concerts during the continuance of the war is fraught with many difficulties’. As a result, it was decided that there would be a number of guest conductors during the coming concert season with the orchestra finally settling with Thomas Beecham.  For the entirety of Beecham’s time as a Conductor during the war he didn’t take a fee which almost certainly helped towards the Halle’s war time success. Interestingly, advertisements were put out asking for purely English conductors in contrast to the German Mr Balling.

Musicians

As the war progressed the Halle was faced with financial difficulties and tough decisions to make in order to save money and make a profit. It is clear from the records that it was a priority to keep the musicians of the Halle in work. In a speech to the members of the society the Chairman, Gustav Behrens, spoke of how musicians would be ‘placed under the painful necessity of applying for public relief’ if they weren’t in work over the winter season. The speech goes on to say that the musicians will be paid but only half that of their normal rate which the players accepted. Because of this at the end of the 1914-1915 season a profit was made in contrast to the previous season which had made a loss. With the sacrifice the musicians had made in mind, they were then refunded with the profits. During this time a committee was also set up to help musicians of the North. A clipping from the Daily Post advertises the ‘Committee for Music in War Time’ in which Behrens was an Honorary Treasurer. It outlines its duties which were to ‘cover the interests of needy musicians’ by ‘giving employment to singers and instrumentalists who are entirely dependent on their professional work’.

Behrens4 (91a)
Gustav Behrens speech 1914
Behrens4 (91b)
Gustav Behrens speech 1914

Repertoire

Over the span of the war years the repertoire of the Halle changed. Thomas Beecham, the newly appointed conductor took the opportunity the war on Germany created by introducing music from other nationalities where previously there had been a great focus on German music. One article from the Guardian on September 10th 1915 expresses how there were as many as ’52 composers and almost every nationality from Europe’  in the 1915-1916 season programme. The same clipping also reports ‘the music of living German composers is almost by legal necessity barred’. It wouldn’t have been right to play current German music, but in contrast music by the Great Masters like Wagner and Beethoven, who came before the current German Empire, were very much accepted and loved so Beecham took the opportunity to put on big Wagner nights. Beecham also introduced Saturday concerts where smoking was allowed and there was a more relaxed feel, these concerts proved popular and continued after the war.

Subscribers

The Society’s Annual Reports throughout the war highlight the problems the Hallé encountered during each seasons’ year and how they planned to overcome them, such as increasing subscription fees or asking for an increase of money from Guarantors. Subscription numbers appear to drop throughout the war and the Annual Report for 1916-1917 explains  ‘darkness of the streets’, ‘shortage of petrol’ and ‘curtailment of Railway accommodation’ are all reasons as to why subscribers hadn’t been attending the Concerts.

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Annual Report 1916-1917

It has been really interesting to see through the collection how the Halle was plunged into change during WW1. They faced but overcame many troubles by sacrificing wages and concerts, changing and updating the music played and adding Saturday concerts, all which contributed to keeping the public morale high during the War. In a detailed article from The Times on 20th March 1918, the Halle is described as having a ‘new lease of life’ since the war had begun. It has also been lovely to read how the Musicians livelihoods were at the forefront of the society’s priorities. With the article also mentioning the great success of the Music in War Time Committee being a ‘sign of the increasing interest in serious music’.

By volunteer, Kezi Porter

 

The early war period, the patriotism of the theatre business and the first links between Thomas Beecham and the Royal College of Music

In the early war period the theatre business struggled and seemed to grow more and more patriotic as the months went by. In an article about the upcoming performances from the Moody Manners opera company in December 1914, the columnist wrote “The programme is a popular one, and , naturally, none of the German operas will be done, it is a pity but we shall have the pleasure of seeing them on a more suitable occasion”. It was not just in the performances themselves but also the performers in which we see a pull away from Germany, and the continent in general. In the first 6 months of the war the Halle, The Brand Lane and the Harrison concerts consisted mainly of British performers. The only exception that i can see is Ada Crossley, an Australian singer who performed with the Brand Lane orchestra in December 1914. This is a far cry from the usual mix of nationalities that performed with these orchestras on a regular basis before the war.

There was also a cry for patriotism from the critics and columnists in the Manchester Programme. In December 1914, Strephon, lead columnist, said that footballers should be signing up to go on the front line not “in the pursuit of an inflated bladder”. He claims that other sportsmen were already engaged in battle on the continent and footballers should be no different.This seems a little hypocritical since only a short time before he was claiming that those staying behind and continuing to work were still performing their patriotic duty. In the same article he had also been encouraging people to continue going to the theatre, is football not also a form of entertainment? He added to his argument that sportsmen were strong and therefore ideal as soldiers, however the following month he claimed that endurance and spirit was the most important thing, which actors have in abundance. He said this is response to a critic claiming actors were not suitable for war since their job requires them to live in a fantasy world.

In February 1915, Strephon wrote another article slamming those he deemed to be unpatriotic, this time it was the ‘greedy shipowners’ who he believed were at fault for the rising cost of bread. There was a shorter article following this explaining that the government were giving out war bonuses to help with rising cost of living. This shows another in which the theatre business was affected by the war. Not only were the usual audience numbers reduced by men going to war, but also by the rising cost of living making it more difficult for those at home to continue going. The lower audience numbers were commented on by another critic when discussing the last Harrison concert of the season. He cries “where was musical Manchester?” His criticism is not only harsh considering the rising cost of living but also due to that concert not being advertised. How can the public be criticised for not attending an event they probably did not know about!

It was in this period of chaos that Thomas Beecham first working with the Royal College of Music by holding a competition. He wanted a new baritone for his orchestra and let the Royal College of Music run the competition and choose the winner. One of his stipulations was that the entrants must be a current or past student of the college. This competition was won by Hamilton Harris from Droylsden, Manchester and he performed with the Halle in their final concert of the season.

Katrina Ingram