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Pages from a History of the Society written in 2006 to celebrate our Golden Jubilee

Walthamstow Gramophone Society

Waltham Forest Gramophone Society

Forest Recorded Music Society

GOLDEN JUBILEE
 1956-2006
 

Fifty Years of Music

by Andrew Golds

Introduction

1956 was a momentous year: it saw the Soviet Union invade Hungary. This was the height of the Cold War. It also saw the Suez Crisis which led to the resignation of Sir Anthony Eden.

1956 also witnessed on 30th November the formation of the Walthamstow Gramophone Society at ‘The Settlement’ in Greenleaf Road Walthamstow. That first year finished with twenty members paying 10/- a year membership.

For the record buying music loving public 1956 was a year of change and progress. The old 78 disc format which had dominated the industry for sixty years was coming to an end; this was a golden age of LP recording. Hi-fi equipment was expensive and could cost so much only the most dedicated could afford it. Hi-fi buffs would talk animatedly of tweeters and woofers, of wow and flutter, of dustbugs and antiskate devices. Stereo recording had just started but it would be some years before it became universally available. People who had bought their mono outfits would need to replace it entirely if they wanted stereo. CDs were a long way in the future and on the way we had the compact cassette not to mention 8 track cartridges, quadraphony, reel-to-reel, etc etc.............

The founding of a gramophone society would have interested many classical music lovers who perhaps could not afford expensive equipment or could not get out to live concerts and who wanted to listen to good music in the company of like-minded people. The same principle holds true today and the Forest Recorded Music Society (having evolved from its original name via the Waltham Forest Gramophone Society) appears to be as popular today as at any time in its fifty years history.

The secret of the Society’s success is no secret. As long as there are members who work hard to present first class programmes in a knowledgeable and entertaining fashion and there are members who come to listen there is no reason why we should not be celebrating our centenary in 2056!

Good Listening!
Andrew Golds

 


How the Society Started
By Harry Waterman  (founder member - written in 1975)


“Some 19 years ago on 30th November 1956 the inaugural meeting was held at the Walthamstow Educational Centre (The Settlement) at the instigation of Mr John Howes of the Walthamstow Public Library. He was then the Record Librarian and the Walthamstow Gramophone Society was born. Out of the thirty or so people who were present a Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer were appointed and a subscription was fixed at 10/- (50p) per annum, and the year ended with twenty members - the average attendance in the region of fifteen, This continued until the summer recess of 1964.

When the Society was formed an executive meeting was held and a very rough programme was made but the cutting down of transport owing to petrol rationing [which gives you an idea of the date] led to some demonstrations [presentations by record companies] being cancelled. As the year went by we were able to form a better idea of the type of meeting members wanted and found that in spite of protests by some intending members at the end of the inaugural meeting demonstrations by record companies proved to be popular. Decca, Dulci, and RCA all provided good evenings and the Classic Record Club demonstration filled the hall. The only publicity was in the ‘Walthamstow Guardian’ and it was provided free of charge and was perhaps the best form of advertisement that a Society like ours needs.

While ‘The Settlement’ was closed during the summer of 1964 fire destroyed part of the building and we were informed that we would be out of a home for an indefinite period. As I was the possessor of a large lounge, some reasonably good equipment and an accommodating wife I suggested that we should continue our fortnightly meetings at my house pro tem. This temporary arrangement with an average of ten members lasted in fact for four years until February 1968 when I moved house. In the meantime with the amalgamation of the boroughs of Walthamstow, Leyton and Chingford under the title of The London Borough of Waltham Forest in 1965 and the formation of Waltham Forest Libraries Music Club we were approached in the summer of 1968 with the offer of a room at Highams Park Library.

An impromptu meeting was therefore held at the library in October. Twenty-eight members of the public attended with such enthusiasm shown for the continuation that after a hurried meeting at the end of the recital it was decided to continue with fortnightly meetings till June 1969. At the AGM at the end of that month the name of the society was changed to ‘The Waltham Forest Gramophone Society’ and the subscription was unchanged at 10/- (50p). This year [i.e. 1975] it was raised to 60p and we now have sixty-four members and an average attendance of fifty.  We serve coffee and biscuits during the interval for the modest sum of 5p and in the last few years we have bought all our own equipment instead of borrowing members’ apparatus with its obvious drawbacks. We are indebted to the Waltham Forest Libraries Committee for allowing us free use of the room with only the proviso that any resident of the borough be entitled to attend any meeting without charge, but we find that most people after one or two visits offer their subscription quite voluntarily in spite of the seriousness of much of the music which we play. A spirit of informality and humour prevails.”

