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History of the Alderley Edge Orchestra
The Alderley Edge Advertiser of 26th May 1922 contains an announcement that a meeting of the Alderley Edge Musical Festival committee had taken place to discuss the formation of an Orchestra. It reported that 'Mr WO West (organist of St Philip's Church, Alderley Edge) had consented to conduct. Weekly rehearsals will begin in the autumn.'

Amongst those attending the meeting was Philip Godlee, the nephew of the prominent Manchester businessman Francis Godlee (1854-1928), a man of many interests including astonomy; he presented his Godlee Observatory and telescopes to the City of Manchester in 1903 following the foundation of the Manchester Astronomical Society. Francis Godlee was joint owner (with a relative William Simpson) of a prosperous cotton manufacturers and calico printers Simpson & Godlee, with offices in Manchester and mills in Bolton and Bury. Philip Godlee became owner of the business in 1924.

Unlike his uncle, Philip Godlee was a very keen musician; he was a proficient viola player and an excellent amateur conductor. He was closely involved with the Alderley Edge Musical Festival (still going strong today) and in later years became Chairman of the Hall é Concerts Society where was responsible for inviting John Barbirolli to become conductor of the Hall é Orchestra.

To Philip Godlee must go the credit for the development of the Orchestra in the early years. The Alderley Edge Orchestral Society gave regular concerts during the late 1920s and 1930s (see Philip Godlee's repertoire notes on left) and performed with great success in the Alderley Edge Musical Festival every year from 1927 to 1938. Godlee built up an impressive list of players on whose services he was able to draw:
CELLO
Mrs JR Scott
Miss Frieda Hill
Rev. EA Voysey
Dr Bythell
Mrs Shepard
Mrs Clayton
Godfrey Frischmann
Miss BytheIl

BASS
Mrs Scott
H Howarth (Pro.)

FLUTE
Capt. Oakley
Mr Gray
Miss Stancliffe
CAM Thornton
FB Mayo
PR Lewis [and Clarinet]

CLARINET
Mr Murtagh
HC Prew
Lanham

OBOE
James Boyce
Mark Thornton
Mr Walton

HORN
Alec Greg
GA Gaddum
A Healey

BASSOON
Mark Thornton 2
Roy Clayton

PIANOFORTE
TO Bridge
Mrs Voysey
Miss D Watson
In 1936, the orchestra's concert included a performance by James Whitehead of a cello concerto by the seventeenth century Italian composer Leonardo Leo. His work is almost unknown today

'The Regal' was the venue for the Orchestra's first post-war concert in 1952. It was built in 1928 at a cost of £9,500 for the Alderley Edge Musical Festival and boasted a unique adjustable floor which could be flat for ballroom dancing and sloping for concerts and other entertainments. The Festival Hall later ran into financial difficulties and became the Regal cinema and dance hall in 1938.

Some of these names are of particular interest. AG Howarth (violin) became Sir AG Howarth and was Chairman of the Hall é Orchestra in the 1950s and 1960s. Frank Park played viola in the Hallé, and Miss Stancliffe (flute) was the sister of Patricia Stancliffe who played cor anglais in the Hall é both before and during the Barbirolli years. Rev EA Voysey (cello) was father-in-law of the Manchester-born actor Robert Donat (1905-1958) who starred in many films, including the huge hit The Thirty-Nine Steps (1935).

Evelyn Clayton, a childhood friend of Philip Godlee's wife Barbara, has written a fascinating account of those pre-war days:

'One of the first musical activities I joined when we went to live in Manchester, was the Alderley Edge Orchestra. It was at Philip's instigation. "I wish you'd play in the orchestra," he said, "we have very good fun." This was true. It was "very good fun," and the inspiration for the fun and the music came from him.

'It was a curious mixture, like all amateur orchestras. But, unlike many, it was properly run. There was a fixed practice night which Philip, as conductor, never missed. I cannot remember a single time when he sent a deputy , although he was a busy man, and must have had to make some sacrifices. There was a subscription. There was a secretary and a treasurer and properly audited accounts. Music was allowed to be borrowed, but is it was kept too long - and only those who lend music know how conscious less people are in this respect - Philip used to drive round in his car and make a personal call.

'There was a standard both of playing and of attendance. Philip was kindness itself to those who tried hard, even if they couldn't play. I used to write out carefully edited parts which were up to their technique - or lack of it. If more conductors of amateur bands did this, we should not hear the sounds we do at competition festivals. But he was adamant on dynamics and on careful playing. "Dogs' bodies! " he used to shout. "Even if you can't play the notes, you can play softly - and much better, too if you do". And there were one or two scrapers he wouldn't have in, not because they couldn't play, but because they wouldn't try.

'The reason for the excellence of the orchestra - and it was exceedingly good - was this firm basis. Also, of course, he did have some very good players which made the whole. The Bythell family, which supplied two excellent 'cellos and a superlative violin, also added to the keenness and zest for they, too, never missed. And there was the priceless blessing of a double bass who really could play and who understood the music through and through. This was Olga Scott, who was a rock and a tower of strength whether she played the bass or became a 'cello, which was her real instrument. George Lancashire cheerfully drove over from Didsbury , wet or fine - or through fog - to play in the second violins, because he so loved the atmosphere of music and gaiety.

