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Early Orchestral Concerts in the Town Hall

The organists of Leeds continued to exert influence on the town's rapidly developing musical life. Robert Burton, organist of Leeds Parish Church instituted 'Saturday Pops' at the Coliseum. The Town Hall Organist Dr William Spark formed an orchestra made up of local amateur and professional musicians which gave its first season of regular concerts in the new Town Hall during Autumn 1864.

The first Leeds Orchestra
Leeds, now in the throes of the industrial revolution, was undergoing a rapid expansion and both Spark and Burton were acutely aware of the need for social recreation for the workers in the area. In fact, most of the support for their concerts came from the prosperous middle class. The orchestra formed by civic organist Dr William Spark was made up of 45 musicians drawn from local amateurs and professionals. The principals were drawn from Sir Charles Halle's Band and the Liverpool Philharmonic Society.

Inaugural Concert 1864/65 Season
The inaugural concert took place on Wednesday, 9th November 1864 in the Victoria Hall and was the first of a series of 5 arranged for the 1864/65 season. The vocalists were Mlle Louisa Van Noorden and Mr. Santley, solo flute: Mr. De Jong, orchestra leader Mr. Haddock, conductor: Dr. Spark.  The band consisted of 8 first violins, 8 second violins, 5 violin cellos, 5 double basses, 2 each of flutes, oboes, clarinets and bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, 1 ophicleide (a bass brass instrument similar to the key bugle and later superseded by the tuba) and timpani.  45 in total.  

The concert consisted of : Beethoven Egmont Overture; Aria: Il Soave (La Nioke) Pacini, Soloist Mlle. Van Noorden; Aria: Se L'Arleesi sou regine (Mirella) Gounod, soloist Mr. Santley; Paggi: Fantasia Neopolitan, soloist Mons. De Jong; Mozart Grand symphony in E Flat. Interval 10 mins. Rossini Overture Il Barbiere; Boscowitch: Song 'Sweet Nightingale', soloist Mlle Van Noorden; Smart: Instrumental intermezzo from the Bride of Dunkerron; Arditi: song 'The Stirrup Cup', soloist Mr. Santley; Gounod: orchestral selection from Faust; Mozart: duet Bei Mannern (Zauberflote), soloists Mlle. Van Noorden and Mr. Santley; Mendelssohn: 'Athalie' March.

Concerts supported by subscription
400 subscriptions were the minimum required as sufficient to secure the concerts from loss. A note in the closing concert of the first series expressed the hope that the second series 'may receive such an amount of support as to lead to these concerts becoming a permanent institution; and they will not consider the expense and labour thrown away if it shall secure for Leeds the establishment of first class entertainment similar to those of London and Liverpool Philharmonic, the Manchester Gentleman's and Crystal Palace Saturday Concerts'.

Halle presence in Leeds
Meanwhile, Charles Halle's Manchester based orchestra (founded in 1858) was establishing  a presence in Leeds.  The first season of 'Mr Charles Halle's (Leeds) Concerts' took place in the Town Hall in 1865/66.  Six concerts annually, on Wednesday evenings were managed by the Leeds Choral Union Committee.  In 1881 these concerts were reorganised as the Leeds Subscription Concerts.
Click images to enlarge
The Coliseum
The Coliseum
Leeds Town Hall, 1858
Leeds Town Hall, 1858
The Victoria Hall, 1925
The Victoria Hall, 1925
First Concert Programme, 1864
First Concert Programme, 1864
Second Season, 1867
Second Season, 1867
Programme, 1867
Programme, 1867




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© 2003 Leeds City Council | Site created by: LCC electronic information team | 25 March 2003