The Brighton Municipal Orchestra

Havergal Brian

Selected and annotated by Malcolm MacDonald

Brighton City Council had withdrawn its subsidy from the Brighton Municipal Orchestra:

The town councillors of Brighton also have been filled with the spirit of destruction, but in their case, judged by past experience, one might exclaim, Resurgam! Brighton has toyed with orchestras all through the ages, with James Sale and Lyell Taylor1 and others, among whom was Wilhelm Kuhe, the Anglo-Bohemian, who charmed the bon ton of Brighton successfully for twelve years with his festivals. But somehow music does not now 'go' in Brighton, though I am certain that an entertainment provided by Barry Preston under the auspices of the council would prove a glorious success. Of course, it is possible to advance the old argument that symphony concerts should never be expected to 'pay', any more than the British Museum and the National Gallery is expected to 'pay'.

But here, as in the case of the British Industries Fair, our very astute official guardians point to the ever increasing numbers of home, foreign and colonial visitors. The figures may be approximate, or even official, but there they are: Brighton can put forth nothing similar, for the sight of the 'audience' I saw a year or two ago put me in mind of Mark Twain's crowd, 'one boy had already arrived, and another was coming'. Personally, I do not see to whom is the 'shame and disgrace', unless it be to those who like myself go occasionally to Brighton for fresh air. The presence of a true lover of music at Brighton and absence from the concert room are quite compatible, and it is Pecksniffian to think otherwise.

But can we not trace the failure or partial failure of subsidised musical enterprises to the displacement of individual effort? I recall the success of a provincial choral society, which gave up almost all its programmes to the music of Elgar, Delius and Bantock, though it always had a first-rate orchestra, drawn from either Manchester or London2. There was neither municipal aid, guarantors, nor subscription list; but the committee and the chorus set themselves the task of selling the tickets, and they did so with so such success that they filled the hall, covered all expenses, and paid the fee of a fifty-guinea tenor. For my part, I would much rather seek the support of even half-hearted lovers of music than I would sit in the ante-chamber of the mighty, - councillors who are quite properly more concerned with baths and washhouses than they are with the art of music.

  1. sic - should be Tayler; but Brian was not the only perpetrator of this error. ↩︎

  2. A reference to the North Staffordshire Choral Society. ↩︎

On the other hand, by La main gauche

Musical opinion, April 1932, pp. 589–590