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- Part 2: Promenade Concerts and Recordings -


   LINKS to other pages in this site and to other sites in the Travelling Days series:

Autographs Home Page:      Bedford 1939 onwards:      BBC in Bedford Part 1:
BBC Symphony Orchestra Personalities:      Bedford Miscellany:       Bedford School (1940s):
Composers:      Conductors:       David Gentleman:      Glenn Miller:       Instrumentalists:
Personalities of the 1940s:       Pianists:       The RAEC in Cornwall:
Religion and Drama:       Singers:       BBC in Cornwall 1949:      Colin Day's List-O-Links:
America West Home Page:      Guest Book:

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THE 1944 HENRY WOOD PROMENADE CONCERTS.
    It was Sir Henry Wood's Jubilee (50th Anniversary) season and scheduled to run from 10th June to 12th August 1944. A total of 55 concerts were planned. Because the Queen's Hall (the traditional venue for the Promenade series) had been destroyed in the Blitz, the concerts were initially based at the Albert Hall but later concerts were relocated to Bedford because of the danger from flying bombs. Many of the latter programmes were shortened, generally being restricted to those items scheduled to be broadcast.

THE PROSPECTUS of the Jubilee (50th) Season series of concerts (left) :
Chief Conductor: Sir Henry Wood.
Associate conductors: Sir Adrian Boult, Basil Cameron.
Orchestra: BBC Symphony Orchestra.
Soloists included:
    Benno Moiseiwitsch (piano), Joan Hammond (soprano),
    Eva Turner (soprano), Benjamin Britten (piano),
    Heddle Nash (tenor), Cyril Smith and Phyllis Sellick (piano),
    Dino Borgioli (tenor), Clifford Curzon (piano),
    Louis Kentner (piano), Gerald Moore (piano),
    Nancy Evans (mezzo), Oda Slobodskaya (soprano),
    Shulamith Shafir (piano) Noel Mewton Wood (piano).
New works programmed for performance included:
    A Toast to Stalin (Prokofiev), Violin Concerto (Barber),
    Oboe Concerto (Vaughan Williams), Symphony No.8 (Shostakovitch),
    Four Norwegian Moods (Stravinsky),
    Memorial to Lidice (Martinu)

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The Great Hall at Bedford School in the 1940s. The fire of 1979 destroyed it completely. On Friday 28 July 1944 Sir Henry Wood conducted his last, somewhat traumatic (due to some disagreement with the orchestra), rehearsal in this hall. That evening he and the orchestra gave a superb performance of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony in the Corn Exchange. Sir Adrian Boult recalled, 'Those of us who were privileged to be there were thrilled at our old friend's perennial energy and youth.'

Sir Henry became ill shortly after the concert and died in Hitchin Hospital on 19 August. He lived just long enough to hear that the Jubilee Concert which he was to have conducted on 10 August had gone to air on the Home Service.

The concert was conducted by Sir Adrian Boult and George Thalben-Ball played a Handel Organ Concerto orchestrated by Sir Henry. Stuart Hibberd, the BBC announcer, read a message from Wood, 'Give my love to all my dear musicians and my dear friends of music. I am disappointed that I cannot be with them today, but tell them I shall soon be with them again and then we'll finish the Jubilee Season with a Victory Season.'

Wood's ashes were buried in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre without Newgate where his life in music had started sixty five years earlier. His bust, adorned with a laurel wreath, is placed in the Albert Hall behind the orchestra every night throughout the Promenade Season. On the last night the wreath is removed by the promenaders then taken and placed on his tomb in the church.

Sir Adrian Boult conducts the BBC Symphony Orchestra in the School Hall in June 1944. The author is in the gallery - fifth from the right!. The picture was published on the front page of the 'Radio Times' magazine the same year.

What is thought by many to be the definitive version of Elgar’s Second Symphony was recorded by the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Boult in the Great Hall on 3, 4 and 25 August 1944 under the supervision of Walter Legge. (At least one of the sides had to be re-recorded due to the intrusive noises produced by the school's timber and rush chairs on which the orchestra was seated!) Legge, husband of the singer Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, has been given much deserved credit for his many great recordings issued by EMI in the 1930s to 1960s.

The original recording of the Elgar on 78rpm discs was later transferred, first to LP, and then several years ago on to compact disc. Legge also supervised a recording of Holst’s Planets Suite in the Corn Exchange, Bedford on 2-5 January 1945.

(For an autograph and details of a concert in Cornwall, please click here. For more about Sir Adrian Boult, click here.)

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