The recent years

At the 1981 AGM Miss Pleydell-Bouverie looked back on her years as Chairman. She recalled six stimulating and happy years, which had pursued the ideals of Kathleen Long and Gwen Davy, to bring music of the highest quality to Bury St Edmunds. She surveyed the financial changes, and remarked with satisfaction on the present healthy financial situation of the Club, which was largely due to the generous sponsorship of International Computers Limited, and the continued generous support of the Club’s patrons. The Chairman made particular reference to the concert given by our President Yfrah Neaman in February 1981, who graciously gave his services.

The Secretary followed this with a review of the season’s concerts, and made special mention of the Young Musicians’ Concert in April 1981. This was the second of a new additional series organised by the Club at the Art Gallery. Advertised in 1980 as the Gwen Davey [sic] Memorial Concert, the first one had been a success, enjoyed by both audience and participants. By the late 1980s they were, however, no longer viable, mainly because younger instrumentalists found April dates coincided with an Easter holiday County Youth Orchestral course.

In the 1990s as the Committee wanted to attract future concert-goers, they gave support to the Theatre Royal’s half-term holiday programme and advertised a musical event for the younger age-group in the Club’s annual brochure. Perhaps this drew some grand-parental attention to such events as Travelling by Tuba, and the Funky Vegetable Kids.

The Club Committee has always tried to encourage young artists, so was pleased to find the Countess of Munster Trust and the NFMS Making Music listings provided it with guidance towards talented entrants to the music profession. Several young artists have made return visits later in their careers.

The popular singing group, The Scholars, came back twice to perform at the Theatre between 1980 and 1993. Their first appearance had marked the Club’s initiation into business sponsorship noted in the Chairman’s report, above, and in the concert programme:

Their reputation is truly international. In their first ten years, they have delighted more than a thousand audiences in thirty-five countries. The day after our concert they will give their 10th Anniversary concert on the South Bank, immediately after which they fly to New York for two concerts. Their programmes range from mediaeval to contemporary songs. They have made foul recordings with DECCA. This concert is sponsored by International Computers Limited.

James Oxley should also be included here. He first appeared as a ‘cellist in the Young Musicians’ series of 1982, and returned later as tenor soloist, giving two recitals with Sophie Rahman, piano. In 2000 they were joined by Matthew Gunner, horn, to perform Britten’s Canticle III.

Piers Adams, invited to perform informally after the AGM in 1988, also returned twice, firstly, with a group of instrumentalists in 1990, and nine years later when the EADT reported:

Raising Recorder Music to a New Level of Art

Red Priest at the Theatre Royal, March 1999. The Bury Concert Club hosted the unique phenomenon Red Priest, sponsored jointly by the National Trust and the Suffolk branch of the Society of Recorder Players. Piers Adams, widely lauded as the country’s most brilliant recorder player, has invented a new art form. It is more akin to the visual exuberance of baroque opera than to what we have come to expect from chamber music. He and Julia Bishop, violin, exploited every conceivable nuance and more, of the music with exaggerated movements and facial expressions.

As entertainment, the Programme was staggering – and so funny. As a crusading illustration of the vast range of stylistic devices available for baroque musicians, it was stupendous. But how I wished they’d kept still sometimes!

Patricia Rozario was unfortunately ill before her Munster recital in 1982; she returned in 1999 however, to present a Spanish-flavoured concert with the guitarist Carlos Bonell.

As public funds for the arts diminished throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Club Committee meetings were dominated by the search for sponsors and adequate finance. There were diversions of course, such as which wines were to be bought for the annual after-concert party on stage at the Theatre Royal, or for the AGMs, then mainly held at Ickworth House. All soloists would have already been booked at least one year ahead, often two years for the best-known artists.

A Treasurer in the late 1970s had given the Committee a warning that one thousand pounds minimum would be needed annually for soloists’ fees. In actual fact, a comparison of expenditure and income accounts (available since 1960 only) produces some interesting figures. Not surprisingly, the fees for soloists have risen from £400 to nearly £6000 today, which represents on average about 55% of our expenditure. Adding at least 12% for piano hire and 11% for Theatre hire, the remainder is absorbed by printing, publicity and general expenses, with a slight fluctuation in loss or surplus of funds.

Looking at the income, we find that, in 1942-1943 a series of four or five concerts cost members just £1. This rose steadily to £9 by 1982, when the Club adopted a policy of charging a membership fee of £3 p.a., plus a £9 concessional serial ticket fee. This was abandoned in 1992 when the subscription serial tickets were reintroduced and set at £15, including membership. Today a subscription ticket costs £30, producing 44% of total income. To this we add 34% from single ticket sales, 9% from patrons and 13% from sponsorships. And remarkably, a comparison with 1960 shows respective figures of 42%, 33%, 12% and 13% again for sponsorship.

Membership has fluctuated from 134 in 1960 to below 60 during the 1970s, with a peak of 205 in 1992. At the time of writing the total for 2002-2003 nears 173.

