As with many organisations the financial crisis of 2008/9, with squeezes on personal credit and increasing costs, put pressure on us. We managed to keep the season ticket prices for 09/10 the same as the previous year, however in 10/11 these were raised by a modest £1.50, and the Club still being able to offer ‘Book a Season Ticket for THREE Free Concerts’. In November 2010 the price for the Programme Notes sold at each concert was raised for the first time since 2001, from £1.00 to £1.50 to cover increased costs.
All season tickets continued to be sold despite the increased prices. We believe it is due to the high-quality artists that we can engage the financial stability of a ‘full house’ and the continuing desire of our local residents for such music , not forgetting the loyalty of Members, many of whom have held Season tickets for more than a decade.
Another change in 2010 was the retirement of our Booking Secretary, Margaret Pyett, after an extraordinary 33 years. Margaret was for many the public face of the Club, organising subscription bookings, sale of returned tickets and the Box Office. Her astonishing memory for little personal details helped make the Club such a friendly place.
Season 09/10 was a musical balance of ‘recognition’ and ‘curiosity’ as David Pyett put it. As well as established artists and ‘traditional’ repertoire we welcomed the David Pyatt Horn Trio (yes different spelling and no relation – but the 1988 BBC Young Musician of the Year when aged 14), playing, amongst other works, Ethel Smyth’s Trio for Violin, Horn and Piano for ‘a memorable evening that left the audience buzzing with pleasure…’. The iconoclastic Red Priest who braved terrible freezing conditions (as did the audience!) to give a thrilling evening of Baroque Music which sent everyone home with smiles on their faces and the Czech Wihan Quartet who brought a new work commissioned for them, Cavatina and Moravian Dance by Roxana Panufnik.
It is not often we have a recital based upon harp chamber music, but in December 2010 the Sally Pryce Harp Ensemble managed to make it from London in a severe snow storm to perform a winter warmer to a much weather-depleted King’s Hall audience. The next concert, the first of 2011, spotlighted the rare talent of Lawrence Power’s viola playing. Viola players have been the butt of unkind jokes since time immemorial, however along with his rare c.1610 viola by Bolognese maker Antonio Brensi and accompanied by Simon Crawford-Phillips his performance, of pieces never heard by the Club. It elicited amidst the final rapturous applause someone saying ‘after that, no more viola jokes’, which says it all, as Geoffrey Kinder commented. There is often much anticipation when a world-renowned quartet are booked, and such was it with the Michelangelo Quartet and their programme of Schubert, Shostakovich and Beethoven. Many leaving the event that night said what a wonderful occasion it had been and the Ilkley Gazette reviewer feared that in reviewing it ‘I’d be lost for superlatives’ letting it slip that it was ‘one of the best concerts ever’. A fabulous 2010/11 season had not quite ended. The final concert was a Piano Duo with Ashley Wass and Martin Roscoe making the most of not only our Model ‘C’ Steinway but, after complex moving arrangements, its twin from Bradford Cathedral. The performance was greeted, deservedly, by stamping and cheering not experienced at an Ilkley Concert Club event for many, many years … ‘Wow!’
In 2011, Bob Walker retired from contributing programme notes. The lengthy and sometimes difficult task of writing the detailed Programme Notes was a very different undertaking without today’s computers and easy access to information, and even performance! It meant many visits to Leeds Lending Library for sheet music and scores and David Pyett recalled that he even received from the inter-library scheme music from Paris to help him deal with a piece we were having! This care and attention to detail led to artists being so impressed that some asked for permission to use our programme notes elsewhere. Bob’s effort lasted for a remarkable 24 seasons – from September 1987 to May 2011 – whilst over the same period he was also responsible for writing the concert critiques for the Ilkley Gazette. Geoffrey Kinder, who had already been doing some concert critiques and programme notes, took over the role.
The 66th season started in October 2011 where the 65th finished…. with a ‘Wow’ concert from pianist Benjamin Grosvenor, playing virtuosic music by Albeniz and Liszt and a remarkable performance of Bach’s Fourth Partita in D major. It is not often that artists write to give thanks, however Robert Plane after playing the last concert in 2011 said ‘Yours really is a very special club, such amazing following and concentrated listeners. Wonderful to see you going from strength to strength. I loved playing with the Dante Quartet and the warm but clear acoustics of the hall suited the Brahms perfectly. A real joy.’ The second half of the season was no less inspiring with Geoffrey Kinder saying of The Doric String Quartet, ‘This was some of the most musically colourful playing I’ve heard from a string quartet.’
