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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Mysteries and Nuances

Check it out! We’ve been published in the Manchester Region History Review. Inside is a summary article about some themes on the project written by RNCM Archivist, Heather Roberts. Browse the fabulous magazine or skip straight to the middle for our article summarising the mysteries and nuances we have been exploring.

Did musical theatre become more female focused during the war?

The titles of musical plays and musical comedies tended to be more female prior to the war. In the 18 months leading up to the outbreak of war there were 27 such plays showed in Manchester with 15 of them having a title that was in someway female. By female titling i mean having a girls name in the title or the words ‘girl’, ‘mistress’, ‘princess’, ‘she’, ‘her’ etc. the rest of the musical plays in that period had gender neutral titles. Between July 1914 and December 1915 there were 44 musical plays performed in Manchester, of these 44 there were 20 that were female titled, so again quite a high percentage. 23 were gender neutral in their title and one was called ‘The Chocolate Soldier’, the only one that could in anyway be seen as a male titled play.

While the titles of musical plays and comedies had always been more female focused, the articles written about the plays were fairly evenly balanced. I noticed that from December 1914, however, the attention seemed to fall more onto the women in the cast than the men. Many of the articles just gave a brief description of the plot and named the composer and some of the main cast members, this was complimented by a picture of one of the cast members (see featured image). Throughout 1915 there were 20 articles written about musical plays and comedies, 17 of these articles featured a picture of a female cast member, whereas only 2 featured a picture of male cast member and 1 included a picture of a man and woman. The articles themselves did not always focus on the women, they continued with their usual commentary on the storyline of the play.

What was the reason for this shift? Could it be due to there being more female cast members with many men fighting in the war? Could it be that they felt it was better advertising to use women in the pictures rather men? Whatever the reason for the shift it did not apply to musical opera. The articles written on the opera companies remained fairly evenly split with some featured photographs being women and some being men.

It would seem that the reason for the shift in musical theatre was not due to a changing and evolving attitude among the men in the business. When Miss Boyle of the Womens Freedom league reported that many women who had been employed as assistants in Public Libraries may be given more responsible posts, Strephon retorted “Anything you like my dear, but don’t let ’em write novels”

by Katrina Ingram

What links Michael Morpurgo, Elgar and the Royal Manchester College of Music in the First World War?

3a00045rPhoto credit: Marie Brema taken in New York in 1897  by A. Dupont. Available at http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3a00045 The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA.

The answer is the College’s director of the opera class Miss Marie Brema. Brema was the only person, besides Brodsky, to feature in the College’s regular advertisments in the Musical Times. She was worthy of mention having been an operatic superstar before she retired and started teaching at the Royal Manchester College of Music in 1912. Born in Liverpool in 1856, she was the first British female singer invited to perform at Bayreuth as well as performing all over Europe and the USA, and privately for Queen Victoria. She was also chair of the Society of Women Musicians during the war 1917-18. She was a great champion of opera performances at the College even when she was faced with a shortage of male singers and at times opposition from other professors.

The Annual Report of 1917 comments that “The increased attention given opera in musical education is a sign of the times, inasmuch as it reflects the rapidly growing public interest in the lyric stage.” It was also probably due Marie Brema’s determination and success. For example, the operatic performances given in March 1917 presented scenes from Orpheus, Lohengrin, and Cavalleria Rusticana which were arranged and staged by Marie Brema, and she also provided the wigs and the costumes. The programme for this performance stated “Owing to the absence of Men Students, certain alterations have been necessary.” But the performances were a success. The Annual Report goes on to report that the scene from  Orpheus was so well received that Mr O’Mara from the O’Mara Opera Company invited Marie to direct her students in his production of the opera at the Gaiety Theatre in Manchester. Their performance was “several times repeated during the season…and upwards of twenty students took part in it.”

She was clearly a force to be reckoned with and fought her corner well. At a meeting of the board of professors on 9th March 1915 in her absence, they agreed that the “Midsummer term is the least suitable part of the Session for such performances.” A week later when Marie was present at the meeting, the minutes read “after hearing Miss Brema’s explanation…the Board thinks it desirable to modify the resolution passed at the last meeting”!

So what connects her to Elgar? She already knew the composer having sung in the first performance of The Dream of Gerontius in 1900. But their ties became closer during the First World War. The composer’s piece Carillon was written in 1914 setting the poem written by the Belgian poet Emile Cammaerts, in response to the German invasion of his homeland. Carillon is a recitation with orchestral accompaniment and was first performed in the Queen’s Hall, London 7th December 1914 with Elgar conducting and the recitation performed by the poet’s wife and the actress Tita Brand, who also translated the original French words into English. Tita Brand was Marie Brema’s daughter, making Emile Cammaerts her son-in-law. Marie Brema also performed the piece in the concert she organised at the college after the war had ended, “In Celebration of Peace” on Tuesday December 10th 1918 at 7 pm. Miss Brema was accompanied on the piano by one of the Belgian refugee students, August Ardenois after the College’s Roll of Honour had been read.

Finally, what is the connection to Michael Morpurgo, other than that he has written well-known books about the First World War, War Horse, famously adapted for the stage and screen and Private Peaceful? Well, Michael Morpurgo’s mother was called Kippe Cammaerts, daughter of Tita and Emile, so his great-grandmother is Marie Brema.

