A British musical league

Havergal Brian

Selected and annotated by Malcolm MacDonald

Brian returned to the topic the following month

I have received several letters concerning the suggestion I made about the revival of the old Musical League. I do not think it obligatory to retain the previous name: so perhaps Confederation of British Music might be substituted with the possible later addition of Royal! If the men who helped the movement in the past are now too busy to identify themselves with similar work, well, we have a quite a plethora of talent in Bax, Bliss, Lambert, Howells, Ireland, Dale, Harold Samuel, Myra Hess, and others. Out of these could surely come a committee capable of launching a movement having so definite an object. I recognise that a leader having the gift of initiative and organisation would be necessary; but such men have come forward in the past.

Probably the first best thing would be to call, with the assistance of an energetic young music-lover with commercial training, an open meeting. He could tell the public and the press that British music had arrived, and that those who wished to give their support must do so now. Obviously, musicians have small means: so it would be necessary to have within the confederation a group of music lovers who could attract and supply the necessary funds4.

I am painfully aware that, as soon as one offers a suggestion such as this, the answer is that something similar is already in existence or has failed. Well, what of that? Mr Harrod did not trouble about the existence of Mr Maple: he went in and won. Whatever exists now, I believe that more can be done through the federation of choral societies and orchestras that would bring them into personal association with the flower of British music.

The first object of the society would be to hold yearly in changing centres a week's festival of British music. Each centre would provide the choirs, and where possible the orchestras: and when the circuit came on in a town in the North or Midlands, there would be the Halle Orchestra in waiting, and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra round about London. Such a project would act as an incentive for producing the best in national music, not because it was national, but rather to prove how international, both in creation and inspiration, music really could be.

On the occasion of the first festival of the Musical League, which was held at Liverpool, the Lord Mayor showed his appreciation of the effort by inviting composers and principals to lunch; in Germany the burgomasters of the towns where the Allgemaine deutsche Musikverein are held give and receive similar hospitality; and thus the success of the festival is pretty well assured from the beginning. I can conceive a vast awakening following every festival, and from that stirring-up support going to every group connected with music.

Look at the success that has come to the Federation of Music Competition Festivals, and of the good work that has attended Dr Sydney Nicholson's work of federating English church choirs. Each and all of us would feel the stimulus of a week's festival of music, more especially when we have before us the hope of doing even better next year. Remember how German musicians honour Liszt for his work in founding the Allgemaine deutsche Musikverein. Similar honour will go to the English musician who will step forward and undertake similar work.

  1. Readers who are members of the British Music Society may experience a slight sensation of deja vu… ↩︎

On the other hand, by La main gauche

Musical opinion, August 1932, pp. 900–901