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Programmes and Presenters

Of the three founders the most prolific source of programmes by far was Arthur Mulligan. It will be recalled that he gave three in the first season and two in the second. Thereafter, until his death in 1975, shortly after the end of the season, he hardly missed a year. When, in the list shown here, he appears to have missed it is far more likely that the syllabus for that season is unavailable.
20-10-50 Schubert Songs 02-11-62 They also wrote these
15-12-50 Sibelius 04-10-63 What's in a Name?
27-04-51 Programme Music 25-09-64 Theme and Variations
21-09-51 Easy on the Ear 22-10-65 'Ills, Trees and Watter
02-05-52 Great Artists 10-02-67 Fun and Games
02-04-54 Symphony Concert 13-10-67 Going Places
01-04-55 Have you heard this one? 27-09-68 Second Division
13-01-56 The One and Only 23-04-71 Opus 1
21-09-56 Song of a Great City 28-01-72 Three 19th C. Pianist Composers
01-11-57 Humour in Music or Youth & Old Age 16-02-73 In Foreign Parts
01-04-60 Loof Lirpa takes the Mickey 25-01-74 Famous Last Works
06-10-61 Seven Times Seven 24-01-75 Salutation

He had a good ear for a catchy title, as well as for the music. We have some idea of what he played in Humour in Music or Youth and Old Age but I would love to know what was included in 'Ills, Trees and Watter and Loof Lirpa takes the Mickey. Mention must also be made of Mulligan Marooned, in which Alan Bracewell interviewed Arthur on his imaginary desert island. That was on Oct. 23rd 1970. Before my time, unfortunately; I'd really like to have heard that one.

An early meeting

The picture on the right shows Arthur presenting a program and, apparently, causing a certain amount of amusement. The date is unknown but, since it is a newspaper photograph, it was probably taken quite early in the Society's life while there was some local press interest in the new organization. The location was, therefore, probably the Borough Café.

One of the few who compares with Arthur in the frequency of his programmes is Geoffrey Lovett, now living locally once more after a long absence. Although never a member of the society he appeared in 1954, if not earlier, and returned almost every year (apart from a brief spell in the mid-sixties) until he moved to the other end of the country in the 1980s. He's now living locally again and we were pleased to welcome him back in 2002. His almost unvarying subject matter was opera, particularly Italian and French opera, and even people who weren't wildly enthusiastic about that repertoire would come to hear Geoffrey because he always made it so interesting. He attracted bigger audiences than any other presenter in my experience.

08-01-54 Unfamiliar Opera 17-12-71 The World of Opera
07-01-55 Three Composers of Opera 19-01-73 Singers and Songs
06-04-56 Operatic Buried Treasures 11-01-74 More Singers, More Songs
26-04-57 Operatic Love and Hate 10-01-75 It give me Great Pleasure
13-03-59 The Music of Verdi 09-01-76 Operatic Journey
22-04-60 What is an Opera? 21-01-77 No Place Like Home
06-01-61 Ballet and Opera Music 03-03-78 High Jinks and Low Jinks
26-01-62 Opera Programme 09-02-79 (What! No title!)
14-01-66 Voices, Past and Present 01-02-80 The Joys of Opera
02-12-66 Due for Revival 20-02-81 An Evening of Opera and Voices
05-04-68 Potions, Poisons and People with Problems 22-01-82 The Pleasures of French Opera
14-02-69 Bel Canto - Can Belto 21-01-83 Grand Opera - The Real Thing
08-01-71 An Operatic Evening 30-03-84 Favourite Singers
    26-04-02 Living with Opera

Joe Jackson was one of the first secretaries of the society and also, as can be seen from the impressive list opposite, a regular recitalist. Joe was a modest, retiring person who preferred not to perform every season but could usually be persuaded if there was a need. As can be seen from his list, he couldn't always be pinned down to a title by the time the cards were printed but some of the titles he did use, such as Plucky Strike and Baroque Around the Clock, are gems. Occasionally, as in his Musical Journey from the Hebrides to the Italian Lakes, he essayed that superficially simple but, in reality, very difficult combination of music and colour slides. If done badly this kind of presentation can be sheer purgatory, doing justice to neither music nor pictures, but Joe was a master of the form.

05-11-54 Members' Choice 21-09-79 Memories and Music
11-01-57 Sounds and Sweet Airs 25-09-81 All Sweet Things
06-04-62 (No title given) 22-04-83 Baroque Around the Clock
25-01-63 (No title given) 03-02-84 Borrowed from the Baroque
10-01-64 From the Known to the Unknown 15-03-85 A Good Year for Music
18-12-64 Shakespearean Evening 17-10-86 Not your Favourite Concerto
03-12-65 Haydn 18-11-88 A Musical Journey from the Hebrides to the Italian Lakes
10-03-67 (No title given) 20-10-89 Sound your H's
25-09-70 Not so Dusty 08-11-91 Kilts, Celts and Concertos
19-11-71 It just isn't done 08-10-93 Throw-away Titles
23-11-73 Plucky Strike 12-04-96 Two Old Friends and some new ones
24-10-75 People and Places    

His successor as secretary (in 1956) was Joyce Knapton who has recently re-joined the society after many years during which, however, she was always a welcome visitor and gave numerous programmes. I can remember being perplexed by the title of her 1974 programme, V.W.-1813. Was there a previous incarnation of Vaughan Williams of which I'd never heard? Then it was revealed that 1813 was the birth year of both Verdi and Wagner!

