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Wessex Philharmonic Orchestra

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 1249 Wessex Philharmonic
Held at: Royal College of Music
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Full title: Wessex Philharmonic Orchestra
Date(s): c1939-c1945
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 5 box files
Name of creator(s): Wessex Philharmonic Orchestra
Goodall | Sir | Reginald | 1901-1990 | Knight | conductor
Aldrich | Maisie | fl 1939 | musician


Administrative/Biographical history:

On the outbreak of World War Two, Bournemouth town council virtually disbanded its municipal orchestra. In response a number of individuals, notably Maisie Aldrich, the daughter of a Christchurch solicitor, formed a small orchestra to perform for the south coast town and surrounding area.

The conductor Reginald Goodall (1901-1990), after a musical education at Lincoln Cathedral, the Hamilton Conservatory and the Royal College of Music, was Organist at St Alban's Holborn, 1929-1936. His unorthodox outlook and Mosleyite political views and sympathies hindered his attempts find employment as a professional conductor and he was unemployed at the start of the war.

Miss Aldrich sought Goodall's assistance with the Wessex Philharmonic and the orchestra performed its first concert on 8 Dec 1939. Thereafter, Goodall directed over 300 concerts over the next three years and two months, and in the process transforming a group of amateur/semi-professional musicians into a competent orchestra, who often peformed works by many modern British composers, and frequently in two concerts a day. A number of the musicians were refugees of German origin, and as foreign nationals were not allowed within five miles of the coast under wartime security measures, the collection documents the efforts to circumvent these rules.

The collection charts the foundation, development and work of the orchestra and provides important biographical material on Goodall, which include his political views as well as his professional activities. On leaving the orchestra in 1943, he spend six months as an army storeman and then joined Sadler's Wells Opera, where he conducted the premiere of Britten's 'Peter Grimes' on 7 Jun 1945. His career thereafter was spent in relative obscurity, but enjoyed a revival in the 1970s with his conducting of Wagner's Ring cycle.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of or relating to the Wessex Philharmonic Orchestra and its conductor Reginald Goodall, mainly comprising correspondence with composers, singers, musicians, orchestral managers, agents and artists, relating to the foundation of the orchestra, performances of the orchestra during World War Two, the hiring and dismissal of musicians, the arranging of concerts, discussion of programmes (including music by Britten, Elgar, Poulenc, Rubbra, Sibelius, Vaughan Williams, Walton and many others), payments and disbursements made, arrangements for accommodating visiting soloists and conductors etc, mainly addressed to Maisie Aldrich, with a large number of letters from Goodall, and others including Adrian Boult, Harriet Cohen, H C Colles, George Dyson, Anatol Fistoulari (about Anna Mahler), Beatrice Harrison, Arnold Haskell, Julius Isserlis, Gordon Jacob, Eileen Joyce, Kathleen Long, Reginald Morley, Albert Sammons, Malcolm Sargent, Kendall Taylor, Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:


Conditions governing access:

Usual conditions of the Library of the Royal College of Music apply. See the RCM website or contact the RCM Library for details.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Photocopying is permitted at the discretion of the Archivist for research purposes only.

Finding aids:

Uncatalogued. There is a conspectus of the collection in the Sotheby's music auction catalogue, 17 May 2002.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Purchased at Sotheby's sale of music (lot 92) by the Library of the Royal College of Music, 17 May 2002.

Allied Materials

Related material:

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

The collection was used by John Lucas in his biography Reggie: the life of Reginald Goodall (London, 1993).

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Compiled by Robert Baxter as part of the RSLP AIM25 Project. Sources: article on Goodall by John Lucas, Grove Dictionary of Music; Sotheby's music catalogue, 17 May 2002.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
May 2002

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