 

 

 

 

Members' Memories

I joined the Society in 1999 after seeing an advertisement in ‘The Green’. I attend with David and Jenny Mears and have introduced three other members who are happy to listen to this glorious music that is played every fortnight. I find it is a very relaxing evening, especially after a working week.

Margaret Hugill

When I was teaching in Bermuda in the 70s I joined a group of people who enjoyed listening to classical music so on my return I was delighted to discover the existence of the Waltham Forest Gramophone Society. On my first evening I was warmly welcomed by Gerald and immediately felt at home.

Eunice Riches

Our memories of the Gramophone Society go back to September 1980 when we joined. We met in a long room above Hale End Library. Its committee then were Gerald Verrier (Chairman), Harry Waterman (Vicechairman),  Frank Payling (Secretary) Bill Porter Treasurer), and Delsa Waterman. We remember Ray and Sheila Mason, David Coombes (who sadly developed a genetic illness resulting in a paralysis of his spine and spent the last 13 years of his life in the Cheshire Home in Chigwell), Eddie Russell (who specialised in chamber music, Bill and Doris Porter, John Brand, Derek Curl, Ernie Ward and many others. I remember a couple of amusing incidents. We had a young guest speaker who introduced us to contemporary music. He lectured us with complicated diagrams of music looking like   bird cages. The evening started with about 40 members. After the interval less than 20 brave souls remained! On another evening (these were the days of vinyl LPs). David Coombes played one of his favourite works, ‘Bluebeard’s Castle’ by Bartok. In this Bluebeard’s bride insists on opening the seven doors in his castle. She just got to the seventh door when the needle got stuck in the groove and we never got to find out what was behind the last door!

David & Jenny Mears 

Bill and I joined the Society around the time of our retirement and meetings were held above the library. Not a lot of room! We would come down a spiral staircase to exit the library. The disabled member - can’t remember her name - in the group caused havoc coming down as she obviously had difficulty. If there had been a fire I hate to imagine the chaos. Soon after we moved to the Methodist Hall and things improved. Frank as usual interfered with the heating arrangements.

I have shown your programme to my local music groups. They were very impressed. I hope the Society goes from strength to strength.

Doris Porter     (Treasurer up to 2002 and now living in Frome)

 

 

 

Guests

Our season follows a traditional pattern each year. The season lasts for 21 evenings. The members themselves present 17 programmes and the last evening of the season is always Members’ Evening where those members who have not otherwise presented a programme have an opportunity to present one piece of music. Our remaining three evenings are presented by guests. Over the years we have enjoyed the company of some very interesting artistes.

KEITH GURRY has been a regular guest for many years. He was second violinist with the BBC Symphony Orchestra for many years and was always a familiar sight at the Last Night of the Proms on television. He has worked with many of the most famous figures in the world of music and he has given us some of our most interesting evenings of stories and anecdotes. He has now retired from the BBC and is now leader of the Woodford Symphony Orchestra. He has also given us a live recital with the pianist David Silkoff.

MICHAEL CROMBIE is also a guest of many years standing. He is a local music teacher who also gives music appreciation classes at Friday Hill. He is also closely involved with the Stratford Music Festival. His evenings with us are not only entertaining but also very educational and informative.

DENHAM FORDE was Sir Thomas Beecham’s secretary for a number of years and has a wealth of stories about that great man. He was Chairman of the Beecham Society for many years and gave our Society a number of talks about Beecham. He is now retired.

JOHN AMIS is a well known broadcaster and writer. He has interviewed many of the greatest names in music of the last century. He is a great wit and raconteur and entertained us with stories about Stravinsky, Britten and Donizetti. (see below)

NELLY MIRICIOIOU was an outstanding guest. She is quite simply one of the finest bel canto sopranos in the world. She talked to us about her life and career as one of the great divas of our time. (see below)

ROBERT LLOYD is perhaps the greatest British bass of his generation. He talked about his life and career and illustrated his talk with videos of his performances. (see below)

ADRIAN BROWN is a conductor. He studied with Sir Adrian Boult and has conducted orchestras round the world. He gave a fascinating talk about the art of the conductor.  (see below)

BRIAN BISHOP from CD SELECTIONS has visited a couple of times to play music from this mail order company’s catalogue.

EILEEN MILLER is a local Author - so local she only lives across the road to the hall and she gave us an interesting programme about zarzuelas.

THE CHAPEL END SAVOY PLAYERS gave us a live concert of Gilbert and Sullivan. This was the first concert of its kind we have held and I think it was a great success. The CESP are a local choir who present a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta each year at the Assembly hall. They have a very fine reputation and perform to a very high musical standard.