In June 2012 David Pyett relinquished the Chair after 36 years of great distinction. Such an event could have caused great concern however, David had taken care to pass on his accumulated knowledge and experience to other committee members. The Club elected him as President and in further recognition of his incomparable contribution to the musical life of Ilkley he was made Life Member of Ilkley Concert Club. David Wharmby was elected as the new Chair.
The 2012/13 season included world renowned artists, Noriko Ogawa, Leeds Piano Competition prize winner, and Sarah Connolly one of the world’s most sought-after mezzos. Programmes ranged in period from Handel and Purcell to a piano quartet composed in 2012 by Huw Watkins and geographically from Japan to local composer Arthur Butterworth. The season ended in May with the Fibonacci Sequence performing Schubert’s Octet, an hour-long serenade-like work which can outstay its welcome but not on this occasion, with all eight players receiving heartfelt applause at the end – a wonderful end to the season.
During 2013 several of the roles performed by David Pyett, were taken on by other Committee Members. Sarah Warnes agreed to take the role of Concert Season Planner with David Pyett and Josephine Wesley, now the Hon Secretary, supporting. Pam Harris agreed to take on the role of Membership Organiser.
CD sales had continued to provide additional income since the start of the stall in 2004, however 2012/13 saw the takings double, with £1,473 contributed to the Club’s funds. This made it clear the substantial efforts Tony Hudson, now the vice-Chair as well, puts into this very popular stall. This level contribution has continued forward.
The 68th Season started with The David Pyett Celebration Concert recognising his remarkable contribution to the club. David’s wish list of music included Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring, which requires a large ensemble and the concert was based on this. To finance such a concert the Club needed to raise additional funds above the normal subscription and ‘the response from Members was immediate, extremely generous and enormously heart-warming; it told us a lot about what our Members think of this Jewel in Ilkley’s Crown – and its “Jeweller-in-Chief”’, as David Wharmby wrote in the programme notes.
The Club also asked Arthur Butterworth, a friend for over twenty years, to compose a piece for the Celebration Concert. ‘Tarka – Caprice for Chamber Ensemble, opus 142’ was the work that resulted, with a dedication ‘David Pyett’, and using the same instrumentation as Appalachian Spring. Sadly, just before the concert David’s beloved wife Margaret died. Margaret was a pillar of strength for David and a stalwart of the Club, showing personal, thoughtful kindness to members that made her a much-loved friend. Barry Lambert, a Founder Member of the Concert Club and a committee member for more than twenty years, also died just before the concert. In the concert review for the Ilkley Gazette, Geoffrey Kinder wrote, ‘The joint forces of the Manchester Chamber Ensemble and Cuillin Sound played a richly varied programme with evident commitment and enjoyment’ whilst an ‘idiomatic performance under conductor Richard Howarth brought out both the sprightly and the tender aspects of Copland’s Appalachian Spring’ and Butterworth’s Tarka was ‘Beautifully imagined and warmly appreciated by the audience’. A very satisfied composer presented David with a signed copy of the score. Geoffrey Kinder and David Wharmby, who commissioned the composition went to talk to him in Embsay. Born in 1923 and a great raconteur with an amazing memory, Arthur had a facinating fund of stories of his long musical life as a pupil of Vaughan Williams, Conductor and Composer as well as musical politics in the BBC. Tarka, his penultimate composition was written in 2013, the year before he died.
The remainder of the season included many highlights. The Escher String Quartet, a young group from America, brought the audience to tears with their performance of Britten’s Third Quartet; there was a life enhancing celebration of bohemian music from The Frith Piano Quartet and rarely-heard foot stamping accompanying the applause for Jack Liebeck (violin) and Simon Crawford-Phillips (piano). However, the last concert of the season brought the first standing ovation in 68 years. John Lill, who was concerned that his programme might be too much on the heavy side, wowed the audience with amazing finger work, clarity, contrast and in the 20-minute slow movement of the Hammerklavier held them spellbound. Geoffrey Kinder said. ‘I’ve rarely experienced such stillness and concentration in a concert hall. What a privilege and a joy for us to be there.’
