The rich and famous gathered in Sunderland for a classical night

Ferry and Fosters -Sunderland's premier music shop in 1910.
Ferry and Fosters -Sunderland's premier music shop in 1910.
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A musical celebrity caused a real stir when he visited Sunderland.

Crowds gathered in their thousands to get a glimpse of Sir Edward Elgar, the famous English composer who is best known for works such as the Enigma Variations and the Pomp and Circumstance marches.

Victoria Hall in Toward Road.

Victoria Hall in Toward Road.

Philip Curtis, of the Sunderland Antiquarian Society, describes the night when a Wearside witnessed a spectacle.

The long-awaited evening of Wednesday, November 2, 1910 had finally arrived.

Wearside had rarely witnessed anything like it.

It was such a big event that anticipation and excitement was at the very highest level.

Sir Edward conducted the orchestra in performances of his most famous compositions including Nimrod, Dream of Gerontius, Enigma Variations and Pomp and Circumstance Marches. Was Land of Hope and Glory ever performed so well in the town?

Philip Curtis

That excitement was evident in Sunderland long before the concert that Sir Edward was to take charge of.

Crowds gathered early in Toward Road to watch the great and the good of the town arrive at the Victoria Hall.

This was a musical concert everyone wanted to be seen to attend.

The audience arrived mainly in their horse-drawn carriages but there was also a number of the better-off who impressively turned up in their chauffeur-driven motor cars.

Inside Victoria Hall.

Inside Victoria Hall.

Once they had gathered, the auditorium quickly filled.

And once Mayor Alderman Young had taken his seat in the centre of the front row of the dress circle alongside other dignitaries, the stage quickly filled with musicians and participants.

The eagerly awaited concert was at last ready to commence. Sunderland was about to witness something special.

But this was no ordinary concert.

It had been organised in order to celebrate the Jubilee of the Sunderland Philharmonic Society.

In 1910, it was the 50th year of the society and it was set to celebrate in style.

In fact, it was a deserved celebration for an organisation which had made its mark on British life.

The society thrived during the first half of the twentieth century and in 1910 it was well-respected throughout the country.

Its ranks included a 100-strong choir, the members of which took to the stage to take part in the concert.

Music that evening was to be played by the world famous Hallé Orchestra which had agreed to perform the works of the most prominent of English living composers at that time, Sir Edward Elgar.

The appearance of such an orchestra in the town was certainly a coup for the society.

But this was topped by the person who had agreed to come along and conduct the Hallé Orchestra as it was, in fact, none other than the composer of the music himself, Sir Edward.

This was indeed extra special.

The hall was absolutely packed and that was thanks to tickets having been sold at Sunderland’s premier music shop at that time, which was Ferry & Fosters in Bridge Street.

It was hardly a difficult task to get people to come along.

Sir Edward was at the height of his fame and to make the event even more noteworthy, he arrived at the Grand Hotel accompanied by two female soloists.

They were Lady Warrender and Lady Speyer who were there to add even more distinction to the proceedings.

There was terrific applause and a few cheers as Sir Edward entered the stage.

He proceeded to conduct the orchestra in performances of his most famous compositions.

A great raray of compositions included Nimrod, Dream of Gerontius, Enigma Variations and Pomp and Circumstance Marches.

Was Land of Hope and Glory ever performed so well in the town? - Probably not. It was an occasion to savour.

At the end, following a number standing ovations and lots of encores, bouquets were duly presented to the soloists.

Then the Mayor took to the stage and, on behalf of the whole town, thanked Sir Edward for coming to Sunderland to support the society.

The Sunderland Echo declared the concert “an unqualified success.” It added at the time: “Sir Edward and the soloists delighted the audience and the Hallé Orchestra was outstanding.”

What a night it must have been. So you see culture is nothing new to Sunderland. It has always played an important role in the lives of its residents.

Long may it continue.