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. (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. (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


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.


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


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.


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.

Behrens5 (6)
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


Student Registers

I had the pleasure of looking through the student registers to find students whose place at the RNCM was paid for by the government, as part of a post-war scheme.

If you look through the student registers, you will find certain students whose ‘responsible person’ is either the Board of Education, War Pensions, Ministry of Labour or Local War Pensions. This means that their place at the RNCM was paid for by the government after WW1.

I found this very interesting as I was unaware that the government had set up a scheme which enabled soldiers who had been a musician prior to the war, to go back to college to continue their studies. It’s also interesting the notice the range of ages of the students, some young and some older than the rest of the students.

In my opinion, I think this was a great way of helping people to try and go back to normal life after the devastation of the war. I also think it would have been a type of escapism for ex-soldiers, as music can be used as a distraction from real-life.

What was also curious was noticing how many terms these students stayed at the RNCM for; some staying for quite a number of terms but the majority staying for less than 10. Upon discussing the reasons for this, we concluded that it was either because these students were struggling with life post-war or because the government could only pay  their tuition fees for a certain number of terms.

It was definitely interesting discovering the number of soldiers, who had been musicians or students at the RNCM prior to the war, who were able to return to playing and learning music through the government scheme.

By Jessica Watson, volunteer.

RMCM.E.2.2. (44)

The effect of the war on the theatre business

As you would expect, the war had a huge impact on the theatre business. Actors and musicians were called up to active duty and some did not make it back. As well as this there was the massive financial impact with the introduction of entertainment tax making it more expensive for those at home to attend the various shows.

Arthur Catterall, the English violinist and R J Forbes, the pianist from Stalybridge were both called up to active duty in July 1917. While neither of them actually left England, Frederick Blamey, the English tenor, served in the air force until the end of the war. Some performers did not return, in June 1917 the actor Charles Bibby was reported missing and in the same month Edwin Batty, a contributor to the Manchester Programme was killed in action. Even those who were lucky enough to return did not always have a career to return to as shown by the Goosen’s family. Eugene Goosens was a conductor who worked in Beccham’s operas, his son Eugene Junior followed in his footsteps. He had 2 other sons, Adolph was a pianist but died from wounds at war in August 1916. His other son Leon was an oboeist but did have to serve and therefore did not share a stage with his father and brother.


As well as the impact of the musicians and actors being called up to active duty, there were many financial burdens for the theatre business as a result of war. The front cover of The Manchester Programme was usually very colourful, printed on good quality card with gold leaf detail added (see featured image). Many times throughout the war the front cover was printed on cheap coloured paper with no added colour or detail (see picture above). While i can not say for certain why this was, a few things have been suggested to me such as the printers strike and limited supplies in wartime. The government introduced an entertainment tax in 1916 which meant that theatres had to make the decision of whether to take this extra cost or pass it onto the customers via tickets prices. The Halle worked at a loss of £558 in that season with the blame being placed on the dark times, as streets were dark, there were petrol shortages and it was a particularly bad winter. Most theatres could not afford to take the extra cost and chose the increase their ticket prices. In Feb 1917, the Palace increased their prices on Saturday nights and during the holidays, they also increased the number of performances to twice nightly to increase revenue. In July 1917 the entertainment tax was rising again which caused protests from the entertainment properties and managers association. They claimed that since the introduction of the tax over 700 places of amusement had closed and that increasing the tax would only lead to more closures and more people out of work and therefore less income tax being paid. They argued that this was counterproductive and depriving the public of entertainment at a time when they needed it the most. The only entertainment venues exempt from the tax were the army theatres set up to entertain the soldiers. With so much financial pressure on regular theatres these came under criticism from the Theatres Alliance. The alliance argued against them being exempt from tax and also from soldiers being allowed to bring a lady friend to these shows. They claimed that they were taking custom from the other theatres as the lady friend would maybe have attended a regular theatre had she not been invited to the army theatre.

