Previous Havergal Brian Societies
The time before this - Don Goodsell


This letter appeared in the HBS Newsletter in 1976

The impressive Newsletter, the publication of some excellent books on Havergal Brian, and the availability of three first-rate commercial recordings of his music must now have lifted Brian out of the category of 'neglected' composers. This is progress, indeed from the days when a radio performance of one his symphonies was awaited with baited breath by possibly rather more than the handful of admirers which history seems likely to accord the man who must be one of the century's most original composers.

I say this having read the second paragraph or the previous Newsletter which I received after what was for me at least a surprise encounter at the Royal Albert Hall, where the 9th Symphony received its first Prom performance You say 'The Havergal Brian Society was founded. . .' but in truth this should read 'The 2nd' or 'The New Havergal Brian Society' for a society of the same name and with the same aims was founded in the 1950s and operated until well into the 1960s.

We had no regular newsletter, but we did, by bringing Brian' s name before conductors and performers pave the way to his wider acceptance. All record companies which had shown some sympathy towards modern music were approached, and though no commercial recording resulted directly from our efforts, we did have discs cut from recordings of performances for private use by our members. These were played to friends in our homes, and at gramophone societies, and by dint of the enthusiasm of members, spread as wide afield as Bavaria and South Africa, the name Havergal Brian was lifted from obscurity, at least for those more adventurous spirits who were not content to 'know what they liked and liked only what they knew'.

Throughout the years that the 'first' society was active, Brian was always a helpful and agreeable correspondent, assisting us with the 'cataloguing' of his works - his letters always written in the same green ink.

It is difficult, looking back, to assess how much the first (if indeed it was the first) society achieved. So much credit must go to those few who supported him at the BBC, and without whose efforts few if any of us would have come to know the name of Havergal Brian, let alone have the opportunity to hear his music played by orchestras of the top rank. yet there is much that a society can achieve, however humble or young its members. Brian, like many of the greatest creative artists, was not a man to court mass popularity, but he was certainly not indifferent to the wave of support that followed the first performances of his 8th and 9th Symphonies. Might it be that the encouragement he received from so many quarters gave some of the stimulus for that great blossoming of creative output that filled the last 20 years of his remarkable life?

November 1976 / NL8