April 29th 1949 was a significant date in the musical life of Scunthorpe and District. After the Second World War opportunities opened up, for the lover of classical music, to hear the leading orchestras of the day. John Barbirolli was weaving his magic spells with the Hallé Orchestra, and Sheffield and Manchester shared the same programme on most weeks of the concert season.
A group of friends in Scunthorpe attended these concerts in Sheffield and, at the end of the 1948 – 1949 season, arranged for a recital to be given in the Cole Street Hall by Arthur Percival, the then sub-leader of the Hallé accompanied by a local musician, Dr Stafford. This initial performance in 1949 was the beginning of the Scunthorpe Music Club.
The first Secretary was Ellen (“Nell”) Houghton and singers and instrumentalists such as Owen Brannigan, John Heddle Nash, Joseph Cooper, Allan Schiller, Marisa Robles, Peter Donohue, Anthony Goldstone and the Fitzwilliam Quartet were engaged. The concerts took place in St Lawrence’s Church Hall and the Hallé link continued when Arthur Percival attended the 21st Anniversary Dinner in 1970. In 1971, the co-leader of the Hallé, Martin Milner, gave a violin recital and in 1974 he was the guest speaker at the Silver Jubilee Dinner, when he spoke on the subject “J.B.” For the next season, full membership was £3.00 and single concerts were available from 60p!
In 1976, Nell Houghton retired, and at a celebratory dinner she played part of the Bach Double Violin Concerto with Martin Milner. Mary Hipkins, already a committee member, became the Honorary Secretary. About this time too, some concerts were held at the Grammar School, but in 1988, the Music Club started to use the John Leggott Sixth Form College Hall and one year later change its name to The Scunthorpe and Glanford Concert Society.
Over the years, a combination of performances by national and international artistes, and a steadily growing membership, created an enriching musical experience. Recitals by Moura Lympany, John Lill, Martin Roscoe, Michael Collins, Ilya Itin, Vladimir Ovchinikov, Leon McCauley, London and Nemo Brass, the Gabrieli Quartet, amongst many others, attracted regular audiences of over two hundred.
In 1994 the Society bought its own concert piano and in 1998 changed its name, yet again, to the Scunthorpe and North Lincolnshire Concert Society.
The theme of the 1998 – 1999 Jubilee Season was “Many Happy Returns”. Two years previously, the members had been asked to nominate their favourite performers from the preceding years and a compilation was made of their choices. Emma Johnson and Julius Drake drew their usual capacity audience. The Christmas concert was by City Waites, and in the New Year we had a “sell out” for Tasmin Little and Piers Lane. This event was dedicated to the memory of Nell Houghton. Anthony Goldstone and Caroline Clemmow, a local piano duo, were followed by Nemo Brass, and the year ended, almost fifty years to the day from the founding of the Society, with Cantamus Choir who included a new work by Andrew Carter that had been commissioned by the Society for its Golden Jubilee. A Jubilee dinner was held at the Wortley Hotel.
The Millennium Season began with Peter Donohue, followed by the Guarneri Trio of Prague. The guitarist, Craig Ogden, made a return visit with the flautist, Jonathan Rimmer and the final concert featured the cellist Richard Jenkinson accompanied, on the piano, by Benjamin Frith. The Society was thus well set up for the new century and has continued to promote concerts of the highest quality with an array of truly international artistes: Nikolai Demidenko, Ashley Wass, Evgeny Soifertis, The Janacek String Quartet, Fine Arts Brass, Jennifer Pike, Ensemble 360, The Hugo Wolf String Quartet, London Concertante, Roderick Williams, Benjamin Grosvernor and Touchwood Quartet …. to name but a few.
Having been somewhat nomadic for a couple of years after leaving John Leggott College in 2011, and then spending a year at Brumby Engineering College, in 2013 the society moved to its current home at Outwood Academy, Foxhills. Unfortunately, these changes of venue resulted in a fall off of membership (and inevitably our income) from over 170 members to a low of just under 90. We were very grateful to those members who were generous with their donations at this difficult time financially, as their assistance enabled us to continue to book top quality performers.
For our 2017 – 2018 season we focused on engaging some of the top young talent from the BBC Young Musician of the Year Awards. We were enchanted by the musicality of pianist Martin Bartlett, thrilled with Jess Gillam’s versatility on the saxophone and had our first ‘sell out’ concert for several years with the cellist, Sheku Kanneh-Mason with his talented sister, Isata on the piano. Sheku was the BBC Young Musician of the Year, and had seen his first CD rise to the top of the album charts shortly before his visit. Scunthorpe and North Lincolnshire Concert Society obviously set a trend that year as Martin was invited to compete in the prestigious Van Cliburn Competition in Texas, Jess featured in the last night of the Proms and Sheku was invited to perform at the wedding of HRH Prince Harry and Megan Markle shortly after performing for us! Last season (2018) we welcomed Florian Mitrea, whose first CD, Following the River, went on to be voted the best new CD by listeners to Romanian Radio, and a few of his North Lincolnshire fans!
We now look forward to our 70th anniversary season in 2019 – 2020 with increasing audience numbers and a continued focus on young talented musicians.