Considering the financial burden and decreasing number of musicians and audience members due to the war it is astounding that the theatres remained opened for business and still attracted large audiences during the war period

By Katrina Ingram

Sir Thomas Beecham- enterprising, advertising and drawing large audiences

During the war orchestral music became more popular in Manchester. My research leads me to believe the Sir Thomas Beecham’s efforts in enterprising and advertising is what drew the large audiences to his concerts.

By mid 1917 Sir Thomas Beecham began changing the shape of things at the Halle. He decided that the Halle will not be restricted to Thursday nights and will play on some Saturdays throughout the season and on one Friday. He also announced that as well as the Grand Opera at the end of the season he would also run one over the Christmas period. This shake up of events drew a lot of attention from the Press, as did Beecham’s other enterprising activities. He put a proposal to the council for the building of a new opera house in Manchester, stating he would hold opera seasons over a period of at least 10 years. In December 1917 Beecham took the job as President of the Royal College of Music in Manchester. All of this activity ensured the press attention when Beecham started his new Christmas Opera season with the Halle.

In December 1917 the Manchester Programme published a full page article on Beecham singing his praises. It stated that he had conducted whole operas from memory as his musical memory is phenomenal. It also claimed that his musical knowledge ranged from 16th century to modern day which is unequalled by any other conductor. Quite an accolade! This free advertising continued when his Opera season opened on Boxing Day 1917 with another full page article. This was repeated the following week with the Programme discussing the opera and how well it was being received. It was at this point that Beecham criticised the press, saying that they were the biggest to enemy to musical progress. The columnist in the Manchester Programme disputed these claims saying that Beecham was being less than just, he added that all local critics have been praising Beecham consistently. The Programme then did not report on the opera for the following 3 weeks and even when it did include an article towards the end of the season it was significantly shorter than they had been previously and mainly discussed Irish baritone, Frederick Ranalow.

The press seem to have forgiven him by the time he returned with his second Grand Opera season in May 1918. The Manchester Programme printed a full page article the week before it began and published an article every week of the Opera season discussing how well it was going and highlighting key singers.This was repeated during the Christmas Opera Season in 1918, with articles printed weekly discussing the success of the Halle and included a full page article on Beecham in which he is put on equal footing with Sir Charles Halle and Richter. During the period of July 1917 to December 1918 Sir Thomas Beecham and the Halle orchestra appeared in the Manchester Programme frequently. In fact there were a lot more articles printed on the Halle and other orchestral concerts than there were on musical theatre. Within the numbers for musical theatre i have included operettas and comic operas that had begun to appear towards the end of the war. In the graph below you can see how the number of articles on musical theatre dropped dramatically in this period despite the number of musical plays being performed increasing. This indicates that the popularity of musical theatre had not waned but the Programme had decided to shift its focus towards orchestral music, which could be argued was Beecham’s influence.


Beecham’s popularity in the Manchester Programme continued after the war, with his Grand Opera season in May 1919 receiving weekly articles, including 2 full page spreads. His Christmas opera season that began on Boxing Day 1919 also received weekly articles in the Programme, sometimes printing two articles in the same week and one article being dedicated to Beecham and his greatness. This shows how Beecham increased the visibility of the Halle by ensuring they appeared in the Manchester Programme most weeks. He understood how important advertising was and used it to it’s full potential.

The strength of Beecham’s advertising skills also stretched to the Promenade concerts. In September 1917 Beecham led a 3 week season which was advertised weekly in the Manchester Programme and began with a full page article in which Beecham stated that these concerts were “free and easy” and were aimed at enticing people unacquainted with orchestral music through prejudice or apprehension. In September 1918, Beecham ran a 4 week season of Promenade concerts, again they were advertised and this time received 2 full page articles in the Manchester Programme discussing the success of the orchestra. This gave the Promenade more visibility than they had ever had, at the start if the war they were ran by Michael Balling, also conductor of the Halle yet did not draw the attention of the Programme’s columnists. In fact even adverts for the concerts did not start to appear in the programme until Oct 1915, showing that there had been no form of advertisement before Beecham was in charge.

