In May 1932, Oxford put on a three-day Haydn Festival, designed to imitate the three-day festival when Haydn received an honorary degree in 1791. The Oxford Harmonic Society participated in the opening concert together with the Bach Choir in a performance of The Creation. Dr William Harris, the organist at Christ Church, conducted the Oxford Orchestral Society. The soloists were Isobel Baillie, Edward Manning, and Arthur Cranmer.
In the space of two years all the glee went out of the Iffley Glee Club. It was formed in 1921, changed its name to Iffley Choral Society in 1923 and, after another rethink, became the Oxford Harmonic Society in 1924. (Oxford Mail, 1986)
The name change from Glee Club to Choral Society reflected its rapidly growing size and the appointment of its first regular conductor, Reginald Jacques. The subsequent change from Iffley to Oxford is explained in a review of June 1924:
The Oxford Harmonic Society is an old friend under a new name – the married name so to speak, of the Iffley Choral Society, for having taken into partnership a considerable body of singers from the city, and found a local habitation also within the boundaries of Oxford, it was felt that the latter name would be a truer expression of the main geographical source of membership.Continue Reading
On 1 June 1922, the Iffley Glee Club performed another light opera by Sir Edward German: Tom Jones. Based on the novel by Henry Fielding, the work was commissioned in 1907, the bicentenary of Fielding’s birth. It was another success for the composer. The music critic and cricket commentator Neville Cardus later wrote:
Next morning I heard over and over again in my head most of the melodies… I savoured the orchestration… I returned to ‘Tom Jones’ night after night; I sold several of my precious books to obtain admission.
There is a recording on cd conducted by David Russell Hulme (Naxos, 2009), and various excerpts may be found on YouTube.
German produced a concert version in 1913, which was the version used by the club. This met with some criticism from the reviewer in the Oxford Chronicle, who called it ‘a curiously inconsequent medley of excerpts from the opera of that name’.Continue Reading
This is the first in a series of posts by two choir members, Jo Parker and Lindsey Charles, giving snapshots from the history of Oxford Harmonic Choir in celebration of its centenary. Apart from the choir archives, made available to us by our archivist, Don Marshall, an important source for the years 1921-71 has been the history compiled by Dr Joe Wilson, who kindly loaned his notebooks, with transcripts from the early newspaper reviews, and financial records from 1946 to 1993.
An outdoor rendition of Edward German’s light opera Merrie England on 28 July 1921 was the first reviewed concert in the long series, extending to the present, given by the Oxford Harmonic Choir, and we date our foundation from this event. At that time, the choir was called the Iffley Glee Club and was associated with the Iffley Memorial Institute, which had been set up in 1917 as a tribute to the war dead and to surviving soldiers. One of the Institute’s founders was Sir George Forrest, a retired Indian civil servant, and it was in the grounds of the house he and his wife rented, Iffley Turn House (a Regency villa, now called Grove House, 44 Iffley Turn) that the performance of Merrie England took place.