Midlands music books reviewed


A History of Bromsgrove Concerts (Joyce Chamberlain, pub. www.bromsgrove-concerts.org.uk)
As its pandemically-postponed new season gets underway, Bromsgrove Concerts can look back proudly on nearly 60 years of bringing high quality music-making to this corner of north Worcestershire. Previously Bromgrove Concert Club, this enterprising organisation has been resident in a variety of local venues, most recently at the wonderful Artrix arts centre, but since the regrettable and shortsighted closure of that inviting complex, it has now moved to the comfortably refurbished Routh Hall at Bromsgrove School.
Joyce Chamberlain, current secretary of the Society has written and compiled a most fascinating History of Bromsgrove Concerts, this beautifully-produced publication doing exactly what it says on the tin and much more besides. Chronology and data, meticulously assembled, jostle alongside reminiscences from many of the personalities who have contributed to the success of BC. There is a particularly valuable and thoughtful assessment by Chamberlain herself of the state of the arts and music education in the country, and the contribution music societies can make.
Improvising on a Theme (Cormac Loane, pub. UCL IOE Press)
This story of the Birmingham Music Service might have been as dry as dust, but in fact makes a fascinating read, detailing the development of an organisation which has done so much to enrich the musical lives of thousands of the city's schoolchildren since the Second World War.
So many personalities come tumbling out of these pages, from the visionary Desmond MacMahon, through the autocratic and blinkered Stanley Adams, right up to those hardworking and dedicated musicians Cormac Loane himself worked with. These are candid reflections, not fighting shy of the turbulent period when one Head of the BMS was jailed for fraud, and detailing the reforms which came into place after that sorry episode.
I really loved this book, and only regret that it comes without illustrations, which would have evoked so many memories from so many of us.
A Choral Chronicle (Michelle Whitefoot, pub. Whitefoot PR Ltd)
This remarkably handsome book is both an invaluable archive from sources of the 160-year history of the Worcester Festival Choral Society and a gripping read of its development over so many years. The index itself provides a mouthwatering guide into the personalities emerging from these pages: Elgar of course, all the cathedral organists from the long-serving William Done, through such giants as Ivor Atkins, David Willcocks and Christopher Robinson, the controversial Donald Hunt, the quietly charismatic Adrian Lucas, and beyond, up to the present day, not without a few hiccups along the road.
Michelle Whitefoot, herself a Worcester Festival chorister, has assembled a wonderful publication, replete with photographs and reproductions, and I cannot recommend her labour of love highly enough.
Christopher Morley

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