After four years of stable pricing subscription increases for 2014/15 were applied to account for increasing costs with the single ticket prices adjusted to maintain the ‘eight for the price of five’ ratio. Members were not deterred by this and again we had a full house. December 2014 brought one of the world’s best pianists, Jean-Efflam Bavouzet with a non-standard programme of nineteenth to twenty-first century music that revealed, even more than his astounding technical facility, the range of colours that he was able to produce from what might seem to be a monochrome instrument. The Club always aims to balance familiar and new music and in March 2015 the Trio Apaches brought a ‘brave’ programme with a newly commissioned Sally Beamish arrangement of Debussy’s ‘La Mer’ and Frank Bridge’s Piano Trio no. 2 in the first half followed by a performance of Shostakovich’s Second Trio that, was greeted with profound silence before the applause could begin.
Season 70 was advertised as offering a few more rarely heard sounds, such as four hands at one piano with Pascal and Ami Rogé receiving a tumultuous ovation, the guitar of Craig Ogden accompanying the Carducci Quartet and the cimbalom, so evocative of central Eastern Europe, in a wonderfully unique kind of folk evening ending with Chris Bradley staying on afterwards to give a much-appreciated ‘close encounter’ demonstration. We also enjoyed two returning artists, with the Brodsky String Quartet returning after 18 years and a season ending concert from Angela Hewitt 14 years after her last performance for the Club.
The end of the season brought some committee changes. Bob Ryan, after 12 years, announced he had decided the time had come to resign as Treasurer. The committee thanked Bob for his wise counsel and his many years of carefully nurture of the Club’s accounts. We also said goodbye to Geoffrey Kinder, who was moving south to be near his family. Geoffrey had for five years provided the exceptionally well written and well-informed Programme Notes as well as for many years writing the reviews for the Ilkley Gazette. Don Williams was welcomed as the new Treasurer, Clive Lane took on the role of writing the Programme Notes and Chris Skidmore our concert reviews. Robert Templar agreed to stand as vice-Chair.
2016/17 saw the return after 34 years of the Coull String Quartet as they celebrated their 40 years of playing together: this may well be the longest gap between Club performances. The season also included two past finalists from the Leeds International Piano Competition (with which the Club has over the years had strong links), Alessandro Taverna and Katya Apekisheva, who accompanied Philip Dukes on viola, himself substituting for an indisposed Maxim Vengerov. The season’s final concert is usually something special or different and this time it was the Aurora Ensemble expanded with friends to play Gounod’s Petite Symphonie, a rare treat.
The start of the 72nd Season was unusual, as for the first time in 35 years the season tickets did not sell out by the application deadline, however once we made it known there were still tickets available they were snapped up, so the Full House sign was posted again. The club has a reputation locally as being difficult to get into, however although there is a significant loyal membership there have usually been between 5 and 10% of new members welcomed every year for the last decade. Another unusual event is a change of artist at short notice. Unfortunately, 5 days before the December 2017 concert the scheduled mezzo-soprano cancelled because of illness. Julius Drake the accompanist helped find a replacement, Fleur Barron, and with remarkable speed a new programme was published including words and the Club was given a gem of a concert from ‘a remarkable singing actress with a beautiful mezzo-soprano voice, light and not too reverberant at the top of the range but with that ample darkness and warmth at the bottom that marks out a fine mezzo’ as Chris Skidmore reflected in the Ilkley Gazette review. Now one hopes that lightning does not strike twice but the January 2018 concert had to be cancelled due to an illness, which was at such short notice that even the best efforts could not find a replacement artist – only the second concert ever cancelled in 72 years and for the first-time refunds were offered to members. The season ended with an amazing experience when Trio Apaches were joined by three percussionists (O Duo plus Jonny Draper). Their programme concluded with a performance of the trio and percussion arrangement of Shostakovich’s final symphony: a concert many members said they would not forget for many a year.
David Wharmby announced during 2018 his intention to retire as Chair after 7 years. Having taken on the unenviable task of taking over the reins from David Pyett, David had successfully maintained the high standards in all aspects of running the Club and in particular presenting superb concerts at remarkable value. Josephine Wesley also announced her retirement as Honorary Secretary. Over the years David and Josephine, had assumed many of the ad hoc activities that David Pyett had undertaken, much of it often unseen and supported by a whole host of volunteers. The Club, over the years, has been privileged to have a capable and committed committee, however its success has depended on many volunteers, selling programmes, serving teas and coffees, hosting artists, selling tickets, running the CD stall, distributing brochures etc. and Josephine had co-ordinated much of this in recent years.
Chris Skidmore was appointed Chair, with Robert Templar continuing as vice-Chair, and David Halpin, a new committee member, as Honorary Secretary.
Years 2007 –
Compiled from Minutes, Brochures, Programme Notes and Reviews by:
Committee Member 2015 –
Vice-Chair 2016 –