A potted chronology based on the Society’s Minutes of Executive Committee Meetings, Annual General Meetings and Branch Delegates Conferences [1]

1937-1946 | 1947-1956 | 1957-1966 | 1967-1976 | 1977-1986 | 1987-1996 | 1997-2006

1937-1946 The first decade

1937. An inaugural meeting was held in the Hall of the Art Workers Guild, Bloomsbury, London attended by 60-70 people at which the name Society of Recorder Players was adopted and Officers and a Committee were appointed for one year. Carl Dolmetsch and Edgar Hunt were the Musical Directors and Arnold Dolmetsch was the first President. A proposed outline of the ‘schemes’ of the Society included many features of today’s Society viz. raise the standard of playing, form groups of players in different districts, publish music for recorders, issue a yearly bulletin (now The Recorder Magazine) and to have no salaried posts. The evening ended with the enrolment of 67 new members.

1938. The First Annual General Meeting (‘Festival’) attended by 49 persons was held in October. It was regretted that ‘very few’ playing groups had been formed. A talk on ‘an old 16th century bass recorder’ was followed by an informal concert. In November the first Rules were formally adopted. These included the possibility of a school being a member of the Society; one such member was Camborne School of Mines(!).

1939. At the outbreak of the Second World War it was agreed to suspend future Town, i.e. in London, meetings but to send members as much music as the Society could afford in lieu of meetings.

*********** During the Second World War the Society was dormant *******************

1946. The Society was revived at an AGM in October. Edgar Hunt and Carl Dolmetsch were re-appointed as Musical Directors. Thurston Dart, Freda Dinn and Walter Bergmann also joined the Committee, the latter as a Musical Director. The Society started its new life with a balance of £99.16.10½ largely derived from the sale of music during the war. The stock of music for sale had risen to 6000 copies. The concept of local branches was raised and approved and the upper limit of ten on the number of members abolished. The Committee Minutes record ‘ a vast increase in the number of recorder players in schools’. It was agreed to publish three copies of ‘the journal’ each year.

1947-1956 The second decade

1947. Dr Percy Scholes accepted to be the next President. More provincial meetings, outside London, were planned in Manchester, Tyneside, Birmingham, Oxford and Cambridge with the Society paying travel expenses and, reluctantly if necessary, overnight accommodation. In July a Young Players’ Festival, largely organised by Freda Dinn and attended by over 340 teachers and children, was held at the Froebel Institute, Roehampton. The Annual Report for the year ended 30 September 1947 recorded almost 500 members of the Society. The Committee established branches in Birmingham, Leicester and Manchester.

1948. In May it was reported that the first newsletter had appeared (in addition to the first issue of the Recorder News which had been printed and was about to be distributed). New branches were approved in Bristol and Oxford. It was decided that branches should keep to an agreed budget within which they would be supported with central funds. A Summer School for teachers [the first?] was held in Roehampton in August 1948. In November, the Committee, having realised that not having a Chairman (since 1946) ‘had not proved entirely successful’ proposed Edgar Hunt at the AGM and he was duly elected. Freda Dinn succeeded him as a Musical Director of the Society.

1949. The concept of each branch having an entitlement to an annual advisory visit by a Musical Director was agreed by the Committee. It was planned to create a London branch on 26 January. In October the Committee meeting was preceded by the first ever conference of branch delegates. A Junior Section of the Society, organised by Freda Dinn, was formed during the year. It was reported that Summer School students ‘could through their local authority get reimbursement of the cost of travelling and board and lodging’!

1950. The formation of a Newcastle Branch was agreed. The Junior Section consisted of 500 members, 230 of them in London. It was decided to pay the expenses of only one, no longer two, branch delegate to the branch conference. A Dorset Branch is mentioned for the first time. The Dolmetsch Foundation successfully ran the Summer School.

