Roland Wade, who joined the Committee in 1946, writes: “There were, of course, crises – but they were few. In one of the early seasons, Clifford Curzon had been engaged for one of the concerts but said that he would not have time to work up the programme to his satisfaction. The Club had to choose another pianist, but not one of quite the same standing. At the start of the next season, Curzon said that he had seen that the Club was having the Amadeus Quartet and, as he was playing quintets with them in London, he would join them on payment of his expenses only. He wished to make amends for not having been able to come the previous year. The Club accepted his offer, which enabled it to have a quintet recital which at normal fees would have been beyond the resources of the Club. ”
Kathleen Ferrier came again in 1951 and said of Ilkley, “such a delightful and well-behaved audience”. The AGM in January 1951 in the Blue Bird Café showed a net “profit” on the season of less than £1 (loss on ticket sales £36, Patrons’ Donations £37). In 1952 there was a “surge of interest” and increased bookings so that by April 1953 a “profit” of £54 was reported.
However, in 1953/54 a miscalculation of audience interest led to “Too many empty seats for String Quartet”, generally poor attendances and a loss of £100 on the season.
Segovia came at this time, and then Chairman, Roland Wade, writes: “Before the recital a number of friends went to see him in the greenroom, boxed off area under the stage. I stayed on because I had somehow acquired the job of showing performers on to the platform. Segovia did a bit of tuning and then played some bars of one of the pieces he was going to play. The acoustics were perfect, much better than in the too large hall. I have never forgotten this little private recital by Segovia.”
This was quite a critical period, and a questionnaire to the audience revealed that out of 198 returns, 83 preferred pianists, 55 vocalists, 17 ensembles, and 15 violinists. Season Tickets had declined, and the average attendance over the six concerts was 264. Season Tickets were increased for the first time from 25/- to30/-, and the seasonal pattern changed to four concerts before Christmas and two after. The following year, another audience “ballot” produced requests for 1. Pianists; 2.Chamber Ensembles (moved up one place!); 3. Singers. . . and a lonely cry for “a cello”; profit £65.
The arrival of a newly purchased piano gave a great impetus to the next season, particularly as the Kings Hall was newly painted and reseated. Coffee was served in the Annexe. Appeals for donations were made, and Bring and Buy sales were held in members’ homes.
At this time concerts worth noting included the first of the “Intimate Opera” and “Opera for All” evenings -always much enjoyed; Anthony Hopkins gave the Schools Afternoon concert; Jeremy Gott sharing recitals with Leon Goosens and Gaspar Cassado; and a “young quartet” (the Amadeus) played Bartok. These changes seemed to give the Club a new standing and 1957/58 shows “all records broken”, with over 80 patrons and 350 season ticket holders.
In 1959, the Club promoted an extra seventh concert. This surely must be the best concert we never had! Roland Wade (Chairman at that time) remembers: “In 1959 the Club was one of three Concert Clubs in the country to be “offered” a concert by Dmitri Shostakovich and the Beethoven Quartet, as part of a visit to this country. There was considerable excitement as the main work was to have been his Piano Quintet, then less than 20 years old. Shortly before the date, Shostakovich was taken ill, and the whole visit had to be cancelled. An alternative had to be found, and we were fortunate that Rosalyn Tureck, well-known for her Bach, was available for the date in question, and was engaged.”
At the AGM in May 1959 it was reported that when the Hall was full for a pianist, the Club seated an additional 80-100 on the stage behind the piano. The highest ever attendance was 613 present for Gina Bachauer, and the average for the season was 534. With changed seating and current Fire Regulations the capacity of the Hall in 1996 was 476!