Concerts of note in the history of the orchestra

In date order

Thursday 24 February 1896.  
Madame Reymond produces a concert at The Wesleyan Chapel, Milton, Stoke-on-Trent. John Cope features on the programme.

Thursday 8 December 1904, Burslem Town Hall.  The orchestra's first concert. Together with The Potteries Choral Society. Conducted by John Cope.

First concert of the fourth season held at The Victoria Hall in Hanley. John Cope conducting.
NSSO North Staffs Symphony Orchestra
NSSO Concert Programme November 1906

Fifth Season and note the new name - North Staffordshire Orchestra
NSSO Concert Programme - January 1908

Special benefit concert for The North Staffs Royal Infirmary. Boxing Day 1910. With the new name: The North Staffordshire Symphony Orchestra.
NSSO Concert Programme - 26 December 1910

Kings Hall, Stoke.  Festival Concert

Centenary performance of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony


John Cope Concert

Benefit concert for Madame Marie Reymond

In May 1930 Josiah Wedgwood and Sons Ltd., the pottery manufacturing company, celebrated its bi-centenary with a magnificent Historical Pageant in Hanley Park. The NSSO accompanied the event with John Cope conducting.

WEDGWOOD PAGEANT 1930 programme cover

An official film was made of the pageant and here is part of it. You can clearly see Cope conducting, baton in hand, and some of the orchestra players in the foreground. Many thanks go to Ray Johnson MBE of the Staffordshire Film Archive for making the extract from the film available.

Wedgwood Pageant Concert, October 25th 1930, Victoria Hall, Hanley.




The Jubilee Concert - marking the 50th Anniversary of the Orchestra and a remarkable achievement.

North Staffs Symphony Orchestra
NSSO Concert Programme Jubilee Year 1954

NSSO Jubilee Season Review



November 1969. Denis Mathews on piano and Percy Rogers conducting

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With Campoli as violin soloist. Percy Rogers conducting.

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1973 March

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1973 December
Mahler Symphony No.4 with Janet Price, Soprano

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1975 March

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1975 November

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1975 December

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1976 May
Havergal Brian Centenary Concert at St Mark's Church, Shelton

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The Queens Silver Jubilee Concert

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North Staffordshire Symphony Orchestra 75th Anniversary Concert

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1978 May
Many members of the NSSO played in the performance of The Gothic Symphony by Havergal Brian, the local composer. The concert on 21 May 1978, at The Victoria Hall, Hanley, was organised and produced by Paul Shaw. It was conducted by Trevor Stokes. Details on Wikipedia here>   Details in Havergal Brian Society  here>

There were almost 800 performers. The audience was confined to the gallery (586 seats) and the balcony (211 seats), leaving the arena floor to be occupied by the orchestra. Behind the orchestra, the children’s chorus was placed on the platform, two of the adult choruses behind them in the choir seats banked up on each side of the organ and the two remaining adult choruses seated in the long, narrow side balconies flanking the hall. The four brass bands were located with the four choruses.

The Gothic performed at The Victoria Hall Hanley 21st May 1978
The Gothic performed at The Victoria Hall Hanley 21st May 1978


The Stoke Gothic Symphony Orchestra - mainly comprising the North Staffs Symphony Orchestra
Leader : Raymond Baddeley
Conductor : Trevor Stokes
Assistant Conductor : Peter Young,

Margaret Tapley (sop), Jean Reavley (alto), Eric Baskeyfield (ten), Philip Ravenscroft (bass)
Keele Chamber Choir  - chorus master John Sloboda
Leicester Philharmonic Society  - Keith Smith
Margaret Wharam Choir, Solihull - Margaret Wharam
Nantwich and District Choral Society - Eddie Hewsion
Oriana Choir, Macclesfield - Keith Yearsley
Potteries Choral Society - Michael Lambert
Stone Choral Society - Arlene Lees
Ashborne Parish Church boys’ choir - Christopher Atkinson
Goudhurst Girls School Choir -Mary Halstead
Nantwich Parish Church boys’ choir  - Michael Bax
Parish Church of St Peter, Prestbury boys’ choir - Michael Cheetham and girls’ choir - Andrew Burr

1981 April
Soloist Clare McFarlane, BBC Young Musician of the Year, Michael Trowski conducting

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1985 December

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90th Birthday Concert conducted by Timothy Redmond and included Symphony No.2 by Mahler - The Resurrection. This was its first performance in Hanley. The drawing of Gustav Mahler on the front cover or the programme was made by Neville Mitchison.