1951. In January reference is made to the annual concert. This seems to have been going on for some years [at least since 1946]. It was agreed that the Recorder News would henceforth appear quarterly (later changed to three times a year for cost reasons). A Teacher’s Diploma is mentioned which involved examinations at the Summer School. Possible formation of branches in Malvern, Worcester and Sheffield are mentioned. In October the third delegates conference was held. Delegates from Birmingham, Bristol, Dorset, Newcastle, Manchester and Oxford attended. The idea of holding the conference outside London in alternate years was greeted favourably. Membership of the Junior Section exceeded (by 3) the 597 membership of the Society. Idea hatched that the annual concert should be held outside London ‘in the provinces’ in alternate years. Manchester was the first such venue in 1952.

1952. A Midland branch is mentioned. Delegates from London, Bristol, Midland, Manchester, Oxford and Merseyside attended the annual delegates conference. Musical Directors were finding it difficult to visit all Branches annually and suggested that a panel of ‘leaders’ be drawn up. At the November AGM it was reported that seven candidates passed the Teacher’s Certificate Examination at the Summer School.

1953. Dr Bergmann suggested setting up an international meeting of recorder players in 1954. It was agreed that one leading recorder player be invited to the 1954 Summer School from each of Austria, France, Germany, Holland and Switzerland. It was agreed to invite Michael Tippett to write the next music publication of the Society. At the November AGM it was reported that three issues of Recorder News had been published, the Summer edition being the first printed edition succeeding the earlier type-written editions. The annual concert had been in Birmingham. The Society’s annual music publication was for solo players instead of for an ensemble, an arrangement of Indian Folk Tunes by Imogen Holst.

1954. The Executive Committee agreed that ‘the annual visit of a Musical Director to a branch should consist of conducting a Saturday afternoon playing session (say 2.30-6.00 pm)’. The branch delegates conference agreed to discontinue musical publications of the Society after 1955, because ‘music publishers take care of it now’, and to put more funds into supporting the Recorder News. The Oxford branch was closed for lack of support. The November AGM learnt that a Cornwall branch had been formed. At the Recorder in Education Summer School in Roehampton leading recorder players from the continent gave three evening concerts. In the Junior Section, following pressure from the London Schools Recorder Association, 47 schools had become affiliated to the Society.

1955. By July the Cornwall branch was closing due to difficulty in arranging meetings. It was said that the original aim of the Junior Section to encourage recorder playing in schools had now been taken over by Local Educational Authorities. It was proposed that the Committee consider winding up the Junior Section (which actually persisted until at least August 1956). The Committee proposed the setting up of a Music Teaching Section within the Society for teachers both within and without the Society.

1956. It was agreed to have a special page in Recorder News devoted to teaching the recorder in schools. The Branch delegates conference was attended by delegates from Bristol, Cambridge, Manchester, Merseyside, Midlands, Newcastle and London. Branches were left to make their own arrangements regarding child members (under 18 years old). At the AGM, Freda Dinn reported on a meeting at County Hall at which Ronald Chesney, the variety artist, played in a broken consort of harmonicas and three descant recorders to illustrate the suitability of the former for use in schools. Miss Dinn ‘pointed out that there is very little music available for the harmonica, and that Mr Chesney’s claim that it taught children to read music could hardly be substantiated, though to a certain type of child it might prove a useful instrument’. The Chairman, Edgar Hunt, reported that Carl Dolmetsch and Richard Taylor had played Brandenburg 4 on recorders at the Proms. He continued ’On the other side we are being attacked. One of the students at Trinity College showed me a cutting from a Southampton paper and I read this: “Mr. Arthur Benjamin the composer, adjudicating at Gosport Music Festival yesterday expressed the hope that the harmonica would replace the recorder in schools. He said he had several reasons for this opinion. A tune could be played on the harmonica, a difference could be made between loud and soft, and a beautiful melodic outline could be achieved. I think it is more important children hear and get used to these musical effects, rather than this flat uninteresting business one hears on the recorder. So I would be most pleased to see the harmonica spread into schools “’.

