The Society prides itself on having continued to meet regularly through two world wars, though in 1939, in a fit of pessimism, the Secretary put a notice in The Manchester Guardian stating that
'Although it survived the last War the Beethoven Society of Manchester has already found that it will not be able to continue.'
This was premature and clearly put the orchestra on its mettle to prove that it was not true. Nevertheless there were difficulties: even more than during the First World War.
Winter rehearsals had to be abandoned because of the 'black-out' and the threat of air raids, which made travelling into Manchester impossible. But successful summer seasons were held throughout the war years, and although numbers dropped, the Secretary was able to report in 1943 that
'The good standard of playing by the members of the orchestra has been maintained. We held 22 meetings with an average attendance of between 27/28 members.'
They even managed an informal concert (or Open Rehearsal) in 1943, held in the Onward Hall.
The committee were concerned about the possible loss of the orchestra's property by enemy action. They took out War Risk Insurance and also the Library was distributed to homes of members during the winter months to minimise possible loss. However, although the building next door was hit by a bomb, the Onward Hall and the orchestra's property fortunately escaped.
The black-out restrictions were relaxed in 1944, and in November a return to the winter season was discussed. However, travel difficulties were still as bad as ever and another spring/summer season was arranged. The orchestra was not always well balanced and
'the complete absence of cellos on three occasions left a rather awkward gap which, however, Mr. Tarr did much to mitigate by filling in on his double-bass.'
Though the orchestra lost members to our own Forces, we gained from our Allies and in 1945
'We were fortunate in having the services of Pte., R.H. Eisner of the US Army, an excellent clarinet player.'
After the War, although it took some time to make up numbers again, everyone was anxious to get back to the old regular pattern of rehearsals and concerts.
During the War the Society had been able to get a 50% reduction on the rent of the Onward Hall, and in 1945, not surprisingly, the Hall sought to rescind this agreement and also impose a slight increase. It seems extraordinary in 1988, when inflation has become the norm, to understand how the Society can have put forward as an argument for retaining the pre-war rent - that they had paid the same rent since 1925!
Clarice Dunington had conducted the orchestra through all the difficult war years, but in 1947 she retired. It is an indication of the Society's affection for her that, in addition to giving her a presentation, they also made her a life member.
Charles J Lockett - Conductor 1947 - 62 G Murray Whiteway - President 1972 - 85
Charles J. Lockett was then elected conductor. He had played with the orchestra since 1928 (first viola and then violin), and had already conducted on several occasions in Clarice Dunington's absence. Everyone hoped to hold a concert soon, but it was not until April 1949 that this was possible. The Manchester Evening News reported the event:
'After a lapse of 10 years the 61 year old Beethoven Society gave a concert with an orchestra of nearly 60 at Manchester Town Hall last night. It was an ambitious programme with Dvorak's New World Symphony and Brahms Symphony No. 1, and a brave show was made of both under the conductor Charles J. Lockett.'
Over the next few years the Society's financial position was stabilised and put on a firm basis. Having lurched from crisis to crisis in the past, and never being in a position to cope with emergencies, the Society was guided into calmer times by the officers then in post. The main debt of gratitude is owed to Murray Whiteway (President 1972-85) who drew up a scheme for the inauguration of an endowment fund - to be built up over a number of years - the money to be held in trust for the Society and only the income from its investment to be used for current expenses. Cedric Vipont Brown (the writer's father) suggested covenanting subscriptions, and Charles Lockett (an accountant) established with the Inland Revenue that the Society came within the category of those entitled to reclaim tax on such subscriptions. The Fund gradually increased over the years, and now gives a much appreciated steady income.
Cedric Vipont Brown - President 1953 - 72
Cedric Vipont Brown, a doctor and cellist, joined the orchestra in 1925. He was elected President in 1953, an office he retained until his death in 1972. During that time he made a number of generous gifts to the percussion section (tympani and other drums) and on his death left a legacy with which the parts of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony were purchased.
After many years of rehearsing in the Onward Hall, the Society moved to Chorlton Town Hall at All Saints in 1955. Although they stayed there until 1968, it was not entirely satisfactory. On a number of occasions alternative accommodation had to be accepted when the hall was requisitioned by the Town Hall authorities for other bookings.
A new venture was tried out in 1957 when the orchestra competed in the Blackpool Music Festival. They entered both the Full Orchestra and the String Orchestra Classes and gained second and third prizes respectively. All enjoyed the trip - though Backpool in late October is somewhat windswept. They competed again in the three following years, and on each occasion managed to make a slight net profit on the trip. However, the initial enthusiasm had worn off, and the time spent sitting around the Winter Gardens, or wandering on the chilly promenade, waiting for results, did not seem to be worth the effort.
In 1960/61 erratic attendance at rehearsals became a problem, and an experiment was tried which provided for rehearsals with the heavy brass at intervals of four weeks - when music suited to such a full orchestra would be played. Unfortunately this was not a success. How to retain the interest of the brass has been the subject of discussion on many occasions - this is a problem common to almost all amateur orchestras.
Charlie Lockett died suddenly in 1962, and the Society was deeply saddened. He had become a friend to each member of the orchestra, who all appreciated his sense of humour and his conducting skill. His love of music was apparent to everyone, and out of 415 meetings for rehearsal and concerts since his election as conductor, he conducted on no less than 403 occasions.