Huddersfield Philharmonic Orchestra

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From the vault...



The orchestra was founded by the Rev J.H. Thomas in 1862, going at first under the name of "Mr Thomas's Band". Later it took on the rather grander title of the "Fitzwilliam Street Philharmonic Society", and adopted its present name shortly after the founder's death in 1884, giving its first performance as "The Phil" in February 1885. (Given the name changes we may, or may not, be able to claim a place as the UK's oldest non-professional orchestra.)

A slight miscalculation led to the orchestra celebrating its "centenary" in 1971. However, the re-discovery of archive materials has established the above dates to be correct.

Details of early performances are sketchy, but surviving programmes suggest that they were typical of the day - with the orchestra required to play nothing more taxing than an overture, while vocal and instrumental solos predominated.

A succession of talented local conductors led the orchestra into the 20th century. The inter-war years saw competition from other ensembles to the extent that, in a review from the 30s, "... on one occasion it looked as if there were more players on the platform than there were men and women in the audience".

The orchestra continued to rehearse throughout WW2, but gave only one concert (in April 1943) when the Town Hall was filled to capacity.

Following the war, the orchestra took the bold step of appointing a professional conductor for the first time. Under William Rees, the "Phil" developed its repertoire and gave the first Huddersfield performances of Beethoven's Choral Symphony and Triple Concerto.

Since those days, many distinguished names have been associated with the orchestra, not least its two most recent conductors - Arthur Butterworth and Rupert D'Cruze - and soloists of national and international renown.

Now we welcome Natalia Luis-Bassa as Principal Conductor and Nicholas Cleobury as Principal Guest Conductor. We look forward to many more seasons of exciting and innovative music-making.

An excellent and more detailed history can be found in "Music Making in the West Riding of Yorkshire", edited by Adrian Smith (ISBN 0-9539885-0-3).

If you want other snippets of history, feel free to visit the "vault".

If you are interested in supporting the orchestra through advertising or sponsorship, please visit the "support" page.

If you are interested in playing with the orchestra, there's a link on our home page - but we make no guarantees as to what (if any) vacancies may be available.

Huddersfield Philharmonic Society is a registered charity.