We are grateful for the support of the WALTHAM FOREST ARTS COUNCIL to enable us to engage a wide variety of interesting guests.

In recent years we have heard the popular radio and TV broadcaster     JOHN AMIS (My Music etc.) talking about famous musicians he has interviewed over the years and telling us more than we wanted to know about Donizetti....  I was delighted Nellie Miricioiou agreed to visit us. She is a world famous operatic soprano having sung in all the major operas houses. I wrote to her initially asking if she would talk to us and I can’t tell you how thrilled I was when I picked up the phone one day and I heard a voice saying ‘Hello this is Nellie Miricioiou ....’ Imagine, one of the greatest voices in the world actually talking to me!  She gave us a most interesting talk about her life and career.

ROBERT LLOYD is a world famous bass and a charming man. He illustrated his talk with DVDs and videos of his stage performances. We learnt about the world of conducting from Adrian Brown who is a distinguished conductor. He has conducted some of the world’s greatest orchestras and worked with people like Sir Adrian Boult. We learnt a lot about how a conductor sets about his business. Each of these artistes has been most generous to agree to visit us.

We are continuing our practice of getting interesting guests to talk to us. This season we will welcome a famous music critic, DAVID CAIRNS, chief critic of the Sunday Times. And later in the season we meet
VALERIE MASTERSON the distinguished soprano (Friday Night is Music Night etc.) And of course we welcome back an old friend KEITH GURRY. Don’t miss any of these evenings!

It is interesting to meet these musicians who make music. It helps us understand that these things don’t just happen. The art of music-making is the culmination of a lifetime of hard work for these gifted artistes.

 

 

 

 

 

Greetings from some of our guests

I was interested to discover that the Forest Recorded Music Society was founded in 1956, this being the very year that I began to teach music for the keen and the not so keen youngsters in our education system. I soon realised that the more enthusiasm I could show for my subject, the more interested the students became. I still try to enthuse over the music!

I congratulate wholeheartedly the enthusiasm which your members show in continuing - sometimes against the odds - to keep your splendid Society meeting regularly and I wish it every success for the next fifty years.
 Michael Crombie  -  Music Teacher and Lecturer

My evening talking to your Society was very special; what a wonderful community and friendly spirit you have. It was a real pleasure.

I congratulate you all on your fine history and wish you all the best in the future. Long may your music and your society flourish! Have a very happy birthday and warmest wishes to you all.
Adrian Brown  -  Conductor

 

In 1968 at the invitation of Gerald Verrier and Frank Payling I paid the first of many visits to the Waltham Forest Gramophone Society. I have lost count of the number of times I was subsequently invited. I was especially honoured to be invited to the club’s 40th Anniversary luncheon and to the Millennium Meal.

I valued both Frank and Gerald’s friendship over the years.

I wish the Society every success and many more years of music making and enjoyment.
Denham Forde - Chairman - Beecham Society

 

I must congratulate you all on achieving fifty years - no easy feat in this age of ever increasing alternative forms of entertainment, especially in a world in which forays beyond one’s own front door - especially in the evening - are something to be carefully considered before being undertaken. To grow and prosper must mean you are doing it right. Doing it right I feel means a warm friendly atmosphere, decent sound equipment properly set up and a varied programme.

I need hardly add that I always delighted to visit your Society. Congratulations on your first fifty years and all good wishes for the next fifty.
Brian Bishop -  CD Selections

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Letter from Nelly Miricioiou

 

Dear Andrew and Friends of the Forest Recorded Music Society

Congratulations on your most “MOMENTOUS OCCASION”

You have served the community for 50 years with your enthusiasm, knowledge and love for music and the arts.

                         THIS IS TO BE COMMENDED!

I distinctly remember my special evening with all of you! Having the opportunity to share my voice and earlier experiences was quite memorable!

I encourage all of you to continue to prosper and keep alive your love of music and the arts for the next 50 years.

VIVA LA MUSICA!

                         Admiringly yours

                                                          Nelly Miricioiou

 

PS  A message from Keith Gurry:

Congratulations on a splendid half century!

You’ve carried Music’s banner so very well. May you long continue this much appreciated task. Here’s to your 100th!

 

And a message from the Chapel End Savoy Players.

Congratulations on fifty musical years. With happy memories of performing for you
Marjorie Offord Secretary - The Chapel End Savoy Players    

 

The Last Seven Years

At the AGM when I was first elected Chairman I did say I wanted things to stay as they were and I didn’t look to change anything for the sake of change. However a number of things have changed over time and we have always tried to improve things. Here are a few of the things that have altered over the last few years:

We changed the name of the Society from the Waltham Forest Gramophone Society (which it had been since the creation of the London Borough of Waltham Forest) to the Forest Recorded Music Society. This put it in line with other societies who had similarly changed names. We felt the ‘gramophone’ image was outdated and was not in line with the modern world of hi-fi. Gerald himself had been in favour of the change before he died.