1957-1966 The third decade

1957. The Secretary received a letter saying players wanted to form a branch in Sheffield. The biggest provincial branch was Devon with 48 members. Delegates from ten branches attended the branch delegates conference. By August a branch had been opened in Edinburgh. At the AGM Edgar Hunt suggested that ‘If you have derived help and pleasure from our Society, don’t grudge a little help and trouble to the newer and less experienced members. In this I regard patience and the ability to lead in a kindly way as valuable qualities.’

1958. At the Branch delegates conference in March, Bristol, Manchester and Midlands reported that they had each celebrated their tenth birthdays. In April a letter had been received about forming a Dublin branch. The Committee’s first reaction was that they should form their own Society (in Ireland). In July the President, Percy Scholes, died in Switzerland. A 21st Birthday Party with free tea and cake was planned for the Society at the AGM on 22 November. The Minutes record the following annual events; an annual concert, the AGM and the branch delegates conference. In October Benjamin Britten confirmed that he was very pleased to be the new President of the Society.

1959. A proposal to hire the Festival Hall on the South Bank for a Saturday morning children’s concert, to use up funds left over after disbanding the Junior Section, was abandoned when the an estimate of £200-300 for the cost of hire was received! In August Northampton was accepted as a branch of the Society.

1960. By February an Aberdeen branch had been formed. At the March AGM it was reported that the annual concert was given in the Freemasons’ Hall, Edinburgh organised by Edinburgh branch, the Society’s youngest. The London branch planned to start monthly meetings for players aged 11-15 years with expenses paid for by the balance of Junior Section funds.

1961. In February there were 12 branches. A Sub-Committee on ‘membership, branches and affiliation’ described the rather complicated system for rebates whereby a proportion of the annual subscription paid centrally was returned to the each branch to cover their expenses, the amount depending on the size of the branch (the larger the Branch the smaller the average rebate per head)’. The Sub-committee recommended abandoning the system of variable rebates and having a flat rate rebate of 8 shillings per member so long as the subscription remained at 15 shillings. At the March AGM the Chairman welcomed the new Glasgow Branch. In May the setting up of a new West Riding branch was reported. A panel [of visiting conductors] had been suggested in order relieve the [Musical] Directors of the burden involved in visiting branches but this was not received favourably. In August Miss Dinn considered it desirable to make some modifications in the demands of the Teachers’ Test and for it to be held in places in addition to Roehampton.

1962. At the March Executive Committee it was agreed that funds held centrally, after paying the rebate the branches, would be spent on, 1) The Annual Concert: London and Provinces in alternate years. 2) Visits of the Society’s Chairman and Musical Directors to branches and 3) The expenses of the Branch Delegates’ Conference. Travelling costs had increased as more branches were formed, some further away from London than heretofore. In May it was decided that large branches should receive the undermentioned benefits from the Society while a sliding scale of privileges would be worked out for smaller branches: An annual visit from H.Q., The Recorder News, an occasional concert, representation at Delegates’ Conferences and advice from H.Q, It was felt that the Annual Delegates’ Conference was not long enough for full discussion on important issues, nor was there sufficient time for members to enjoy social benefit from the morning’s proceedings. It was felt desirable to extend the delegates’ visits and that perhaps a meeting could be arranged for the Saturday afternoon and/or evening and all day Sunday. [first signs of the Festival and Conference we know today]. In September the Committee learnt that the first issue of the [new] journal, published by Schotts and to supercede the Recorder News, would appear on 1 May, I963. Four pages were being set aside for the Society. It was suggested that the conduct of the Teachers’ exam should be passed to Trinity College of Music.

1963. In February, the Committee said the first editorial board of the [new] magazine would consist of Dr. Bergmann, Mr. Rowland Jones, Mr. Dick Noble and Mr. Herbert Hersom. Miss Unwin proposed that Mr. James [Hon. Treasurer] should write a short article in the new magazine explaining clearly to members exactly how their subscriptions were spent. By July the first issue of the new magazine had been published. 5000 copies of the first issue were printed. 1000 went to the S.R.P., some were sent out to the subscription list and about 1,600 were sold to the public. In November the Committee learnt that Norfolk had joined the Society as its 15th branch on 1 October.