'I remember playing in the "St Paul's" Suite of Gustav Holst, then not so well known as it is now, and the enthusiasm of the audience. Philip confessed to the orchestra afterwards, that once having given it its head in the last movement he had moments when he wasn't sure that he could control it, if anything untoward happened. But nothing upsetting did happen. We just went rollicking along to the end with Philip looking gay and assured, and the final run-up and crashing cord were a triumph. We were playing in the Alderley Edge Festival*, and we won.

'It would be a one-sided picture of the orchestra if only its triumphs were recorded. I remember the absolute failure. This was another Alderley Edge Festival. We attempted a rather ambitious Handel concert**, and everything went wrong. After a shaky start, we seemed unable to pull ourselves together and, in spite of Philip's coaching produced more wrong entries than we had in all the rehearsals put together. We wailed ourselves to an inglorious conclusion. I ventured a timid glance at Philip, and was amazed to see that he was shaking with uncontrollable laughter. He said afterwards that everything seemed to "come on us" at once, and the only thing to do was to just to try hard, battle on, and call it a day.

'This light heartedness restored the morale of the orchestra in miraculous fashion, and our next performance was as assured and smooth running as the last one disastrous.

'I do not know what happened to the orchestra - obviously it could not continue during the war. And now it will never function again, or if it does, it will have a tradition for an inspiration.'
*In 1928
**Concerto Grosso No 11 in B flat (arr. Esposito), performed at the 1933 Festival

But after the war, the Orchestra did indeed function again, and the recent re-emergence of its first post-war minute book, after years in storage, gives a fascinating insight into its early post-war months.

The Orchestra was re-established in its present form in 1952. A preliminary Committee met on 12th June under the chaimanship of Mrs V M Shawcross and agreed, after a discussion ‘at some length’ that the new organisation should be known as ‘The Alderley Edge Orchestral Society’ with the intention of giving an inaugural concert at the end of October or early November.

It was agreed that rehearsals would take place at the Belmont Mission Hall in Heyes Lane, premises then owned by the Wesleyan Methodist Church; the building still exists, although it has in recent years been converted into private dwellings.

The first formal committee meeting, chaired by Mr T Anderson and with Mrs Shawcross as Treasurer and Miss M A Francis as Secretary, took place a fortnight later on 30th June at Miss Francis ’s home at 28 Carrwood Road, Wilmslow. It was decided that the annual subscription should be £1. 1. 0d [£1.05 in today’s terms] and that those attending rehearsals (on Thursday evenings, as today) would be charged 3d [just over 1p] for tea and biscuits. Philip Godlee was invited to be the Society ’s first President, in recognition of his pre-war musical activities.

The major item of discussion, as might be expected, was the programme for the first concert. This again was discussed ‘at some length’ and in keeping with the concert planning traditions of the day the Committee finally agreed the generous, if somewhat indigestible, offering of:

Magic Flute Overture [Mozart]
Chanson de Matin [Elgar]
Chanson de Nuit [Elgar]
Horn Concerto No 4, movements 2 and 3 [Mozart] (soloist: Ione Petch)
The Grenadiers [Waldteufel]
Swan Lake [Tchaikovsky]
(subsequently replaced by William Tell [Rossini])

INTERVAL

Nell Gwynn Dances [Edward German]
Pianoforte Solo (soloist: Rachel Anderson)
(subsequently replaced by Piano Concerto No 1, movements 1 and 2 [Mendelssohn]
London Every Day No 1 [Eric Coates]
The Last Spring [Grieg]
Pomp & Circumstance March No 1 [Elgar]
GOD SAVE THE QUEEN

Click here to continue
VIOLINS
VG Hill
Elsie M Draper
Margaret West
Oswald Milburn
Denys Milburn
Vivien Simpson
Mrs Bythell
Miss Eleanor Lockhart
Mrs J Mosscrop
AG Haworth
Miss J. Slaughter
Miss S. Black
Margaret Milnes
Beatrice Brown
Miss Owen
Miss Mead
Wilfred Cleaver
Mrs TR Worthington
Miss S Warburg
AIlen Vaughan
Miss Anne C. Mason
Mrs A Frischmann
Miss Boon
Charles Hopwood
Miss Frieda Smith
Miss RE Davenport
Miss Betty Nickson
Miss Jean H Thomson
CG Agate
Lawrence Poval
B Nelstrap
Diana Dobson
Mrs Ogg
Nan Morris
Mrs Hampson
Miss Gertrude Coutts

VIOLA
Rev. HE Maddox
Gwenifer Walsh
P.Godlee
E Bryce
Miss Elsie Boon
Frank S Park (Pro.)
Bradford Barton (Pro.)
Wallace Bennett (Pro.)
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Philip Godlee, founder of the orchestra, photographed playing his viola in 1942
The first page of Godlee's notebook, recording the orchestra's repertoire from 1927 to its pre-war suspension in 1938
In 1936, the orchestra's concert included a performance by James Whitehead of a cello concerto by the seventeenth century Italian composer Leonardo Leo. His work is almost unknown today
'The Regal' was the venue for the Orchestra's first post-war concert in 1952. It was built in 1928 at a cost of £9,500 for the Alderley Edge Musical Festival and boasted a unique adjustable floor which could be flat for ballroom dancing and sloping for concerts and other entertainments. The Festival Hall later ran into financial difficulties and became the Regal cinema and dance hall in 1938.
The new Committee gets down to work
The Programme Sellers and Door Attendants get their instructions for the Big Day
Cash in the bank: the Orchestra generates a profit of over £15 in its first post-war year
Above and below: The programme for the inaugural concert
The Alderley Edge Orchestra
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