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Manchester Music History - Ewan MacColl
Dirty Old Town
The History Of Manchester Music

Following the war, a young Salford communist was to become one of the most influential artists in British music history. Ewan MacColl, or Jimmie Miller as he was known before desserting the army in 1940, wrote many songs about the working class struggles in Britain, penning many about Manchester, Salford and Lancashire. His work would be covered by artists as diverse as Elvis Presley, George Michael, Celine Dion and The Temptations, and influenced many folk artists for years to come.

During these post-war days, ballroom dancing was all the rage in Britain, and Manchester boasted its fair share of ballrooms which helped launch the careers of jazz and swing acts like the popular Lancashire trumpeter Eddie Calvert, who was to go on and spend 9 weeks at the top of the UK charts in 1953, enjoying success in the States too..




1765
Manchester Music - The Halle Orchestra The Gentleman's Concerts

Founded in 1765 by 26 amateur flute players, The Gentleman's Concerts are the most important musical society in Manchester. By 1774 they have built their own Concert Rooms on Fountain Street with capacity for an audience of 900. The building lends its name to Concert Lane. They later move to new premises on Lower Mosley Street (pictured left), on the site now occupied by The Midland Hotel, and in course of time, add other instruments to the esemble. A full orchestra is completed around the turn of the century. The society is wealthy, with would-be subscribers having generally to wait three years before room can be made for them and, in consequence, every classical artist of renown who has visited England works with the orchestra at some point.


 

 


1848
June
Manchester Music - The Halle Orchestra Charles Hallé

Following the overthrow of Louis Philippe in February 1848, the liberal provisional government of the Second Republic ruled France. The poet Alphonse de Lamartine was appointed president and offered his multi-lingual friend, Charles Hallé, a 28 year old out-of-work Anglo-German musician, the chance to become secretary to the French Embassy in Frankfurt, Germany. Hallé turns down the opportunity and, amidst an atmosphere of political unrest, flees Paris for London a fortnight later, just weeks before a stricter conservative government is elected in France. He becomes friends with many business leaders and celebrities, including Charles Dickens and Robert Browning, conducting the occassional concert and teaching piano for an income, with many of his pupils also having escaped Paris, following the bloody but unsuccessful workers' rebellion on 23 June 1848. At the end of June, Manchester cloth printer Hermann Leo, visits the musician in London with the sole purpose of offering him a residency in Manchester, as the city was "quite ripe to be taken in hand" and he was the "fittest man to stir the dormant interest in the art." Hallé, who was friends with Leo's banker brother in Paris, agrees to the move and makes his first appearance on the 13th September 1848.

Hallé's plans to return to Paris On 2nd December 1848, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte III was elected President of the Second Republic, largely on peasant support


1857
May
Manchester Music - The Halle Orchestra Art Treasures Exhibition

Manchester became a city in 1853, and inspired by the the Great Exhibition in 1851, the Dublin Exhibition in 1853, and the Paris International Exhibition in 1855, the city's increasingly affluent business grandees, are motivated by a desire to demonstrate their cultural attainment, and fund the Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition in 1857. Based in a temporary iron-and-glass structure next to Manchester Botanical Garden (which later becomes White City, close to Old Trafford Cricket Ground), it looks similar to the Crystal Palace in London. The Manchester, South Junction and Altrincham Railway Company build a new station (which is now Old Trafford Metrolink station) which is used by the 1.3 million visitors to the exhibition, which include Prince Albert & Queen Victora, the King of Belgium, the Queen of the Netherlands, Louis Napoleon, Benjamin Disraeli, William Ewart Gladstone, Lord Palmerston, the 2nd Duke of Wellington, Charles Dickens, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Florence Nightingale, Friedrich Engels, Elizabeth Gaskell, John Ruskin, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Maria Mitchell . To entertain the visitors, Charles Hallé, a pianist and conductor of the Liverpool Philharmonic, is asked to organise an orchestra to perform a daily concert, in addition to a daily organ recital, from the 5th May to the 17th October 1857. It remains to this day, the largest art exhibition in the world, with over 16,000 works on display.