Average audiences having risen from 80 – 100 in the earliest years, the Theatre Royal did occasionally sell more than 200 tickets during the early 1970s. Since the 1990s we can regularly anticipate the same numbers, but exceptional performers usually produce near-capacity audiences of 300, as did Peter Donohoe in 1985, directing the English Sinfonia from the keyboard in two Mozart Concertos, and more recently Trevor Pinnock in his solo harpsichord recital.

The Hon. President, Yfrah Neaman continued his support for the Club by giving solo violin recitals; Allan Schiller, his accompanist in 1981, gave a recital the next year, when Yfrah Neaman also brought his own Trio for an informal concert. Besides his own recitals, he helped to plan other programmes, as described in the March 1990 EADT:

Quartet Triumphant at Club’s Concert

The Ysaye Quartet drew the Bury Concert Club’s season to a triumphant conclusion. The Club’s President, eminent musician Yfrah Neaman had recommended this group of young, talented European players, as yet largely unknown in Britain.

Named after the Belgian violinist, conductor and composer who died in 1931 the Quartet is on a two-week British tour. For their Bury performance they chose a popular mix of Mozart, Debussy and Beethoven.

Opening with the Mozart Quartet in B flat major, ‘The Hunt’, the players’ assured mastery was apparent at once. Debussy wrote only one quartet – would that there were more! The Beethoven Quartet in E minor was fully brought to life. The four young men, none over thirty, brought to it the vigour and vitality which the music deserved.

The Club began the 1990s with some equally interesting performances:

September        Piers Adams, recorders, Richard Durrant, guitars and Howard Beach, harpsichord

October             Imogen Cooper, piano (Beethoven, Schubert, Janácek and Chopin)

November        Anglian Wind Ensemble, director Nicholas Daniel

February           Schubert Ensemble, piano quartet with double-bass

March                Coull String Quartet (Beethoven, Shostakovich and Dvorák)

The well-known pianist Stephen Hough launched the next season in September 1991 with a recital including several pieces by Byrd, a Schubert Sonata, the Franck Prelude, Chorale and Fugue, and two Chopin Scherzos. The brochure noted ‘this concert commemorates the distinguished pianist Kathleen Long founder President of the Concert Club. We are grateful to all those friends, who generously subscribed to our recent appeal to erect a suitable headstone on her grave.’

Three key-members of the Committee (Doris Pleydell-Bouverie, Edith Crocker and Arthur Tatam) had been made Hon. Vice-presidents of the Club early in the 1980s, in recognition of their years of service. The Committee was now under the guidance of Jill Amherst, an experienced orchestral musician who took on the Chairmanship from composer-pianist Geoffrey Wright. Meanwhile, Michael Colborne Brown OBE, having retired to East Barton, continued to serve as a highly-dedicated Hon. Secretary throughout the 1980s to the mid-1990s; former music librarian Betty Birkby took on the Secretaryship in 1996.

Treasurers from Barclays Bank continued their traditional supporting role, with Peter Jay appointed to the Committee in 1988 (until he retired early, to work for the Princes Trust). Our present Hon. Treasurer, Michael Shallow from Greene King, took up this position in 2001.

Regular concerts on Mondays had been established from 1985 by the Club and Theatre Royal management, but it was not until 1996 that the newly-appointed Chairman, the Hon. Mrs Caroline Erskine, proposed a new format of brochure with matching programmes and posters designed to reflect this period of more confident planning.

Bury St Edmunds Concert Club 54th Season 1996 – 1997

Mondays at 7.30pm

September      Brindisi String Quartet, with Anthony Pleeth ‘cello
October           Stephen de Pledge, piano
November      James Oxley, tenor with Sophia Rahman, piano
February        London Winds
March            Apollo Consort


We now look forward to our celebratory 60th year, under the newly-appointed Chairman, Cordon Pullin.

Bury St Edmunds Concert Club 60th Season 2002 -2003
Mondays at 7.30pm

September     Capricorn – wind and strings playing the Schubert Octet, and celebrating Stanford’s 150th anniversary with his Serenade Op. 95

October          Katharine Wood, ‘cello, Adrian Wilson, oboe, with Iain Farrington, piano, including the Poulenc Trio (a Countess of Munster Concert)

November      Anthony Marwood and Friends play an all Mozart string programme

February        Ambache – Diane Ambache, piano, with a wind quintet playing both the Poulenc and Farrenc Sextets

March             The City Glee Club – partly looking back at the Music Lovers’ English Singers programme of March 1943


The AGM 2003 is to be held in the Hall at Guildhall Feoffment School, a return to the venue used sixty years ago. Alas none of those who started the Club in wartime conditions will be able to join us, but they will most certainly be remembered.

We appreciate the continuing support of the Theatre Royal as our venue since 1965, and are grateful to all those CIub members mentioned in this commemorative booklet. Their dedication and hard work have ensured our enjoyment of performances of the highest quality over so many years. Long may it continue!

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