A few days ago, I posted a short appreciation of Carey Blyton’s (1932-2002) splendid Suite: Cinque Port. I noted that it was first performed on 31 January 1962 at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester.
I have since discovered a little bit more about this premiere. At that time, the Hallé had a series of public orchestral rehearsals which were sponsored by the Society for the Promotion of New Music (founded in London, 1943). The ‘rehearsal’ was held at the Free Trade Hall, which at that time was the home of the Hallé Orchestra. It was one of a series of four concerts, sponsored by Associated Redifussion (1954-1968) which included three in Manchester and one in London.
The Times (1 February 1962) reported that a ‘good crowd’ had turned out on a Wednesday evening to hear two unperformed works by British composers, both under the age of thirty.
The way the evening worked was that the music was rehearsed for about an hour and a half by the orchestra under the conductor, Maurice Handford at ‘sight’ from the full score and parts. After a short interval, the two compositions were given a ‘formal’ performance. Afterwards, the audience discussed each work, which resulted in an exchange that exhibited ‘forthrightness and volubility.’ The chairman of these ‘discussions’ was the The Times music critic William Mann,
The major work at the rehearsal on 31 January was David Ellis’s (b.1937) Violin Concerto, op.22 which had been composed between 1958 and 1960. The soloist was the current leader of the Halle Orchestra, Martin Milner (1928-2000).
The Times understood Carey Blyton’s Suite: Cinque Port as being ‘direct and unpretentious light music, simply and capably laid out.’ It was ‘pleasant to listen to…and made a good foil to the [Ellis] violin concerto.’
The ‘light-hearted’ nature of Carey Blyton’s Suite was noted by J.H. Elliot writing for the Manchester Guardian (1 February 1962). He enjoyed ‘…the cheerfulness which breaks in so readily…’ He notes that two of the movements were proclaimed to be parodies: he felt that they had little sting. Elliot considered that like ‘many other satirical pages, they tend to become quite attractive examples of the things that they set out to guy.’
I will present more details about David Ellis’s Violin Concerto and the other three concerts in a subsequent post.