1964. At the branch delegates conference financial problems, partly caused by the cost of the new magazine, were discussed. Mr Crispin (Devon) proposed a new two-part subscription, one part to central funds and the other to Branches. Dr Dolmetsch said that the important factor in the scheme was that each Branch could fix the amount which it required for itself. A decision was postponed [but the suggestion seems to have been soon taken up]. The creation of a panel of visiting conductors was suggested. At the AGM it was suggested that Conference should be the legislative body of the Society. It was also suggested that the Conference and AGM should be held on the same day!

1965. In January the formal Panel of Visiting Conductors gets its first mention. Mr Hunt said that the Musical Directors should make up the list, taking into account the views of the Branches, before submitting it to the Committee for approval. A draft list which was approved by the Committee included: Dr. Peter Robertson; Mr. T.H. Johnston, Miss May Whitby; Miss Mabel Wilson; Mr Peter Roscoe; Mrs. Lily Taylor; Mr. C. Hale; Mr Alton; Miss Dinah Grant; Mr. Paul Clark; Dr and Mrs Coles; Mr. Skins; Mr. A. Rowland-Jones; Miss Enid Hunt; Miss Margaret Donnington; Mr. Brian Crispin: Dr. R. Johnson; Mr. Sam Taylor; Mr. Layton Ring; Mr Stanley Taylor; Mr. Brian Bonsor; Miss W.Sanders; Miss Joan Hale; Mr. and Mrs. Lefkovitch; Mr T Wyatt; Miss Pamela Morgan; Rev. Rigby; Dom Gregory Murray; Mr. Herbert Hersom and Mr. D. Herdman. It later emerged that not all on this list may have been members. At the annual conference it was said that the last of the annual concerts had been held in Northampton and had made a profit. A dispute with Schotts arose over advance warning of price rises of the magazine and related matters. It was agreed that Brian Bonsor should set up a Roxburgh Branch.

1966. It was suggested that the Society might have an emblem [logo] of its own which could be printed on the leaflet and on any other publicity. A body appointed by the Committee would judge the entries and the winning emblem would be shown at the Roehampton Summer School. Dr. Bergmann quoted from an article in “The Listener” of March 10th, by Benjamin Frankel, about performances of old music: “By all means let children and willing amateurs play willingly on the recorder, but is there a more boring or less variegated tone to be found in the world of instruments?” The question of the Society’s writing a reply was discussed but it was agreed that this would not be wise and Dr. Bergmann undertook to write his own reply. At the annual conference in May it was pointed out that the Society’s Musical Directors no longer had a function and that the posts could be abolished. It was suggested that some Committee members should retire annually and have to stand down for a fixed period before being able to stand again. A sentiment was expressed that the Society was run too much from London.

1967-1976 The fourth decade:

1967. In the light of yet another dispute with Schotts, publishers of the magazine, it was suggested that the Society should explore publishing the magazine with another publisher such as Making Music. It was agreed that the Society should advertise for younger members  and the publications suggested were ‘Making Music’, ‘The Times Educational Supplement’, ‘Music’, ‘The Musical Times’, ‘Music in Education’, and the ‘Recorder and Music Magazine’. In May, the editor of the magazine (a member) had resigned; he had a poor view of Schotts. Mr Bonsor was elected Musical Director.