1858
January
Manchester Music - The Halle Orchestra The Hallé Orchestra

Charles Hallé decides to continue running the Manchester orchestra he had temporarily put together for the Art Treasures Exhibition and, on the 30th January 1858 at The Free Trade Hall, The Charles Hallé Orchestra perform their first formal concert.

 


1945
Manchester Music - The Halle Orchestra The Hallé Orchestra
In 1945, Barbirolli and the Halle gave the premiere of Anthony Collins's Threnody for a Soldier Killed in Action, based on sketches made by the young English composer Michael Heming shortly before he was killed in world war two. It is a poignant story, and the gently melancholic pastoral tone still retains some of the nostalgic beauty that must have moved British audiences traumatised by destruction and losse.

1946
August
Manchester Music - The Halle Orchestra The Hallé Orchestra
By now The Hallé Orchestra had earned the reputation as being one of the best orchestras in the world, and their run of three nights from the 27th August 1946 at The Kings Hall, Balmoral, were being billed as "the greatest musical event in the history of Ireland." They play to an audience of "well over 5,000 people" on the first night alone

1950
 
Manchester Music - Ewan MacColl Ewan MacColl
Broughton-born socialist activist Ewan MacColl makes his recording debut with the '78 folk single 'The Asphalter’s Song; I’m Champion at Keeping ‘em Rolling'. Although previously a writer, actor, poet and political activist, this is the start of a highly influential recording career in folk music.

July
Manchester Music - The Halle Orchestra The Hallé Orchestra
The first performance of British composer Peter Racine Fricker's First Symphony is given by Sir John Barbirolli and The Hallé Orchestra at the Sixth Annual Cheltenham Festival of British Contemporary Music on the 5th July 1950. The score is heavily panned by the critics..

Manchester Music - The Halle Orchestra The Hallé Orchestra
A day later, Sir John Barbirolli and The Halle Orchestra give the world premiere of British film composer William Alwyn's First Symphony at Cheltenham. The score is heavily panned by the critics.

1951
September
Manchester Music - George Formby George Formby
In 1951, George Formby hadn't made a film for five years, with the British public seemingly wanting to forget about World War II, so it is a big surprise when he makes his comeback in the stage musical 'Zip Goes A Million’, playing Percy Piggott, a Lancashire window cleaner who inherits a multi-million dollar fortune on the condition that he can spend $1 million of it in 30 days without letting anyone know what he is up to. Based on the 1902 novel 'Brewster's Millions', it opens in Coventry on the 4th September before bringing George home to Manchester, where it breaks all the box-office records at The Palace Theatre during its run from the 17th September to 16th October 1951. The show then moves to the West End in London where it is performed 544 times until the 7th February 1953. The show produces the songs "Saving Up For Sally", "Pleasure Cruise", "Ordinary People" and "Zip Goes A Million".

Philomena Lynott, a young white Irish mother of a baby from a short relationship with a black Afro-Guyanese father, looks for a place she can safely raise a mixed race baby out of wedlock. The over-zealous catholic nuns at the Birmingham hostel in which she is living, try to force her into giving up her only child for adoption. Not being able to return to 1950s Ireland, with its poverty and racial bigotry, she relocates to Moss Side, Manchester, bringing her one year old son, Phil Lynott, with her.

November
Manchester Music - The Halle Orchestra The Hallé Orchestra

On the 16th November 1951, Queen Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother) opens the reconstructed Free Trade Hall in Manchester - the fourth building of that name to stand on the site in St. Peter's Field, the scene of the Peterloo massacre of 1819. The building is completely rebuilt from the bomb damage it suffered during World War II with a new hall constructed behind two walls of the original facade. The occasion is marked by a magnificent orchestral concert by The Hallé Orchestra, returning to what had been their home since their formation in 1858. The finale features Britain's best-loved contralto, Blackburn-born Kathleen Ferrier, who had become a huge star during World War II, singing Elgar’s ‘Land of Hope and Glory’. The Manchester Guardian report "lovers of this tune will fear that never again can they hope to hear it in such glory". The Free Trade Hall (or The New Free Trade Hall as it becomes known), goes on to host many famous concerts until its closure in 1996. (the most famous of which being by Bob Dylan in 1966 and The Sex Pistols in 1976). It reopens as The Radisson Edwardian Hotel in 2004.