It wasn’t just in Manchester that orchestral music was increasing in popularity. Between November 1914 and February 1915 the Leeds Orchestral concerts ran. there were reports that the concerts were becoming more popular and the reason was believed to be advertising. So was Beecham following a trend or was he the one to start it? Either way it seemed to work as he managed to keep the Halle thriving during the war period when theatres in general were suffering.

by Katrina Ingram

Gender in Musical Theatre

This post builds on 2 previous blog posts surrounding women on the stage during World War One and Gender in Musical theatre.

In a blog post entitled ‘Gender differences on the stage in 1913’, i discussed how prior to the breakout of war, the theatre was not class specific and that all women were invited to audition, being judged on talent rather than social status. The theatre, however, did not pay women well with most earning next to nothing and with the majority expected to provide their own costumes for the play. Some women excelled in costume making such as Juliette Dika, a Parisian soprano (pictured above in June 1914) who became famous for the dresses that she made for herself. Despite women being badly paid in Musical theatre they were relied upon heavily by theatre companies during the war.

In the 18 months prior to the war women were pictured in 17 of the 41 articles for Musical Theatre in the Manchester Programme, men were pictured in 15 articles and 9 pictures featured both a man and a woman. This is fairly even, however once the war started the number of women appearing in the article’s pictures rose drastically whereas the number of men pictured remained fairly steady as you can see in the graph below.


Towards the end of the war (July 1917-Dec 1918) the number of articles for Musical theatre dipped so all 3 categories dropped below their average. Discounting this period the number of articles featuring men between January 1913 and July 1920 stayed between 15 and 19. Again discounting the period at the end of the war the number of articles featuring both a man and a woman in the picture stayed between 7 and 10. The number of women featured in the articles went from 17 in the pre-war period up to 43 in the first 18 months of the war. This number dipped slightly to 38 in the following 18 months and dropped to 21 in the final 18 months of the war. While the women pictured in the articles dipped in this period just as much as men the number of female featured articles was still not as low as it had been prior to the war. Even after the war the number of women pictured in the articles of the Programme remained higher than the number of men.

Whilst the number of women featured in the article’s pictures rose over the war period, the number of female titled plays decreased. By female titled  i mean having a girls name in the title or the words ‘girl’, ‘mistress’, ‘princess’, ‘she’, ‘her’ etc. In the 18 months prior to the war 56% of the musical plays had female titles with the rest being gender neutral and none being male titled. In the first 18 months of the war these figures changed, with 46% being female titled and 2% being male titled in that one play was called ‘the chocolate soldier’. In the following 18 months the percent of female titled plays remained fairly steady at 43% with male titled plays rising to 5% and the final 18 months of war showed the most dramatic shift with female titled plays dropping to only 25% and male titled plays rising to 14%. In the 18 months after the war, male titled remained fairly steady at 11% but female titled plays again dropped to 16%.


If the articles featured more women due to there being less men then you would expect there to be less pictures of men, however the pictures of men in articles remained steady. If the Manchester Programme used women as a way of advertising, however, it would be because they thought that women were more likely to draw audiences. Why then were the producers and writers of plays titling them in a more gender neutral fashion as the war progressed. Could it be something as simple as them having differing opinions at this time?


by Katrina Ingram


‘I shall vanish into the no-where whence I emerged – my emerging task will be finished and I shall be so overwhelmingly glad to see you again that I shall not care whether I’m forgotten or remembered’ Hope Squire Merrick letter to Frank Merrick 17th October 1917

This blog deals with a teacher at the college during the latter years of the war and it’s a long one, but I find Hope’s story completely absorbing and I hope that you agree with me that Hope should be remembered even if she herself appears not to care.

Hope Squire was born in 1878 in Southport. She studied piano under Dohnanyi, having heard him play Beethoven’s 4th she asked him if he would teach her, and she became his first English pupil. Hope then went on to have a career as a concert pianist and teacher. Although she was not taught composition systematically, she composed about 40 songs, including settings of Newbolt’s Imogen (performed in the College in 1918), and Shelley’s A Widow Bird Sate Mourning. She says in a letter of 15th April 1919, ‘I greatly prefer Shelley to Keats. He seems much more inspired and vivid; I may be wrong but I always get the impression that Shelley felt and Keats thought.’ Works for piano included Variations on Black-eyed Susan and a tone-poem Tom Bowling. In 1911 she married Frank Merrick, also a concert pianist. They moved to Manchester when Frank was appointed a Professor at the Royal Manchester College of Music. They continue as musical equals after their marriage playing concerts together.