1968. Advertising the Society to the general public in order to boost numbers was a subject for discussion in the Executive Committee. Miss Dinn suggested that a large poster might be displayed in Schotts. Copies of this poster might later be sent elsewhere. County Music Advisers and the Dolmetsch Workshops could receive copies. Miss Dinn suggested Branches might organise an Open Day to encourage new members and it was agreed to mention this at the Conference. At the annual Conference in May, Mr Bonsor made the suggestion that a Branch Delegates Conference might be held outside London, with another Branch providing hospitality. At the May Executive Committee a publicity sub-committee was set up to agree on the design of a poster plus an advert in various musical/educational journals. Miss Wright asked if her Branch could be called “The Country and Overseas Branch” since at least one third of its members lived overseas. Following an increase in membership of one resulting from a  number of advertisements ‘It was agreed that for the time no being no more advertisements would be put into musical journals.’ Still only 14 Branches in existence.

1969. Two delegates from a new branch in Hull were welcomed to Conference. Mrs. Hird raised the question of a special subscription for married couples. It was agreed that this was something on which the Society as such should not take any action but individual Branches could make special arrangements if they so wished. The cost of pastoral visits was discussed. The Chairman said that it was the policy of the Society to encourage branches to arrange their visits so that one visiting conductor could take in several Branches in one trip and so save fares. This was one of the purposes of the list of visiting conductors and he thought it should be emphasised once again to the Branches.

1970.  It was suggested that Branches should be told that if they did not register a pastoral visit with the Secretary before it took place they would not be allowed to claim expenses for it. Annual conference discussed a working party report on the Future of the Society and Publicity (Crispin report). Following the Conference Minutes there is a report by Edgar Hunt on the Teachers Test started in 1938. “Hence we feel that there is still a place for the S.R.P. Teacher’s Test as a measure of ability and knowledge.” The topic of affiliated schools was discussed at length.

1971. Concern was expressed in the Executive Committee at the cost, and possible losses, from the forthcoming 1972 Festival in Birmingham, arranged by Paul Clark. The Executive Committee were uncertain whether the Society was a registered charity or not. At the Branch Delegates Conference it was agreed to publish a membership list. Arthur Ingram was elected Treasurer. A letter had been received from Mr. Corran asking for the Executive Committee’s approval for the opening of a branch to cover the whole of Ireland. It was agreed to give the required approval in view  of the fact that the proposed Branch would cover all of Ireland and that there were no currency or travel problems. Regarding some proposed changes to the magazine, it was agreed that ‘… although the scope of early music will be taken as extending from Medieval to early 19th century romantic music, and therefore appears wide, too close an association of the Recorder with early music might do disservice to the contemporary, 20th century, role of the Recorder and the new music being written for it.’

1972. In early January, it was reported that new Branches had been formed at Mid-Herts, Ireland and Cambridge. A sub-committee consisting of Messrs. Cobb, Dr.Bergmann, Dr.Coles, Mr.Hunt and Dr.Taylor was set up to finalise the proposals for an S.R.P. certificate examination and to work out the administration of the examination scheme. In March, the Treasurer reported on the grave financial situation, forecasting that the Society would use up all of its cash reserves before the benefits of any new subscription, to be agreed at the May Conference, were felt. At the Annual Conference, Edgar Hunt stepped down as Chairman after more than 25 years but remained as a Musical Director. Theo Wyatt succeeded him. It was agreed that there should no longer be a limit in the Rules of only five Musical Directors. Subscriptions to the Central Fund were doubled to avoid increasing losses and debt (£1.50 for ordinary members, £1 for students). The first Festival outside London was organised by Paul Clark on 17 June in Birmingham. The membership now exceeded 1000 and there were 23 Branches in total, including 6 new ones, plus three in formation. In October, Dr. Gal and Mr. Munrow agreed to be vice-presidents of the Society. Mr. Hersom presented for discussion a Leeway School Descant Recorder and commented on its lamentably poor timbre and intonation. It was regretted that the Society, while deploring the existence of such poor quality instruments (especially sold as suitable for use in schools) could do nothing prevent their sale. Subsequently, Mr Wyatt investigated a possible prosecution under the Trade Descriptions Act. The advice, basically, is that local Weights and Measures Inspectors should be approached with the complaints and evidence of local purchase.