1952
 
Manchester Music - Ewan MacColl Ewan MacColl
Salford folk legend Ewan MacColl releases his most famous song. Originally composed for an interlude to cover an awkward scene change back in his 1949 play "Landscape with Chimneys", which played at the influential Theatre Workshop in Manchester, a group he had set up following the war in 1945 with his actress wife Joan Littlewood. Whilst they remained friends and collaborators, the couple had divorced in 1950 and Littlewood later moved the theatre to London, much to MacColl's disagreement. The song, written about industrial Salford, namechecks local landmarks including "the gas works croft" on Liverpool Street and the Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal ("the old canal"). The original lyrics contained the line, "smelled the smoke on the Salford wind." but MacColl was pressured into changing this by Salford Council to "smelled the spring on the smoky wind." It is later covered by many artists with Rod Stewart singing "smelled the spring on the Salford wind", on his 1969 album 'An Old Raincoat Won't Ever Let You Down'. Other famous covers include Donovan (1964), Roger Whittaker (1968), The Dubliners (1968), The Pogues (1985), Townes Van Zandt (1996), The Specials (1996), and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (2009), amongst many others.

April
On 28th April 1952, George Formby, suffering from ill health, decides to withdraw from 'Zip Goes a Million'. On the way to the theatre to inform the producers, he suffers a heart attack. It takes the doctors five days to diagnose the coronary and admit him to hospital. He is treated for both the heart attack and a morphine addiction, staying in hospital for nine weeks before returning home to Lytham St Annes, Lancashire.

1953
January
Manchester Music - The Halle Orchestra The Hallé Orchestra
On the 14th January 1953 at the Free Trade Hall, Sir John Barbirolli and The Hallé Orchestra give the first ever performance of English composer, and great-nephew to Charles Darwin, Ralph Vaughan Williams' seventh symphony. Inspired by his 1947 film score for 'Scott of the Antarctic', it is given the Italian name "Sinfonia Antartica"

June
Manchester Music - The Halle Orchestra The Hallé Orchestra
On the 10th June 1953, Manchester's Hallé Orchestra perform the world premier of Scottish composer Iain Hamilton's "Symphony no.2 for Orchestra" at the Cheltenham Festival of British Contemporary Music. Originally written two years previously, it goes on to become one of Iain Hamilton's most popular orchestral works

October
Manchester Music - The Halle Orchestra The Hallé Orchestra
Following on from their premier of British film composer William Alwyn's First Symphony three years earlier, Sir John Barbirolli and The Halle Orchestra premier his Second Symphony on the 14th and 15th October 1953. Critics found it more passionate than his first offering.

November
Manchester Music - Lee Lawrence Lee Lawrence
Salford-born crooner Lee Lawrence releases his biggest hit with his cover of Darrell Glenn's gospel song, "Crying In The Chapel". Born Leon Siroto, to opera singing parents with the Carl Rosa Opera Company, he had studied opera in Italy for three years at the age of 16. After returning to England at the start of the Second World War, he enlisted in the Royal Tank Regiment and sang with the Entertainments National Service Association, where he is noticed by the BBC. By late 1951, he was topping the bill at the Shepherd's Bush Empire above the likes of Peter Sellars and Morecambe & Wise and was being promoted as "Britain's outstanding singing star", signing to Decca Records. Across the Atlantic in July 1953, Darrell Glenn had reached no.6 on the Billboard charts with his track "Crying In The Chapel". Covers by June Valli (no.4 in July), Ella Fitzgerald (no.15 in July), Rex Allen (no.8 in August), and Art Lund (no.23 in September) also chart in the same year. By the 20th November, the song reaches British audiences with Lee Lawrence's version peaking at no.7 in the UK charts. The song is later covered by the likes of Elvis (1960), Little Richard (1963), The Platters (1964), Bob Marley (1968) and Don McLean (1974).

