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History of the Alderley Edge Orchestra
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The venue for the concert, on Thursday 23rd October 1952, was to be the Regal Ballroom in Alderley Edge, now known as the Festival Hall. Known for many years as the Assembly Rooms, this was built in 1927 on the initiative of Philip Godlee (who lived nearby at The Meadows, Ryley's Lane) to accommodate the new Alderley Edge Music Festival that had been founded in 1910 by a group led by Charles Crofts. During World War 2, the Assembly Rooms functioned under the name of The Regal as a cinema and dance hall, and local girls found it an ideal venue at which to meet the American servicemen stationed in the area.

An immediate problem for the new Committee was that the Regal was not well equipped with audience seating. The committee was undaunted:

Mr Anderson said that he had managed to get 80 chairs from the Church Institute and these, together with about 50 upstairs at the Regal and 60 downstairs at the sides means that 290 chairs must be obtained elsewhere. [In the event, they were borrowed from various church halls in Alderley].
Committee meeting: 30th September 1952

The problem of ushers also taxed the Committee, and Mr Anderson (the village electrician and clearly a man with an eye for detail) had worries about the reliability of the Regal ’s electricity supply:

Miss Francis said she was going to arrange for two girls on each side of the room to sell programmes and for two girls upstairs and for one boy to be in the booking office, one at each door and one upstairs. Mr Arkell and Mr Anderson, it was decided, would be stationed in the Entrance Hall in case anything went wrong. Mr Anderson said they should all have torches.
Committee meeting: 30th September 1952

The concert, with around 400 seats for the audience, was a sell-out. Ticket sales, with prices ranging from 3/6d [18p] for the best seats upstairs to 1/6d [8p] elsewhere resulted in box office takings of £59. 5. 0 [£59.25].

Amongst the audience was the writer ALAN GARNER who spent much of his childhood in Alderley Edge. Click here for his recorded recollections. A full-length recording on CD is available on request.

Fund-raising continued to be a major pre-occupation of the Committee and what could be more logical in view of the popularity of The Regal as a dance hall than the setting up of a Dance Commttee? In November 1952, the Committee proudly announced:

A Dance Committee was elected: Mr D Moody, Mr G Hepworth, Mr J Neill, Mr J Anderson, Miss E Lee, Miss S Towell, Miss S Bibbington, Miss N Sumner and Miss J Oldham. Miss Francis said that she would notify this Committee that the dance [to take place at The Regal on a Friday early in February 1953] was to show a profit of £30 to enable the Orchestra to purchase the Percussion intruments.
Committee meeting: 4th November 1952

The ‘percussion instruments’ had previously belonged to a retired Hallé percussion player and had become available to the Orchestra at a knock-down price of £29. 10. 0d [£29.50]. Anticipating the success of the Dance, the Committee had no concerns about finding suitable percussion players:

Mr French said that he would ask a man from Congleton to become a playing member of the Society and lead the Percussion Section. Several non-playing members had expressed a desire to learn to play one of the many instruments belonging to this section.
Committee meeting: 4th November 1952

Fortunately, the Committee’s optimism about the Dance proved to be well-founded: it was a great success and realised £36. 13. 2d [£36.66]. The Percussion instruments (still in the Society’s possession) proved to be ‘a good bargain’, although:

Mr French said it would be necessary to purchase two skins for the timpani which would cost about £8.
Committee meeting: 17th February 1953

Sadly, Philip Godlee died soon after his appointment as President and the Committee started to give thought to the appointment of a suitable replacement:

After a long discussion, it was unanimously agreed that Miss Francis should write to Mr John Hopkins (Conductor of the BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra) and ask him to be Mr Philip Godlee ’s successor.
Committee meeting: 17th February 1953

Hopkins was honoured to accept the appointment and played an active role in guiding the Orchestra's subsequent activities. The minutes of 8th June 1953 record ‘how grateful the Orchestra were to Mr John Hopkins for agreeing to become their President and for helping so much at rehearsals. ’

The Committee now turned its sights on the Alderley Edge Music Festival and decided to enter the 1953 competition. On 19th June 1953, the Orchestra played with such expertise (possibly assisted by a lack of competition in this particular class) that it was awarded the Cup. In due course, the Committee proudly recorded:

We played the Magic Flute Overture by Mozart - a difficult work, but with a great deal of practice and valuable help from our President we managed to obtain high praise from Mr Herbert Howells the Judge.
Committee’s Annual Report in June 1953

John Hopkins, the enthusiastic new President, attended the Annual General Meeting in July 1953:

The President said that he was proud of the Orchestra, not only because of their recent success in the Alderley Musical Festival but he liked to be associated with a “Living Body” and he was very happy to be their President. He felt that a warmth of enthusiasm for the music was present in this Orchestra which was rarely felt elsewhere. The President closed his remarks by tellling the Orchestra always to aim a little higher, but never to attempt something they could not do.
Annual General Meeting: 9th July 1953

The Annual Report paints a glowing picture of the Orchestral Society's first post-war year. It had gained a membership of 47 playing and 14 non-playing members; curiously, it reported a shortage of violin, viola, double bass and trombone players, suggesting a remarkable predominance of wind which must have produced problems of balance in those early days. Boosted by profits from the Regal concert, the Dance and further concerts during the year at Lindow and Mobberley, the Society was able to record first-year profit of £15. 13. 1½ [ £15.66] on a turnover of £161. 8. 5½ [£161.42] - a creditable achievement when it is borne in mind that £15 had a buying power of around £300 today.

In compiling this account of the Orchestra's early years, we acknowledge with gratitude the assistance we have received from Philip Godlee's son Dr Nicholas Godlee.  
The Alderley Edge Orchestra
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