1973. Mr Wyatt reported that he had heard that Devon branch had instigated a two-level membership structure; national members and local members. However the rules stated that every branch member shall pay a subscription to the Central Fund in addition to a further subscription to be determined by the branch. Mr Wyatt wrote to the branch pointing out that their structure does not comply with the rules. At the Branch Delegates Conference members were told that the Society was being kept afloat financially with an interest free loan from Arthur Ingram. Freda Dinn retired as Musical Director. A Festival in 1974 was being planned in Northampton. The suggestion that the Annual Delegates Conference should be in Northampton on the day following the Festival was agreed by a large majority. Dr. Coles reported that great interest as being shown in the SRP examination certificate; about 20 candidates had so far been put forward by County and Borough Music Advisers. In October, it was agreed to reissue the Members list [it is not clear when the first list was circulated], subject to availability of funds, after the 1973-74 membership returns were completed. Regarding distribution of the magazine, it was agreed that bulk parcels will be made up and sent out by Office Aids to save postage.

1974. The Executive Committee generally felt that an advertisement should appear regularly in the SRP pages of the magazine explaining how to join and whom to contact for details. It was felt that all visitors to a Branch who were not members of that Branch could, at the discretion of the Secretary of the Branch being visited, be charged a small fee to cover local expenses. The Branch Delegates Conference was held the day after the Festival in Northampton. It was agreed that festivals should be held at two yearly intervals and Mr. Wyatt offered to ask the London Branch if it will organise one in London in 1976. Mr. Bonsor suggested that in alternate years a festival, primarily for northern members, might be held in Scotland. In September, the Executive Committee discussed plans for the 1975 Festival in Galashiels. While it was felt by some that to hold the Conference out of London for the second year running might be hard on the southern and southwestern  branches, the general feeling was that the opportunity to hold the Conference in association with the festival [the previous day], which many of the delegates would be attending, should not be missed. There was also some feeling that the conference should not automatically become tied to the festival.

1975. At the April Executive Committee meeting Mr. Ingram forecast that the cost of distributing the magazine was likely to exceed the cost of the magazine itself. Postage had increased 73% in 18 months. In planning Festival 1976 in London suggestions were invited for competition adjudicators and the names of Sir Michael Tippett and Imogen Holst were put forward. The Branch delegates conference was held in Galashiels after the Festival. A new list of conductors had been compiled and would be issued soon. It included the Society’s Musical Directors as well as the names of several people who have recently accepted the Committee’s invitation to make themselves available for “pastoral” visits to Branch meetings.

1976. In March, the Executive Committee reviewed the list of people receiving complimentary copies of the magazine.  The revised list was: All Presidents and Vice Presidents, Messrs. Minchin [ex-auditor and Honorary Life Member] and Gray [former Membership Secretary], some members of the American SRP organisation, the exact list to be agreed between the SRP and ASRP Hon. Sec.,  and  Messrs. Collette, Conrad, Staeps and Vellelcoop with the addition of Messrs. Brüggen and Linde. Mr Ingram requested that the Festival Committee explore thoroughly the Insurance aspects of the Festival and obtain cover if necessary. It was agreed that in order to encourage recruitment, particularly of younger people, to the committee, travelling expenses should be paid for attendance at two committee meetings per year. The Branch Delegates Conference was held in London following the Festival the previous day. A resolution; ‘That two members of the Committee shall retire annually by rotation and shall not be eligible for re-election to the Committee for a period of one year thereafter though they may be elected to any vacant office subject to rule 10.b.’ was passed. Mr Bonsor asked that the Executive Committee look into the possibility of holding a competition for the design of an emblem for the SRP. In Octobe the Executive Committee felt that ties or scarves were unlikely to sell, but that an emblem or logo for use on paperwork might be useful.

1977 on

Further decades will be added as time permits.

[1] Further information on the history of the Society can be obtained from a two-part article by Edgar Hunt. See The Recorder News March 1966, p.23-24 and February 1967 p.127-128.

Last updated 13 March 2012