December
After guest conducting six operas for The Royal Opera House in London, Sir John Barbirolli turns down the prestigious opportunity to be Musical Director there, prefering to stay in Manchester with his beloved Halle Orchestra. He had also previously turned down invitations to take up more prestigious and lucrative conductorships.at the London Symphony Orchestra,and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Later (in 1971) his biographer, Charles Reid, would give the reason that "his Manchester kingdom is a kingdom indeed. He is not manacled or chivied in his choice of programmes. Broadly speaking he conducts only what he loves. His kingdom approximates to a conductor's paradise." [click here for the biography]

Manchester Music - Eddie Calvert Eddie Calvert

Following World War II, dancehalls were popular all over Britain, with the sound of orchestral swing music providing the backdrop for the youth to dance to. It's the perfect environment for Lancashire trumpet player Eddie Calvert, who is heavily influenced by the local brass bands, to become a major star.

Following his exposure on TV with the Stanley Black Orchestra, an enthusiastic announcer introduces him as the 'Man With The Golden Trumpet', a nickname that is to stick with him for the rest of his career. His regular radio and TV appearances make him a household name and, on the 18th December 1953, he tops the UK charts for an incredible nine weeks and reaches the Billboard Top 10 in the USA with his instrumental cover of the Swiss musical tune "O Mein Papa", renamed "Oh Mein Papa" for a UK audience..

He is awarded the first ever gold disc for an instrumental track (the song remains the best selling instrumental still to this day) and his hit inspires US Army Band vocalist Eddie Fisher to record his own version, renamed with the full English translation of "Oh My Papa", which later goes on to top the charts in America and reach no.9 in the UK at the same time Eddie Calvert is still no.1.


Philomena Lynott, struggling to raise a child alone and hold down three jobs (at a dress shop near John Lewis on Market Street, as a barmaid and, on Saturdays, at a market selling Dannimac coats), sends a 4-year-old Phil Lynott back to Dublin to be raised by her mother, Sarah, whom in later life he will write a song about.

1955
April
Manchester Music - Eddie Calvert Eddie Calvert

Over a year after breaking all UK records, "the man with the golden trumpet", Eddie Calvert, becomes the first British instrumentalist to achieve two number ones. with his instrumental cover of Catalan musician Louiguy's Latin jazz composition "Cerisiers Roses et Pommiers Blancs", which was originally recorded in French by André Claveau with lyrics by Jacques Larue in 1950, and also in English by Georgia Gibbs in 1951, with lyrics by Mack David.

It is the instrumental version, translated into English as "Cherry Pink (and Apple Blossom Wine)", that is more famous thanks largely to two different versions which both top the UK charts in early 1955. The Lancashire trumpet player's cover (released 8th April 1955) spends four weeks at no.1 in May, following an earlier mambo version by Pérez 'Prez' Prado & His Orchestra featuring trumpeter Billy Regis, taken from the Jane Russell blockbusting film 'Underwater', in which she dances to the song. Prado's version spends a whopping 10 weeks at the top of the US Billboard charts and 2 weeks in the UK during March 1955.

Whilst still topping the chart with "Cherry Pink", Eddie Calvert also enjoys having another '45rpm single in the Top 20 as his instrumental version of the popular song from the Kismet musical, "Stranger In Paradise", reaches no..14 (released 13th May 1955).


July
Manchester Music - The Halle Orchestra The Hallé Orchestra
English composer Gerald Finzi writes his eloquent but ambitious Cello Concerto at the request of Sir John Barbirolli who performs its premiere with The Halle Orchestra at the Cheltenham Festival of British Contemporary Music on the 19th July 1955. It is to be the composer's last work as he dies of shingles the following year, ironically the day after his Cello Concerto receives its first radio perfomance.