‘Mr Frank Merrick and Madame Hope Squire (Mrs Frank Merrick) gave an interesting concert at Bechstein Hall on May 3, at which they both appeared in the capacity of composer. In a group of songs, sung by Mr Gale Gardiner, and in a set of pianoforte variations on ‘Black-eyed Susan’, Madame Hope Squire showed an interesting individuality and freshness of thought. Mr Merrick’s Trio in F sharp minor was played by Madame Hope Squire, Mr Willie Woltmann and Madame Edith Evans.’ (Musical Times, June 1 1912.)

They shared a musical life but they also shared a socially and politically radical life in Manchester. Hope was a member the Women’s Social and Political Union and then after 1907 an active member of the Women’s Freedom League. Frank was also an active supporter of women’s suffrage, carrying banners on marches. They are both vegetarians and they are both anti war.  This was not a problem although the College did ask him in 1914 not to “attempt to influence any of the College students on matters unconnected with their studies”.  But then Frank is called up in December 1916. Although a conscientious objector, he did not refuse the initial call up but only on being ordered to put on a uniform, did he refuse. This lead to his arrest and a court martial. As other conscientious objectors he was imprisoned at Wandsworth Prison and later Wormwood Scrubs. Initially, the College wanted to help Hope and they offer her his job. The Minutes of the Board of December 12th 1916 state, “The Principal announced that Mr Merrick has been called up for Military Service and that it was necessary to make arrangement for the carrying on of his work. Resolved: that Mrs Merrick be invited to act as substitute for her husband during his temporary absence”.  The Council follow the Board’s lead and six days later on 20th December 1916 The Minute Book of the Council records, “Resolved: that Madame Hope Squire be appointed as substitute for Mr Merrick during his temporary absence as recommended by the Board”.

The Council is less sympathetic after Frank’s imprisonment and we read in the minutes of 21st March 1917 that, “Resolved: that the Principal and Staff be reappointed with the exception of Mr Merrick whose case be reconsidered at the next meeting of the Council.” However, Frank’s case is never mentioned again in the official records of the College. Throughout this period at Open Practices and Public Examinations, the students who are taught by Hope have Mr Merrick-Madame Hope Squire given as their teacher. The next mentions of Frank in the official records are in the minutes of Tuesday May 20th 1919 when we learn that “Mr Merrick attendee for first time since internment”.

It was probably Brodsky’s support and admiration for Frank, as we read in Hope’s letters, ‘His admiration for you never wavers’ (29/1/1918), that allowed Frank to return to his position. After Brodsky’s death in 1929, when Mr Forbes, who was very hostile to them both, became Principal, Hope and Frank moved to London where Frank became a professorship at the Royal College of Music. Sadly Hope died not long afterwards in 1936 at the age of 57. Frank remarried but kept all of Hope’s letters and her music where they can be found in their joint papers at Bristol University archive. His musical tribute to Hope was a broadcast on the BBC’s National Programme on Thursday 7th July 1938 called The Music of Hope Squire. The performers are Frank and John Wills (a former student) and a soprano Bettine Young. They perform Hope’s songs: Imogen, A Widow-Bird, When I am dead, my dearest and The Skylark; and her tone poem Tom Bowling (for two pianos).

Although Frank’s imprisonment was torment for both of them, reluctantly I feel that we are very lucky that Frank and Hope did hold so strongly to their political views and that Frank was imprisoned because otherwise we would not have the letters that they wrote to each other between October 1917 and April 1919. Hope comes to life in her letters. She comments on the political situation. In a letter dated Armistice Day she writes, ‘And who am I? Only Hope Merrick, but as long as I – even if I stood alone – stand by my opinion I am “the leak in the dyke” and no-one can truthfully say Great Britain was solid for war.’  Indeed she reports that one MP suggested a bill to to conscript women and retorts that if that ever happens ‘they’ll have to build thousands of new prisons.” She writes about rationing, and even this is related to her musical life, as we learn that she exchanges her sugar ration for seven overtures by Beethoven and Weber for 8 hands. She writes about women’s lives. In one poignant piece she encounters a neighbour Mrs Craven who volunteers with the Red Cross and looks worn out. Hope asks Mrs Craven why she continues with the Red Cross, Mrs Craven’s reply is a powerful summary of the drudgery of her life and why women should be classed as equals:

‘…you don’t know what my life is because your husband is a “sport”. I’ve spent all my life drudging and slaving after the opposite sex – my father wants as much waiting on as a child, my husband is the same, my only child is a boy, – I started life with a better brain than any of my brothers, but I only got half an education – and I’ll stick this R.C work till I drop, becaust it’s my only chance of hobnobbing with a few well educated women, and getting away from the drudgery of home. I don’t mind work but I am so sick of being looked upon as a creature with no brain.’

Hope also writes a great deal about her teaching life and their joint pupils and in my final blog, I’ll write about one of these students as seen through Hope’s words: Edith Hothersall.

Katherine Seddon


The ‘gel’ from Cheshire

Following on from the blog about the young ladies from Cheshire and Lancashire who were the staple of the College until the influx of the ex-servicemen, I’d like to tell the story of one of these young women. Gladys Mary Whittam came from Chester to study piano at the College.  Her father was the manager of a railway and canal company and the family had moved from Preston , where Gladys was born in 1892, to Latchford, Warrington and Blackburn where her sisters were born, then onto Trentham, Staffordshire where they are living at the time of the 1911 census. Gladys enters the college in 1914 just after the outbreak of war at the age of 22 and gives her home address as 36 Hough Green, Chester. She’s no dilettante though and stays for the full 9 terms leaving the college in summer 1917 having achieved her Teacher’s Diploma Class A. She was taught by Lucy Pierce and I like to think that they would have got on well: Lucy was herself a student at the College from Northwich and attended the college with a Cheshire County Scholarship 1902-1905, passing Associate exams in Teaching and Performing with distinction. We know some of the music Gladys played as she performed in Open Practices as well as in the final Public Examination. In the Open Practice of Friday November 12th 1915 she played the 2nd and 3rd movements of Bach’s “Concerto for Two pianos in C major” with Cicely Collins, another student of Lucy Pierce. Two years later in March 1917, Gladys is given a solo place and performs Debussy’s Reflets dans l’eau, The Little Shepherd, and Arabesque and later in July at the Annual Public Examination she plays Beethoven’s Variations in C minor.

Gladys obviously wanted to teach and by passing the Associate exam in Teaching, she was fulfilling one of the College’s aims. The 30th Annual Report of 1923 says:

‘The Council are proud of the fact that so many of the past students of the College have won distinction in the musical profession, and reflect with special gratification upon the large body of skillful teachers trained in the College, of whom it may be said without fear of contradiction that they have appreciably raised the standard of musical teaching in the large towns of Lancashire and the North.’

Gladys did just that on her return to Chester. She taught music at the Queen’s School in Chester. The choir from the school takes part in the 1939 Chester Musical Festival ‘directed by Miss G M Whittam ARMCM, LRAM’ singing Lullaby by Walford Davies. In June 1944 at the school’s Open Day there was a programme of music, the singing being conducted by Miss Whittam. Contributions from three choirs of different ages included It was a lover and his lass by Thomas Morley, another Walford Davies’ song These spotted snakes and Where the bee sucks by Arne.

Directing choirs is not just a daytime job for Gladys. In 1939 250 girls from the Girls’ Friendly Society from all over Cheshire attended a celebration at Chester Cathedral. The organist and composer Malcolm Boyle, Organist at the Cathedral and previously Assistant Organist to, (synchronicity at its best here) Walford Davies at St George’s Windsor, was at the organ. The article in the Chester Chronicle states ‘An impressive feature was the singing of a choir of 14 from the Chester branches, led by Miss Whittam.’

