Adventures with town choir on 1911 musical global excursion

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Studying not too long ago in those pages of choir expeditions and excursions, I ponder what number of Sheffield singers would reply to the next commercial:

“Singers sought after for an all-expenses-paid global excursion, starting subsequent March. The itinerary will come with Canada, the United States, South Pacific islands, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

A postcard of the RMS Victorian, the ship that took Sheffield Musical Union on their 1911 world tour

A postcard of the RMS Victorian, the send that took Sheffield Musical Union on their 1911 global excursion


“A hit candidates (by way of audition) will sing roughly 130 live shows right through the six-month excursion. A deposit of £500 can be returned in money when boarding is finished.”

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When this be offering first gave the impression, the “boarding” referred to was once no longer o nto a Boeing 747 however the RMS Victorian, crusing from Liverpool, the deposit was once £5, and over 200 singers took the possibility of a life-time to participate in what stays a singular match within the historical past of choral song. The 12 months was once 1911.

The mastermind in the back of Sheffield Musical Union’s Global Excursion started lifestyles as an apprentice knife maker in slightly mester’s store.

He ended up as probably the most influential choral director within the nation.

The chorus of Sheffield Musical Union outside Mappin Art Gallery, Weston Park. Image: Picture Sheffield

The refrain of Sheffield Musical Union outdoor Mappin Artwork Gallery, Weston Park. Symbol: Image Sheffield


In his retirement, Sir Henry Coward wrote of the Excursion in nice element and his e book Round The Global On Wings Of Tune offers an enchanting glimpse into the organizational complexities of transporting a birthday party of virtually 250 singers, soloists and scientific team of workers on this sort of world marathon.

Coward’s popularity supposed that he was once in monumental call for and, except Sheffield, he directed a number of different Yorkshire choirs.

Lately-discovered letters, written house by way of one of the vital youngest musical vacationers (from Bradford Choral Society) have made to be had a lot “unofficial” element in regards to the 1911 match.

In truth, the correspondence between Might Midgley and her oldsters at 12 Oak Street in Bradford lifts the lid on what lifestyles was once like for rank-and-file participants of the refrain.

A newspaper cutting of the Sheffield Musical Union choir practising on board ship in 1911, conducted by Henry Coward

A newspaper slicing of the Sheffield Musical Union choir working towards on board send in 1911, performed by way of Henry Coward


Finally, the well-known Henry Coward D Mus (Oxon) may just hardly ever were anticipated to remark, as Might did, at the outrageous costs charged by way of Chinese language laundries in Australia (“3d for a couple of stockings!” – £1.25 from her day-to-day laundry allowance) or the drying of ‘smalls’ at the heating pipes aboard the (logo new) educate provided by way of the Canadian Pacific Railway.

What distinguishes Might’s phrases from different extant excursion diaries is the truth that her oldsters, Samuel and Henrietta Midgley, have been outstanding skilled musicians – Might’s musical training integrated find out about in Germany.

Whilst others have been writing house in regards to the Niagara Falls or seeing the aurora borealis or making a song to Crimson Indians, seeing flying fish within the South Pacific or kangaroos in Australia, Might was once able to talk about musical issues that Coward left undisclosed.

Those come with the disastrous begin to the Verdi Requiem in Cincinnati – Might described the younger conductor Leopold Stokowski as “superb however he has so much to be informed”.

A Sydney newspaper picture of the Sheffield Musical Union 1911 tour

A Sydney newspaper image of the Sheffield Musical Union 1911 excursion


She was once in a position to hit upon soloists mis-pitching notes and the following choral chaos. A shrewd pass judgement on of persona, she was once unimpressed by way of shows of conceitedness from Canadian musician Dr Charles Harriss when he performed some live shows.

Since Harriss invested £600,000 (these days’s cash) within the journey, he was once allowed to compose new works just like the Coronation Ode (“A extra terrible factor you by no means heard”).

Thankfully, Might Midgley was once extra focused on every other of Coward’s buddies, Edward Elgar, who joined the excursion in Toronto, accomplishing The Dream of Gerontius.

“I couldn’t sing the primary phase at desirous about a lump in my throat. We have now all fallen in love with Elgar, he’s maximum fascinating and I feel he conducts superbly”.

Might’s letters reveal a gregarious younger girl taking part within the balls and receptions held within the choir’s honour (“One younger guy danced with me the entire night time”).

She took phase in on-board leisure, turning into deck billiards champion after training from bass soloist Robert Chignell. No point out of a romance there however in different places Might tells of {couples} getting engaged and even, in Durban, getting married.

The composer Sir Edward Elgar

The composer Sir Edward Elgar


Might Midgley’s letters (now within the archive of Sheffield Philharmonic Refrain) supply vibrant social statement on Edwardian choral societies. Choristers these days will recognise issues and instances they’ve encountered on their very own excursions, even though most likely no longer at the gargantuan scale of the 1911 excursion by way of the Sheffield Choir.

12 Oak Street – The letters of Henrietta Might Midgley 1911 is to be had from the writer: [email protected] for £6.50 submit unfastened

Detail from the letterhead of a Toronto hotel on the 1911 Sheffield Musical Union tour

Element from the letterhead of a Toronto lodge at the 1911 Sheffield Musical Union excursion




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