Saddleworth Concerts Society (formerly Saddleworth Chamber Concerts Society) was formed in 1975. It was cooked up by Roger Tanner, patron and begetter of so much that is worthwhile in Saddleworth (he is still, our Chairman), and Ruth Gillespie, a comparative newcomer with long professional experience of concert promotion. We already had a highly successful four yearly Arts Festival, why not our own Chamber Music Society. Similar societies abound in large towns in the north west, but nothing nearer than Manchester, and though small, the group of Pennine villages which comprise Saddleworth has a strong and lively community spirit and plenty of amateur music-making.
The object of the Society was to put on high quality classical music concerts by professional musicians. The venue was to be the Players’ Theatre in Delph, now the Millgate Arts Centre. Loyal Saddleworthians rallied round, and a pilot concert by the Lindsay String Quartet in their early days was a success. We were to engage them at intervals right through their rise to international fame and final dissolution. The first full season opened with a big draw, the Kings Singers, who filled the Civic Hall in Uppermill. Thereafter all our concerts have been in the intimate and comfortable theatre in Delph, fitting in between the plays, in an uninterrupted series of four concerts a year. Only once, when we were completely snowed in, did we have to cancel a performance. In June 2014 the name of the Society was simplified to Saddleworth Concerts Society.
A small society’s funds are very limited, so we became expert in spotting young talent on its way up. The RNCM has been a helpful source. The Lindsays were a good augury, and many of the finest musicians have played in Delph in their early careers – Endellion, Sorrel, Leopold, Brodsky, Belcea, Nicholas Daniel, Paul Lewis – many names spring to mind. We have augmented our income from donations, and an energetic Fund Raising Committee run an Annual Dinner and Plant Sale, both highly successful. This enables us to engage some performers at the peak of their careers.
A Committee of six continues to develop our policy of engaging small ensembles of strings, wind, piano, etc, playing the classical repertoire from Bach to Bartok (and occasionally beyond), varied with forays outside the mainstream: a vocal group, early instruments, brass, percussion, a folk group from the Andes, a jazz concert, a children’s workshop, etc. We continue to please our audiences, which have remained remarkably loyal and steady through 35 years. We run a yearly subscription system, augmented by single tickets, and the theatre is usually “comfortably full”. By this time a considerable family feeling has developed. Our performers feel the warmth, and respond to it, in what many music-lovers feel to be the greatest and most rewarding music to be found.