Like Edith Fielden, the ex-servicewoman, she does not marry and the last we read about her after 1944, is that she died in 1973 in Chester at the age of 81. Again, if anyone remembers Miss Whittam, please get in touch!

Katherine Seddon


The Game Changer – part 2: The ex-service woman

A previous blog The Game Changer talks about the former soldiers who were given grants by the government to study at the college. The 27th annual report of 1920 says “In the great majority of cases the students whose attendance at the College is directly due to the war have come through the Government Scheme for the Higher Education of Ex-Service Students, but some few have been sent by the Ministry of Labour and the War Pensions Committee.” It refers to 88 ex-service men. However, there was one women which the 30th annual report in 1923 suggests.. “From Easter, 1918, a number of ex-service men and women, [my italics] whose studies had been interrupted by the war, and whose fees were paid by the Government, were admitted to the College. Most of them remained for a period of three years and were given reasonable opportunity of establishing themselves as professional musicians; others proved unsatisfactory either in natural endowments or industry, … and the report of their progress being unsatisfactory, were withdrawn by the Board of Education before the completion of their courses. These ex-service students, who were nearly all men [my italics] and who in the aggregate numbered close upon a hundred were spread over the last five years…” The annual report is a little economical with the truth – there was only one woman called Edith Fielden who enters the college in 1920 and whose fees are paid by the Ministry of Labour. She, unlike some the ‘unsatisfactory’ men (well the rest of them are men) stays for the full 9 terms and leaves in 1923. So what can we find out about Edith and why she might be given a grant and is there anything that we can find out about her after 1923?

Unfortunately, the facts like the College’s annual reports are pretty bare. Edith was born in Rochdale in 1896/5 to William and Maria Fielden. William gives his job in the 1901 census as a cotton weaver. By the 1911 census the family is living in Blackpool at 77 Hornby Road where William now says he is a grocer and dairyman.  He is obviously self-employed as the rest of the family, including Edith now aged 15, are listed as “Assisting in the business at home”. The next mention of Edith appears in the Manchester Courier & Lancashire General Advertiser (4th September 1915) when she gains Associate of the London College of Music diploma in piano (the exam was held in Manchester) at the age of 19 or 20.  She is obviously a talented pianist and does this achievement that she always wanted to have a career as a music professional? The First World War has been going on for a year now and women are beginning to play a full part on the land, in munitions factories, and many other jobs on the home front replacing the men at war. They also served as nurses at the front; as musicians in concert parties such as Lena Ashwell’s who went behind the lines all over Europe and Turkey; they drove ambulances; and by 1917 they were serving in the Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps, Women’s Legion Motor Drivers, The Women’s Royal Naval Service, the Women’s Royal Air Force and many other capacities. Sadly many records were destroyed, ironically during the Second World War, so I cannot find any trace of Edith Fielden in any of these organisations. Perhaps it doesn’t matter that we don’t know exactly what she did, only that we know she did something that was enough to obtain a grant as an ex-servicewomen to fulfil her earlier dream and was now financially  able to study the piano at the Royal Manchester College of Music.

She never married and the next fact I can find about her is that she died in Stockport in 1980 at the age of 84. So if anyone out there remembers being taught piano or music by Miss Fielden in the greater Manchester area, please get in touch as it would be lovely to fill in the 57 year gap.

Katherine Seddon


Michael Balling: The Hallé’s Pioneering Pre-War Conductor

Great information and really interesting exploration into the context of pre-war Hallé Concerts Society!

GM 1914

The First World War most commonly evokes scenes of battle. Images of casualties. The home front. The Soldier poets. Poppies. Remembrance Day. And so much more.

What is perhaps rarely shed light on is how truly all-encompassing the effect of this “war to end all wars” was – how it also had a dramatic impact on the lives of people that did not lose family members, or experience the trenches, or work in a munition factory – or were not, in fact, involved in the war in any active capacity at all.

In the case of Michael Balling, German conductor of Manchester’s famous Hallé Orchestra, we find one such example.

Orchestras are often highly international organisations, musicians frequently having to leave their home country in order to find work abroad. The Hallé itself was founded by a German, whose name it bears to this day: Carl Halle from Westphalia, born in 1819 into a…

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