Hull Chamber Music Society

Registered Charity no 1118145

The Hull Chamber Music Society (formerly Hull Chamber Music Club) arranges high quality recitals of chamber music for the people of Kingston upon Hull and beyond, engaging professional musicians of international standing. Our season usually consists of six concerts held on Saturday evenings between October and April.

Looking back

The first regular series of chamber music concerts in Hull were presented by the Hull Music Club from 1932 to1939 followed by the Hull Sunday Music Society who held concerts throughout the Second World War and a little beyond. The Hull Chamber Music Club held its inaugural General Meeting on 31 May 1948, presented its first full season in 1948/9 and has operated successfully ever since.

One of its principal founders was Robert Marchant, Director of Music at what was then the University College of Hull, and its concerts have always been held at the University, where the Middleton Hall provides a clear but warm acoustic, excellent sightlines, and seating for over 400. The Society continues to liaise with the University's Music Department but is constitutionally independent, being run by an elected committee drawn from both 'town' and 'gown'.

The minutes of early committee meetings stressed the importance attached to the content of the programmes as much as to the artists performing them. Indeed it was decided that the committee 'should proceed in the order: music first, artists second where possible', and although this is certainly not always possible, we have always tried to include both familiar and unfamiliar music in our programmes. We interpret 'chamber music' to mean any instrumental or vocal music written to be performed with one player or singer to a part, and this includes music from the middle ages right through to the present day. Concerts have ranged in size from solo piano recitals to a chamber version of Purcell's opera Dido and Aeneas, and ensembles have ranged from early music and baroque groups through string quartets, piano trios and other standard classical formations, to large wind ensembles and the more unusual instrumental combinations favoured by many contemporary composers. Artists have ranged from international stars to up-and-coming young musicians.

Pears and Britten for £63

Particular highlights in the early years were song recitals given by Kathleen Ferrier and Phyllis Spurr who came in November 1949 for a fee of £65, and by Peter Pears and Benjamin Britten who came in March 1952 for the slightly smaller fee of £63. (The average fee for one of our concerts today, incidentally, is between £1500 and £2000!) Highlights in more recent years have included, amongst many others, solo piano recitals by Nikolai Demidenko (who performed Beethoven's Diabelli Variations) and Angela Hewitt (Bach's Goldberg Variations); string quartets such as the Takács and the Belcea; not to mention numerous distinguished solo wind and string players including the oboist Heinz Holliger, clarinettist Emma Johnson and violinist Tasmin Little.

Other activities have included occasional masterclasses and workshops for local school pupils and university students. A successful recent development has been the introduction of pre-concert talks on selected evenings.

Moving forward

In February 2007 we followed the example of most similar concert promoting societies around the country and became a registered charity. The move necessitated a revision of the constitution and the opportunity was taken to change our formal title to 'Hull Chamber Music Society' as this was felt to convey a more professional and less exclusive impression than 'Club'. However, as our working title we now refer to ourselves simply as 'Hull Chamber Music' or, more simply, 'HCM'.

Then we were 65

In June 2013 the Society celebrated its 65th anniversary with a special concert which also marked the retirement of our secretary Peter Sproston. Only the second holder of the post of secretary in 65 years, Peter has been the Society's inspiration and motivational force for forty years. It is impossible to overstate the contribution he has made to the enjoyment we have had from the 240 or so concerts he has promoted. We wish him a happy retirement and hope he will enjoy many more concerts as a relaxed member of the audience.

Hull 2017

Since 2013 we have had a slightly difficult period, since audience numbers have continued to decline, making it difficult to afford the calibre of artists that we have been accustomed to. But, for the time being, we remain optimistic. Katie Beardsworth, who became general secretary and artistic director after Peter retired, is well-connected in the world of music and in the past two years has secured the appearance of a succession of highly prestigious world-class artists. Certainly the standard of our concerts in that time has been as good as ever.

As we embark on our 2016-17 season, we are excited at the imminent prospect of being part of Hull's year as City of Culture. Three of our concerts are already scheduled to benefit from the support of Hull 2017, and we are hoping that more will be arranged.

We also have the added bonus of a new concert hall. Our first concert in the 2016 season will also be the grand opening of the University of Hull's newly-refurbished Middleton Hall.