Sussex Musicians Club: Some history

March 1923

March 10th 1923: the inaugural meeting, which took place in a local school.

As you can see, the Club was originally named 'Ladies Musical Society'. This was soon to change.
Articles soon appeared in local papers. Membership was around 25.

March 17 1923

First of many committee meetings, held a week later at a local school. The ladies decided to adopt the name ‘Sussex Women Musicians Club’.

Membership subscription for the initial trial session was 2/6 (12.5 p) and guests 1/- (5p).

April 1923

The first significant concert meeting took place at Rokesley House, Marine Parade, on 14 April 1923. Membership had grown to 40. The impromptu programme included Chopin Polonaise and a Tchaikovsky song.

May - June 1923

12 May: the first ‘Guest night’ at the Royal Pavilion Brighton. This was an impressive sounding event, attended by Cecil Armstrong Gibbs who performed some of his compositions.

The hire fee for the north drawing room was £2-15-0 (£2.75).

Fortnightly concert meetings continued, at Roedean School (2 June) and Denmark Villas (15 June).
Items played were noted in the handwritten minutes and suggest some accomplished musicians:
Cesar Franck – Symphonic variations for 2 pianos
Schumann Violin sonata
Bruch Kol Nidrei
Schumann and Schubert songs

On June 30, a committee meeeting was held to plan the new Session starting in October. Membership had by then increased to 70.

New Season 1923-4

6 October 1923:
Opening concert of the new Season, held at 19 Norfolk Terrace.
Hire fee was 10/- (50p) ‘to include use of gas for tea’.

20 October:
Guest night at the Pavilion. This was an all Elgar concert.


28 October: at a committee meeting it was decided to create two sub-committees, for instrumental and vocal fixtures.
The next Guest Night would be 15 December, this time in the Pavilion music room. This was considerably more expensive at 4 Guineas (£4.20).

November 1923

3 November: Concert at 44 Brunswick Square

15 December: Guest night in the Pavilion


1924
The Club was evidently thriving by this time, holding fortnightly meetings at various locations, and at the Pavilion in February, May, June and July. Membership was around 150 and included some women composers.
At the first AGM on 28 June 1924, it was decided that the number of meetings would be reduced to save on expenses. The 3-session format was amended to two sessions spanning October to May, with 12 concert meetings and concluding with the AGM. This format is much as we have today.

We have no details of the new Season 1924-5 apart from the plans recorded at the AGM; six concerts were to take place in the autumn session, all at the Pavilion.

The final concert programme of the 1923-4 season on 12 July included Brahms violin sonata Op.108 and the Piano quartet Op.25.

1927

This newspaper cutting has been unearthed by Jonathan Steele.
There was evidently a lively debate about admitting men to the Club, even at this early phase.

1935

No more information appears to be available concerning the early years, but I found two newspaper cuttings attached to the notebook from 1935 following the 'Guest night' on 24 May.

The Club had obviously continued to be very successful, now having an orchestra composed of members. The programme included Tchaikovsky Serenade and a Mozart violin concerto.

A composer named Muriel Talbot-Hodge is mentioned. This name comes up in an internet search, though it is not linked with the item performed and may not be the same individual.

1950s

Some memoirs from Muriel Hart relate that men were gradually permitted to perform at the Club concerts, but were restricted to being 'Associate members'. A list from this period gives names of 106 women and 16 men. One of these is Bernard Steele.

It was not until 1970 that men were permitted to become full members. At this point the name of the Club was changed to its present form of Sussex Musicians' Club.