The 1960s: Televison arrives

Carlo Maria Giulini
Carlo Maria Giulini

Carlo Maria Giulini was the main visiting celebrity in the years 1961, 1964 and 1967. He conducted performances of Verdi’s Requiem, Stravinsky’s Les Noces, Beethoven’s Ninth and Verdi’s Four Sacred Pieces, Beethoven’s C Major Mass and Rossini’s Stabat Mater and Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, all with the Philharmonia or New Philharmonia Orchestra. For the Chorus, he was inspirational.

In 1961, Chorus Director was Herbert Bardgett, with George Stead as Chorus Master of a Huddersfield Section. Festival Organist was Donald Hunt. The programme for this year contained excellent articles by Ernest Bradbury and Neville Cardus, who wrote brilliantly about music and cricket for the Manchester Guardian. This anecdote from the Cardus article bears repetition:

The secretary of the Leeds Musical Festival in those days was a blunt Yorkshireman named Hirst…On one occasion, having mislaid my ticket, I asked him to admit me to the performance. “No,” he said, “tha must find thi ticket.” “But,” I remonstrated, “I represent the Manchester Guardian”. “Ah don’t care,” he replied, “if tha represents Yorkshire Post, tha can’t go in”. And he couldn’t have said fairer than that.

The Chorus performed in Britten’s Cantata Academica as well as his brand-new version of the National Anthem, Bach’s cantata Christians, Grave Ye, Verdi’s Requiem, and Alexander Goehr’s specially commissioned Sutter’s Gold. In the Yorkshire Post, Bradbury complained about the disturbance and heat caused by the arc lights of ABC television at Verdi’s Requiem:

It does indeed seem hard on those who have paid high prices that they should have a free roasting into the bargain…The Festival Chorus, who have lost pitch each evening in the first verse of Britten’s new National Anthem arrangement, might have been expected to lose a lot more last night in such conditions of physical torture. But they did not…they yet brought out all the dramatic significance of the score, and they sang magnificently, in the quiet as well as the strenuous passages.

Goehr’s Sutter’s Gold was, according to the Earl of Harewood (writing in 1974)

...a work rather in advance of its time which failed to strike chords from either chorus or orchestra. I hope my friends in the Chorus will forgive my wondering if there is any ‘body’ more recalcitrant to contemporary music than an amateur chorus, unless it be a professional orchestra.

The 1964 Festival, in April, included films with interesting music and the Chorus now sang under Donald Hunt. Choral works included Verdi’s Four Sacred Pieces and Poulenc’s Gloria. Britten’s War Requiem received excellent notices, and Berlioz’s Grande Messe des Morts was the final concert. The programme, as always, printed each Chorus member’s town of origin after his or her name. In 1967, evening performances included Haydn’s Creation, Berlioz’s Damnation of Faust, Prokofiev’s War and Peace, Janacek’s Diary of a Young Man who Disappeared and the première of Richard Rodney Bennett’s Epithalamion.