Manchester Music - Lee Lawrence Eddie Calvert

With "Cherry Pink" still riding high in the charts (on 29th July 1955), Lancashire trumpeter Eddie Calvert repeats the feat of having two 45's in the Top 20 at the same time, as his theme tune for William Fairchild's British comedy film "John & Julie" reaches no.6.

Starring Peter Sellers and Syd James, the charming film tells the story of an 8-year-old girl who runs away with her friend to London to fulfil her dream of seeing the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, meeting various eccentrics on the way. [click here to buy]


December
Manchester Music - Lee Lawrence Lee Lawrence
Salford operatic crooner Lee Lawrence's cover of Gogi Grant's 1955 US Top 10 hit is one of three different versions competing in the UK charts (2nd Dec 1955) and one of many more recorded around the same time. He reaches no.14 whilst Petula Clark (no.7) and Jo Stafford (no.12) fare better. The song is also covered in the same year by Julius La Rosa (no.20 in the US), The Mills Brothers (US no.45), Jane Froman, and, in German (under the title "Folge dem Rat Deines"), Vera Lynn. A French language version by Edith Piaf, ""Soudain une Valléé" outsells all versions in Europe, although she never performs the song live. With Bill Haley top of the charts with "Rock Around The Clock" the same week, widely considered to be the song that, more than any other, brought rock and roll into mainstream culture around the world, it's clear that the times are changing for the post-war easy listening artists and this cover is to be Lee Lawrence's last ever chart appearance.

1956
March
Manchester Music - Eddie Calvert Eddie Calvert
"The Man With The Golden Trumpet" reaches no.13 in the UK charts on the 9th March 1956 with his instrumental cover of South African accordionist Nico Carstens uplifting track "Zambesi" featuring the Norrie Paramor Orchestra. It perhaps begins Eddie Calvert's love affair with South Africa, where he would, later in life, live and die.

May
Manchester Music - The Halle Orchestra The Hallé Orchestra
On the 2nd and 3rd May 1956, at the Free Trade Hall, Manchester's Hallé Orchestra, conducted by Sir John Barbirolli, perform the World Premier of English composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams' remarkably inventive Symphony No.8 in D minor. Written between 1953 and 1955, it is the shortest of his nine symphonies and the first of his works that he allows to be numbered

Manchester Music - The Three Kayes The Three Kayes
A television appearance rockets identically dressed and equally blonde coiffured singing trio The Three Kayes, to fame. Named after their manager, Carmen Kaye, and featuring 26 year old Oldham girl Carol Lindsey, their cover of the popular 1956 track "Ivory Tower" reaches no.20 in the UK charts on 25th May 1956.

July
Manchester Music - The Halle Orchestra The Hallé Orchestra
On the 18th July 1956, Sir John Barbirolli conducts The Hallé Orchestra at the Cheltenham Festival of British Contemporary Music for their second world premiere of a Peter Racine Fricker composition, 'Litany', which goes on to become one of his most famous pieces of work

Manchester Music - The Halle Orchestra The Hallé Orchestra
A day later, Sir John Barbirolli conducts The Hallé Orchestra at the Cheltenham Festival of British Contemporary Music for their second world premiere of an Iain Hamilton composition, "Symphonic Variations for Orchestra"

September
Back living with his mother in Moss Side, Manchester, a 6-year-old Phil Lynott attends Princess Road Junior School. His school report gives him a "disappointing" E for Punctuality and a C in Music

1959
July
Manchester Music - The Halle Orchestra The Hallé Orchestra
Sir John Barbirolli and Manchester's Halle Orchestra give he first performance of Anthony Milner's religious 'Variations For Orchestra' at the Cheltenham Festival of British Contemporary Music in July 1959. It is described as being "a rosary in sound, a musical meditation along the stations of the cross". It is to be the Halle's final performance at Cheltenham, ending a relationship dating back to 1947, after the festival organisers decide that the cost of funding The Halle's world premiere performances is too expensive.


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