An article about Leeds Festival Chorus in The Dalesmen during the 150th anniversary celebrations recalled some family memories of the 1901 Leeds Festival from a reader now living in New Zealand, Mr. Herbert Harrison. He sent these to the editor of The Dalesman who forwarded them to us. Here is part of Mr. Harrison’s email:
In 1898 my grandfather, George Henry Harrison and his couson, George Henry Cusworth, both of whom were very fine tenor singers, auditioned for the chorus in the Leeds Musical Festival of that year. George Cusworth was accepted but my grandfather was not – something that my grandmother was still fuming about over fifty years later up until her death in 1953. There seemed to me to be something of rivalry between the two families.
However, grandfather reauditioned for the 1901 Festival and was accepted as a first tenor. In order to gain a place as first tenor (in those days, so I understood) the applicant had to have a fine voice that was neither strident or overly dominant so that they would easily blend with the other singers. They also had to be able to read fluently at sight and, most interesting of all, not only be able to comfortably reach “Top C” but have the ability to start at “Top C” and come down the scale. Something my grandfather could do with ease. He was accepted and sang in the Leeds Musical Festival in 1901.
From the time I was a small child – and that is over 80 years ago – I remember a photograph hanging on the wall of my grandparent’s home which had underneath the caption, “Leeds Musical Festival 1901”. This was in a heavy oak frame and the total picture was in the form of an oval. As a child, who took very little interest in such things at that time, I always thought it was a floral arrangement!! Each member of the chorus was shown in a separate oval photograph which slightly overlapped the others and in the centre were larger photographs of the conductor and the soloists. In 1901 the contralto soloist was Dame Clara Butt.
The photograph was later taken out of its frame and stored away and I had it for many years. Regrettably, when I moved house some seven years ago it disappeared. It was with a group of early family photographs and whether they were inadvertently cast into the rubbish (by mistake) by a family member who helped me move I do not know but I have never been able to find it.
We arranged to send Mr. Harrison a copy of our Celebration 2008 booklet and CD and the latter responded with some more memories, including some pictures of a medallion:
I forgot when I replied to your Email this morning that my grandfather had a much prized medallion which marked his association with the Leeds Festival Choir in 1901. As you can see it is enamel on silver, the front of which has the title and motif and the reverse side is inscribed with his initials (GHH). I doubt that these were made available to all members of the Chorus for free but probably had to be purchased from them.
However, he wore it on his watch chain with great pride until his death in 1939 after which my grandmother gave it to me. I always wore it under my lapel when singing and still do when conducting. It means a great deal to me.
The hallmarks in these excellently clear photos reveal that the medallion was assayed in Birmingham in 1901/2 and made by Zachariah Barraclough & Sons, Leeds. From 1887 they were listed at 54 Briggate Commercial Street, Leeds.