Rare footage of a Chester-born conductor at one of the first classical music performances to be filmed in colour will be screened ahead of the last ever concert in a Birmingham concert hall this weekend.
The recording of Sir Edward Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius, conducted by Sir Adrian Boult, has remained hidden in archives for nearly 50 years.
Footage from this rare film will be shown on Sunday, June 26 to mark the closure of Birmingham Conservatoire’s 520-seat Adrian Boult Hall this weekend.
The recording was made in Canterbury Cathedral on March 27 and 28, 1968 by the BBC. It shows the 78-year-old Sir Adrian Boult conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra – with Rodney Friend as leader – and the London Philharmonic Choir.
As was the case during the early days of filming for colour television, the recording suffered several stoppages when cameras broke down and there was also the added difficulty of Canterbury Cathedral’s organ being disabled. A link to a nearby parish church was arranged and, with the help of a closed circuit television, the organist could participate in the performance being filmed in the cathedral.
Andrew Neill, former Chairman of the Elgar Society and Trustee of the Elgar Birthplace said: “During Sir Adrian Boult’s long and distinguished life he became a supreme interpreter of much of Elgar’s music winning accolades and awards for performances and recordings. Contrary to the opinion that Elgar was neglected after the composer’s death, Boult championed his music throughout his conducting life notably during his tenure as director of music at the BBC.”
Boult’s verdict was that ‘the production is a milestone whence television technique can move in a fresh direction’.
Adrian Boult Hall, often described as one of the best concert halls of its size in the country, was opened in 1986 by HRH the Duchess of Gloucester. Since then, it has welcomed diverse performances from well-known names such as violinists Nigel Kennedy and Tasmin Little, Conservatoire Principal and cellist Julian Lloyd Webber, singer Dame Felicity Lott and composer Pierre Boulez.
The hall is the next in a series of buildings being demolished as part of the £500 million Paradise regeneration project in Birmingham, which has already seen the loss of the brutalist Central Library.
Birmingham Conservatoire, part of Birmingham City University, is now preparing to move to its new £56 million home in the Eastside region of the City, currently under construction and due to open in 2017.
More about Sir Adrian Boult
A prominent British conductor with a particular love of English music, he conducted the Birmingham Festival Choral Society and the then City of Birmingham Orchestra from 1924-1930.
The BBC appointed him Director of Music in 1930 and, during this role, he was the founding conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, with whom he achieved international recognition. In the latter part of his career, he worked with other orchestras, most notably the London Philharmonic Orchestra, where he conducted concerts and recordings with them until 1978.
He also held posts with the Royal Opera Covent Garden and Royal College of Music, made many guest conducting appearances, was a prolific recording artist and gave the first performances of Holst’s ‘The Planets’.
He was knighted in 1937. As a guest on Desert Island Discs, he gave his luxury item as a panama hat stuffed with barley sugar.