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.
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.
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.
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.
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