Also agreed by Gerald was to be a meal to be paid for by the Society for its members on the occasion of the new Millennium in January 2000. This was intended as a ‘one-off’ because we had kept our savings in the Woolwich Building Society which having demutualised meant that we had a windfall of around £1500 in shares and it was agreed we return this to our members in the form of a meal at the Country Grill. However that occasion was such a success that almost spontaneously we agreed to hold another meal the following year - not free this time! As a rather pedantic member had pointed out the real Millennium actually happened on 1st January 2001 so we called this our Millennium Meal II. Again it was a very happy occasion and we had another meal. Then another, and another, and the meal itself seems to be a regular feature of our season.

We joined the Waltham Forest Arts Council. This meant we could apply for grants and have a wider variety of guest to talk to us. We also decided to take a stand at the Chingford Village Festival, held on the green outside the library in North Chingford and in the Mornington Hall. These have always been most enjoyable days when we set up a stand and decorate it with CDs and LP records (always much better works of art). We usually have my old HMV Gramophone with ‘Nipper’ the terrier and that’s always a good talking point. In recent years we have also sold off some CDs that members have been kind enough to donate and that has boosted our funds. We have enrolled quite a few members from this day and have made many other friends. I think we are now a familiar sight at this event.

Our original hi-fi equipment although first class in its day had been in use for as long as anyone could remember. It was starting to go wrong so we applied for a grant through ‘Awards for All’, part of the National lottery. We bought some excellent equipment that sounds really good in the hall. I feel we can really do justice to the music and our presenters' CDs and we give our members really high quality sound.

Perhaps the most radical change we had to endure was when the Methodist Hall closed and we had to find another home. The closure of the hall had been in the air for a long time due to falling congregations and when the axe fell it was not a complete surprise. We had one or two offers but easily the most suitable choice was All Saints Church Hall which is only a hundred yards away and was available on the same Friday evening. The transition went very smoothly and it seems we’ve always been there. It is slightly bigger than our old hall with a higher ceiling and several members have remarked that our equipment sounds even better there.

 

On to the next Fifty Years...........

 

I wonder whether those first founder members would have imagined in 1956 that the Society would still be flourishing after fifty years. I wonder whether they would recognise us as being the same Society.  Some things undoubtedly have changed. One member says that Gerald told him that the music in the early days would be considered very highbrow and some members would be following the music with their own scores. Those same members would incidentally call him just ‘Verrier’. I doubt whether the Society would function for very long if that were still the case today. There is no doubt that while most music heard in the society today is still broadly classical, lighter music does creep in, but this is a case of moving with the times because what is considered classical today, fifty years ago may have been considered frankly vulgar. For instance I remember that when I was growing up in the sixties you would never have heard, say, George Gershwin or Rodgers and Hammerstein or Leonard Bernstein on Radio Three, or the Third Programme as it then was. Today music like that is often heard on the radio and rightly so. There was a lot of snobbery in those days about music which perhaps has vanished over the years. Classic FM I believe has a lot to do with a change of attitude about classical music. Whatever you say about Classic FM - and I never hesitate to share my opinions with anyone who cares to listen - it has made classical music more accessible and I think that may have contributed to the success of our Society. I can assure you that the music at the core of our evenings will remain classical or light classical

Incidentally I use the term 'Classical' in its broadest sense. Strictly speaking ‘classical music’ really refers to a specific period of time of approximately 1760 to about 1820. Prior to that music was Baroque and after it came the Romantic period and so on - music changes all the time of course. But there doesn’t seem to be any other term that really fits, so ‘classical’ it is then. 

We have a few traditions in our Society and one of them is before the last item we thank everyone who contributes to the success of the evening so I will do the same now. Thank you everyone who gets the hall ready each week and tidies up afterwards; thank you ladies who prepare our refreshments - a most important job; thank you members of the committee for all your advice and help and support - you help me keep my feet on the ground; thank you presenters for the care and dedication and hard work you put into your preparation and the art and skill and good humour with which you present your programmes. Have I forgotten anyone? Oh yes thank you every one of our members and former members for creating the Society that we enjoy today.

I think Harry Waterman summed it up. He said that a spirit of informality and good humour prevails in the Society. That was the same fifty years ago as it is today. As long as that stays the case we’ll be around for a long time yet.

Here’s to the next fifty years!

Good listening!

 

ANDREW GOLDS
September 2006