22-01-54 Musical Journey 11-10-74 V. W. - 1813
21-01-55 Personal Choice 29-11-85 Another Musical Journey
05-04-67 Miscellany 22-01-88 Musical Romanticism
20-09-57 Prelude 05-01-90 The Viennese Connection
19-02-60 (no title) 25-10-91 Music from Northern Lands
09-03-62 Occasion for Rejoicing 03-12-93 Felicitous Recollections
12-02-65 My Concert Choice 19-01-96 For our Delight
05-03-71 White Nights 08-01-99 Recollected in Tranquillity
02-03-73 Ma Vlast: Some Music of Czechoslovakia 20-10-00 From Chicago to New Orleans via New York
    28-02-03 Star Cross'd Lovers

Eric Dawes was another member who joined the society in its early years, became treasurer in 1957 and still contributes programmes regularly. The late date at which Eric's list appears to start is, again, due to incomplete records. Like Joe, Eric was first inveigled into presenting a Members' Choice, this being the thin end of the wedge for getting people to give a programme of their own next season. (And we thought we invented that wheeze sometime in the '80s!)

16-01-59 Composers of the Romantic Era 13-02-76 New World Night
14-04-61 Mainly Delius 26-01-79 Four Settings of a Drama!
22-09-61 A Concert 19-03-82 Songs of Travel
22-02-63 From Tristan and Isolde 16-03-84 Fallen Idols
24-01-64 Teutonic Miscellany 14-03-86 20th Century Vox
12-03-65 Brahms 08-04-88 The Most Elusive Composer
14-04-67 Music in Season 16-03-90 Great Conductors of the Past
22-03-68 A Musical History of Vienna 20-03-92 Haydn in England
28-03-69 Portrait of a Non-hero 08-04-94 The Ballets Russes
02-04-71 Musicien Français 29-03-96 Music Through the Ages - Part II
06-04-73 Mid-European Nationalist Composers 06-03-98 Haydn at Esterhaza
21-03-75 Musicians' Union 17-03-00 Untimely Endings
    22-03-02 Frights and Fearful Phantoms

Alan Bracewell came on the scene a little later, first became chairman in 1962 and held office for a total of 12 years. Essian Tapestry is not, as you might suppose, a misprint. Alan began by stating: "There are more composers whose names begin with 'S' than with any other letter of the alphabet" which, of course, set people compiling mental lists to see whether this was indeed so. I came to the conclusion that he was right, then realised that my mind had not been on the music for the last ten minutes and I'd missed most of the first piece!

01-12-61 Purely for Pleasure 01-12-78 (No title? Most unusual!)
21-09-62 A Source of Inspiration 15-02-80 Rev-
15-11-63 Portraits and Pictures 16-04-82 All Wind and Water
09-04-65 Divertissement 07-01-83 Members' Choice
23-09-66 Ye Gods! 23-09-83 Once upon a Time
09-02-68 Two of a Kind 15-11-85 War and Peace
25-04-69 An Evening with the V.P.O. 04-03-88 A More Precise Location
05-02-71 Life and Death, War and Peace 02-03-90 Music Heroic and Elegiac
05-11-71 Music's Magic Carpet 08-05-92 A Night in Spain
01-12-72 Bits and Pieces 07-01-94 Another Night in Spain
26-10-73 Master and Pupil 20-10-95 A few of my Favourite Things
20-12-74 Come Fly with Me 10-01-97 Music Through the Ages - Part III
06-02-76 Sounds Abounding 04-12-98 Hammer and Tongues
15-04-77 Essian Tapestry 26-01-01 Curiosities
    06-12-02 This Royal Throne

In addition to the regular meetings there were, in the early years, informal musical evenings held in members' homes. These would not have involved the whole society, except for those in Mrs. Hargreaves' home at West Lynn. Entertaining on a larger scale became the special province of Tom and Marion Pilling. Members from the first season, they lived until about 1965 at Height Croft, Brierfield; a spacious, split-level house near Nelson Golf Club, produced by knocking two cottages together. This was big enough to entertain the whole society. Programmes presented by Tom on Jan. 13th 1961 and Jan. 12th 1962 appear on membership cards as if they were ordinary meetings but the treasurer's notebook tells us that they were held at the Pillings' home.

