HORSHAM MUSIC CIRCLE A brief history
In 1942 two concerts were arranged at which there were open discussions to decide future meetings and the eventual formation of a Music Circle. This was the vision of local professional pianist Grace Humphery even in those uncertain wartime days. Her imaginative foresight and outstanding musicianship combined with tremendous drive and tireless enthusiasm founded a society which is now into its seventyseventh year of promoting live professional performances in local venues. The Circle’s annual season offers a varied programme of traditional solo recitals and chamber ensembles alongside more diverse and innovative presentations from classics to jazz.
Grace Humphery herself performed in the opening concert in May 1942 and frequently appeared as soloist and as accompanist in the Circle’s early days. Other star performers during her time as Hon. Organising Secretary were Beatrice Harrison, York Bowen, Colin Davis, Campoli, Cyril Smith and Phyllis Sellick, William Pleeth, Neville Marriner, The Allegri Quartet, Leon Goossens, Jacqueline du Pre, Ian Partridge, Peter Katin and Moura Lympany. Grace Humphery retired in 1970 and received the MBE for services to music in 1972.
The Music Circle has always had a prominent international musician as its President. The first was the British composer Sir Arnold Bax. On his death the position was filled by another composer Sir Edmund Rubbra until his death in 1986. Since then our President has been Andre Previn.
The Circle continued under Grace Humphery’s successors, her son Brian Harmsworth with Betty Gripper as administrative secretary, Louise de Ward, and from 1978 Jill Elsworthy as administrative secretary becoming Honorary Organising Secretary in 1982 when Brian Harmsworth retired.
The Circle has moved venue from the Friend’s Meeting House to the Duckering Hall at Collyers and then The Capitol Theatre until its demise to make way for Marks & Spencers in Swan Walk. Those were difficult times when its precious Bluthner Grand Piano had to be stored but fortunately The Methodist Hall provided a home for the concerts. In 1985 the Circle moved its concerts into the Horsham Arts Centre. After many years good service, the treasured Bluthner was retired in 2004. Since 2014 the Circle has used various venues including The Capitol Horsham, The Drill Hall, St Mark’s Church and Horsham’s Parish Church. The Circle has continued to engage outstanding artists both well established and those at the start of their careers. Its membership has enjoyed memorable evenings of virtuosity and brilliant musicianship from such performers as John Lill, Julian Lloyd Webber, Jack Brymer, Bernard d’Ascoli, Peter Donohoe, Evelyn Glennie, London Brass, The Nash Ensemble, The Michael Garrick Jazz Quartet, Steven Osborne, Tasmin Little, Emma Johnson, Radu Lupu, London Concertante, Benjamin Grosvenor, Emma Kirkby Jennifer Pike and Harry the Piano to name but a few. There has also been a long association with the Leeds International Piano Competition and many of its prizewinners have appeared here in Horsham.
In previous years, in addition to its annual subscription Season, it has organised many concert outings to the major London venues and has taken Circle members to the Bath Festival, the Aldeburgh Festival, and the major concert halls in Birmingham, Manchester and Cardiff. Nowadays things are closer to home with Lunchtime concerts and social events held locally.
The new style Music Circle season in 2019/2020 proved successful even if shortened by the Coronavirus pandemic resulting in two concerts being postponed. With the musicians we work with facing a hugely difficult time ahead we hoped to support them with our concert promotions when safe to do so.
During 2020 we were saddened to have news of the deaths of both our past Chairman Dr John Stoddart who was in office for 17 years before his retirement in 2019, and Brian Harmsworth. Brian was the son of the Circle’s founder Grace Humphery OBE. After her retirement he took over the running of the annual concert series together with Administrative Secretary Betty Gripper. During the 70s he brought many outstanding artists to Horsham who were at the start of their careers including a young cellist by the name of Julian Lloyd Webber, together with Howard Shelley, John Lill, Barry Douglas and the Endellion String Quartet all of which are at the forefront of classical music today. Brian’s dedicated work to develop the Circle’s concert programming will always be remembered. Both he and Grace Humphery had brought drive and enthusiasm to create many evenings of great music making.
The 79th season 2020/2021 was one like no other with the Covid-19 pandemic resulting in lockdowns which postponed all of our main concert season. Many plans were made only to be abandoned. Initially it brought a small return to live events in the autumn with Lunchtime Organ Recitals and by the end of the season we included two more Organ Recitals. In the summer of 2021 we looked forward to a new concert year ahead, our 80th Season. With a few cautious protocols still in place at the start we finally got back to 'normal' and celebrated in style with a packed venue for our Anniversary concert.
We started the next decade with more live music making by outstanding performers and were encouraged to see growing audiences throughout the Circle’s 81st Season. The reviews brought superlative comments and the truly gifted musicians were warmly applauded for their brilliant performances, culminating in a standing ovation from the whole audience at the closing concert. We now eagerly anticipate the 82nd Season to come. We hope you will continue to come and enjoy live music performances with us.
PRIZE WINNERS FROM THE LEEDS INTERNATIONAL PIANO COMPETITION
Bernard d’Ascoli, Alessio Bax, Andrew Brownell, Chiao-Ying Chang, Michel Dalberto, Jayson Gillham,
Ian Hobson, Diana Kasco, Radu Lupu, Leon McCawley, Noriko Ogawa, Jon Kimura Parker, Hugh Tinney
Allegri String Quartet, Cameristi of London with Richard Baker, Cambridge Baroque Camerata, Cantabile,
Coull String Quartet with Jack Brymer, Delme String Quartet, Dufay Collective, Endellion String Quartet, Endymion Ensemble, English Chamber Orchestra, Fairer Sax, Fine Arts Brass Ensemble, Katin Piano Trio, Kempf Trio, RTE Vanbrugh Quartet, Kent Opera, Hanover Band, London Brass, London Concertante, Maggini String Quartet with Robin Colville, Nash Ensemble, Primrose Piano Quartet, Raphael Ensemble, Scholars, Segovia Guitar Trio, Trio Sonnerie, Villiers Piano Quartet, Yorkshire Imperial Urguhart Travel Band, Zum 3, the Kanneh-Masons, Benyounes Quartet, the Mithras Piano Trio and the Jess Gillam Ensemble