WAKEFIELD CONCERT SOCIETY
BRIEF HISTORY OF WAKEFIELD CONCERT SOCIETY
Formed as the Horbury Concert Society in 1964 on the suggestion of Mr John Gavall, then Chief Music Officer of the West Riding County Council, the Society was one of three established in connection with new West Riding schools. It is the only one of the three to have survived. The inaugural concert on the evening of October 10th 1964 at the new Horbury school featured the husband and wife team of tenor, Edward Darling, and soprano, Ursula Connors. The fine tradition established in those early years has continued and the Society assumed its new name in 1989.
A move of performance venue to Wakefield College and the acquisition in 1981 of a new Steinway piano courtesy of contributions from the Arts Council, Wakefield Council, fundraising events and a public appeal marked the start of the Concert Society’s heyday and audience numbers doubled. A less satisfactory period then followed after Wakefield Council asked that the concerts be moved to Wakefield Opera House on Sunday evenings. Sadly this proved unpopular with audiences and the experiment was discontinued. A further setback was in store when the College announced a fivefold increase in their hiring fee, putting the college out of contention as a venue, and the concerts moved to the Town Hall. Audience members were no doubt becoming used to a nomadic existence, just as well when in 1998 the Council at short notice withdrew from the arrangement and precipitated a crisis. The Director of Music at Wakefield’s Thornes Park College then offered the use of their 220 seat theatre on satisfactory terms following which there was a modest improvement in the concert society’s fortunes but yet another move was made for the 2004/5 season following the announcement of a large rent increase at Thornes. On 23rd October 2004 The Summerhayes Piano Trio launched the new season of concerts in the Jubilee Hall at Wakefield Girls’ High School on Margaret Street. The concerts have continued successfully at this venue ever since.
Among the artists appearing over the years have been such luminaries as Marisa Robles, Gerald Moore, Michala Petri and Julian Lloyd Webber. More recently the Concert Society has been able to bring to Wakefield the Sorrel, Fitzwilliam and Belcea String Quartets, pianists Benjamin Frith, Noriko Ogawa and Anthony Goldstone, Clarinettist Alan Hacker, the Gould and Fujita Piano Trios, the Guitarist Craig Ogden and we have had symphony concerts by the Hallam Sinfonia – a rare treat for Wakefield.
The Society celebrated its 50th season in 2013/14 which culminated in a very successful concert by the internationally known pianist, Benjamin Frith, who has appeared for the Society on a number of occasions. It was certainly a significant milestone in the life of the Society and we look forward optimistically to the next 50 seasons!
Since the beginning a loyal core membership of season-ticket holders has provided the stability needed and latterly we have been very grateful for the support offered by our Patrons. Despite the unsettling effect of the enforced changes of venue which have hindered audience development and the fact that no external funding has been forthcoming in recent times, the committee looks to the future in good heart. The Society always welcomes new audience members which will help us to maintain our aim of bringing high quality live classical music to Wakefield. More information is available either from Chris Pearman on 01924 371546 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org