By the following season they had acquired stereo equipment and the card lists "A Stereo evening at Height Croft" for Nov. 16th 1962. Similar evenings appear in the following two seasons, then came the move to Leach House, Barrowford Road; a vast, rambling building with a lofty listening room in which 50 people could be accommodated with ease. "An evening at Leach House by invitation of Mr. & Mrs. Pilling" then became the highlight of the season. It was usually the last programme before the AGM and took place every year up to and including 1981. They were a most hospitable couple. Tom looked after the musical side (there's little point in listing the programmes since he never gave a title!) whilst Marion, with Margaret Dennison's help, regaled us during the interval with a lavish supper. It always seemed to be a fine Spring evening with the setting sun streaming through the windows behind the speakers during the first half and the room gradually getting dark after supper. What wonderful occasions those were!

Tom wasn't the only one who wouldn't be held to a title. Several programmes appear on membership cards with only the presenter's name; Ronald Kay and his wife came every year from Clitheroe Gramophone Society and usually gave programmes alternately. Titles were sometimes given for the earlier programmes, e.g. Recordings of the Amadeus Quartet, Music in Miniature, Schumann Centenary Programme, For Better or Worse; but never for the later ones. The committee tried, and still tries, to extract a title from everyone before the cards are printed and is nowadays usually successful. A mere title wasn't always deemed sufficient. At the 1957 AGM, amid concerns about falling membership, it was resolved that "there should be a three-monthly syllabus with detailed programmes" and that this syllabus should be sent to former members. The practice was continued for three or four years and then dropped, presumably because it proved impossible to get people to plan their programmes so far ahead.

Three of these half-yearly duplicated sheets have survived and a couple of extracts will give the general flavour.
Oct. 18th 1957:-
"Mr. & Mrs. Garbutt of Manchester have entitled their programme 'MUSIC AND WORDS'. The music to be played - Operas, Symphonies, Symphonic Poems and Songs - has associations with literary works, the music being inspired by a play, novel or poem, for example - Grieg's Peer Gynt, Delius' Hassan, Berlioz's Harold in Italy, and Bizet's L'Arlesienne."
and on Nov 1st in the same year:-

and on Nov 1st in the same year:-
"A recital by another former Chairman of the Society, Mr. A. Mulligan, entitled 'HUMOUR IN MUSIC' or 'YOUTH AND OLD AGE'. Compositions by Mozart, Mendelssohn, Schubert in their 'teens, and music by Verdi and Vaughan Williams in their 80s".

It was noted earlier that the first programme was advertised in the Nelson Leader. In fact, it appears that every programme was so advertised since the treasurer's book shows such expenditure for every meeting. This continued until 1963 when it presumably became too expensive.

There have, from time to time, been other musical presentations by the society. Oct. 12th 1968 is listed as "College Saturday - On Record" presented by Alan Bracewell. This event took place during the society's second season at Nelson & Colne College in what was then the main hall. The idea was to draw the public's attention to our existence and a similar programme was included in the following year. A slightly different venture was the presentation by a representative of CBS records on Oct. 31st 1971. If one of the purposes of these Saturdays at the College was to attract new members this last programme drew at least one - I first joined the society in the Autumn of 1971. Sunday programmes were also given at Gawthorpe Hall on Feb. 28th 1971, Feb. 27th 1972 and Nov. 26th 1972; and a programme entitled In London Town on Thursday June 9th 1977, in the library, as our contribution to the Arts Festival celebrating the Queen's Silver Jubilee.

Nelson Leaderannouncement In October 1976, having just moved to its spacious new meeting-room in Nelson Library, the society was host to the N.W. Regional Group of what was then the National Federation of Gramophone Societies (now the Federation of Recorded Music Societies). This was a Saturday afternoon event attended by about 60 people half of whom were our own members, the rest coming from as far afield as Stockport, Liverpool and Barrow-in-Furness. Such meetings usually take place in cities or larger towns so this was quite a bold venture for Nelson. Ivan March, a long-serving record reviewer in Gramophone magazine and proprietor of the Long Playing Record Library, Blackpool, was the speaker for the evening. (Seen above, centre, holding a record.) His subject was the development of sound recording from the phonograph to the present day. A wax cylinder was played on an Edison phonograph which he had brought with him and an early 78 rpm disc was played on a portable acoustic gramophone. He went on to discuss later developments in recording and reproducing equipment, including a demonstration of the then new cassette tapes.

In 1981 the society held two summer meetings at Pendle Heritage centre, each of which was attended by about 40 people, mainly society members. That was the beginning of an association with the Heritage Centre which continued up to 2001, one programme being given there every August.

The early AGMs apparently devoted less time than now to business matters, the evening including music presented by various members. This form of meeting eventually lapsed and the AGM became simply a business meeting. In 1976, however, the secretary (Geoff George), believing he had hit on a new idea, ended the AGM with a record of Saint-Saëns' 3rd symphony. The hope was that more members would attend if they knew that the proceedings included some music. This has, unfortunately, not happened but we continue to end every AGM with a substantial work right up to the present.

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