Katherine Seddon

 

 

Women at Brass Band Contests in the First Year of World War One: Challenging a Traditional Homosocial Arena

Women at Brass Band Contests in the First Year of World War One: Challenging a Traditional Homosocial Arena[1]

Dr Stephen Etheridge: Follow me on Twitter, @DrGtrombone

 

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Belle Vue Contest Programme, 1914: Permission, Salford University Archives & Special Collections

 

The brass band contest was a popular and male dominated working-class leisure pursuit. Contests were well-established in the industrial areas surrounding Manchester by the 1840s,[2] and, by the time of  the first Belle Vue Contests, they had become, in the bandsmens’ minds at least, a place where working-class men could push the boundaries of their (encouraged) respectability when taking part in music as ‘rational recreation’.

It was not uncommon for reporters to highlight the more bawdy and drink-fuelled elements of the brass band contest as an example of working-class leisure. As a result brass band periodical editors countered this reportage with denial; explaining that the rougher elements – who were always and without fail admonished by the editorial – were in the minority and middle-class editors were at pains to point out that the majority of working-class bandsmen were ‘gentlemen.’ Nevertheless, as Peter Bailey recognized, in this period the consumption of alcohol, with certain exceptions, became less of a total experience and more of a social lubricant.[3] Drinking and making noise seemed natural accompaniments to popular recreation and bandsmen were not immune to them.[4]

Continue reading “Women at Brass Band Contests in the First Year of World War One: Challenging a Traditional Homosocial Arena”

The Belgian women at the College

By early 1915, there were more than a quarter of a million Belgian refugees in Britain. They had fled their homes after the German army had invaded Belgium in August 1914, an event which directly lead to the British declaration of war. After a chaotic start with refugees arriving in their thousands the newly-formed War Refugees Committee became more organised and more than 2500 local committees were set up to receive and assist Belgian refugees all over the country including the Manchester area. Here are the stories of two talented Belgian women who each contributed to the musical life of the Royal Manchester College of Music during the First War World and in its immediate aftermath.

Both were refugees from the town of Malines (or Mechelen) near Antwerp. Augusta Bertrand was the first recipient of the inaugural Will Pearce Memorial Scholarship for piano which she won in open competition in July 1915 aged 15. The 1915 Annual Report notes that there are three Belgian refugees attending the College. She went on to hold the scholarship for the four years that she was a student in the college. The Scholarship was endowed by Mrs Will Pearce a former student in memory of her late husband who was also a “distinguished student and Halle scholar of the College”. Augusta was taught by Ellen Arthan and was a regular perfomer at the open practices or students’ musical evenings. She also had Ensemble Classes with Dr Brodsky. She completed 12 terms at the College leaving at Midsummer 1919. As most Belgians returned to their country after the war had finished, Augusta probably did the same as I can find no record of a marriage or death in the UK. However, I can find no trace of her in Belgium archives either, so if anyone knows anything further about her, let us know.

Some Belgians remained in the UK like the second musician. Madeleine Vanhamme is mentioned briefly in the Musical Times of March 1915 “The Bolton Amateur Orchestral Society at a Relief Fund concert on January 13, had the assistance of Mlle Madeleine Van Hamme, a Belgian contralto.” She would have been 25 or 26 and probably would have had some singing training in Belgium. One month before the war finished on 7th October 1918, at age 29, Madeleine started her singing studies at the Royal Manchester College of Music under the famed soprano Miss Marie Brema. She completed eight terms at the RMCM until Easter 1921. The same year she married Percy Tankard in Bolton and they had one daughter Patricia Tankard in 1926. Unfortunately, as with many of the women who studied at the RMCM, the next piece of information is her death in 1975 in Merseyside.

What kind of music did they play and sing? Did they know each other? The answer to the second question is certainly yes as they were both in the College from September 1918 to Midsummer 1919 and both were from the same town in Belgium. They also performed in the same Annual Public Examinations of Friday July 18th 1919: Augusta performed the 2nd and 3rd movements of Schumann’s Pianoforte Concerto and Madeleine sang the Beethoven aria “Ah! Perfido”.

As a talented pianist, during her time at the college between 1916 and 1919, Augusta appears many times in the Open Practices playing solos and in ensembles. On Tuesday 10th July 1917, for example, she plays the piano in Beethoven’s Piano & Strings Trio Op. 1 No 3 in in C minor (2nd and 4th movements) with Gertrude Barker and Kathleen Moorhouse. A year earlier on Thursday 8th June 1916 Augusta performs Bach Partita no1 in B flat. In December 1918 she plays two Chopin Studies (Study in E major Op 10 No 3 and Study in A minor Op 25 No 11).

By contrast Madeleine’s appearances at Open Practices seems to have been limited to one on Wednesday February 19th 1919 when she sang two songs by contemporary French composers: “Psyché” by Emile Paladilhe and “L’Ane blanc” by Georges Hüe. Madeleine also performed solos at the In Celebration of Peace concert organised by her teacher Marie Brema on Tuesday December 10th 1918 when she sang two Belgian songs and one French:  “Les Cloches de Flandres” by Paul Kochs, “Ik ken een lied” the most popular song written by the 19th century Belgian composer Willem de Mol, and “Chanson de Route”  by Paul Puget with words by the French writer Alfred de Musset, famous for a two-year affair with novelist Georges Sand, who was also Chopin’s lover.

For some interesting information about Belgian refugees in the Manchester area and where to find further information https://gm1914.wordpress.com/tag/belgian-refugees/ and http://www.manchester.gov.uk/info/448/archives_and_local_history/506/multi-cultural_manchester/11

Katherine Seddon