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The Millenium Concert - Bizet's Carmen at The Victoria Hall, Hanley, with guests choirs and Timothy Redmond conducting.
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Critics Column
“A Fitting Farewell”, The Carmen Concert, by Friends Correspondent

It’s not often that one gets the opportunity to hear a concert performance of a full opera, but that was the feast provided by the North Staffordshire Symphony Orchestra, with a talented array of professional soloists, plus a choir consisting of The Barbara Walton Singers; The Ceramic City Choir and The Stone Choral Society, at the Victoria Hall, for the orchestra’s last performance of the 1999 / 2000 season.

It was an ambitious venture, needing much planning, such as size of stage, booking of solo artists, rehearsal schedules for orchestra and chorus etc.. The fact that owing to illness and unavoidable indisposition, stand-in soloists had to be found finding a third Carmen at very short notice, must have been a real headache. Having lost count of who’s who and the number of changes, I beg the forgiveness of the soloists for not mentioning them by name. To crown it all, on the day of the performance, it was ‘barbecue weather’ ensuring the absence of much potential audience. However, that did little to detract from the enjoyment of the opera. All the soloists were established professional singers of high quality. The opera, being sung in English, also helped greatly in that one was able to follow the plot and dialogue with ease as the tragedy unfolded.

If the performance is good, watching and listening to opera without the scenery is a bit like hearing a play on the radio; one can imagine the setting and so feel part of it. As it progressed, this rendition went a long way to achieving that. To start with, the Overture and opening scene showed the orchestra in fine fettle, really setting the scene and mood of what was to follow.

No fiery, hot blooded, passionate, foot stamping Carmen here, but a willowy, lithesome siren who woos the men gathered round her with her slinky body and voice to match when she tells them, in the ‘Habanera’, that “love obeys no laws”. She also showed great agility of voice in the ‘Seguidilla’ with its tricky intervals, turns and other vocal gymnastics. On the other hand, Micaela, a modest and shy peasant girl, sang her part with a purity of tone when bringing news of Don Jose’s mother. Corporal Morales, Lieutenant Zuniga and Don Jose sang their parts adequately. Jose was at his best in the ‘Flower Song’, which he sang with a touching tenderness.

Carmen was ably supported by her friends, Frasquita and Mercedes. Escamillo, the bullfighter, sang the ‘Toreador’s Song’ with conviction, but with a voice that didn’t quite match. It was the smugglers, Dancairo and Remendado, who introduced a new and refreshing dimension; their dialogue, in broad Yorkshire/Lancashire, gave it a realism that added spice to what was already an enjoyable performance. Throughout the opera, the orchestral accompaniment was extremely good. Tim Redmond took the ‘Aragonaise’ and ‘Bohemian Dance’ at great speed - and the response was immediate and with relish. The choir also gave a lively, disciplined performance with some powerful singing. It was all well rehearsed.

There were two disappointments. The first was the thinness of the audience, not entirely unexpected in view of the weather. Otherwise, a similar venture is worth considering, perhaps at a more suitable part of the season.

The other was the bald statement made to the audience by Mr. Redmond at the end of the interval, that this was his last concert with the North Staffordshire Symphony Orchestra as it’s Musical Director. What a pity that say, five minutes could not have been spared for a representative of the orchestra to make a presentation to Mr. Redmond in a way that could have been shared by the audience, including Friends and Patrons of the N.S.S.O. (all of whom are the life-blood of the orchestra) giving them the opportunity to show their deep affection and appreciation to Tim for the sterling work done during his tenure as Conductor, Orchestral Trainer and Musical Director. What is it about secrecy and confidentiality that makes it so fashionable these days? EW


North Staffs Symphony Orchestra - Nov 2011 Rehearsal - Shostakovich Symph No.1 Movement 2. at Wolstanton High School, Newcastle-under-Lyme, UK, with Juan Ortuno conducting.

North Staffs Symphony Orchestra Concert, 22 June 2013 at Wolstanton High School, Newcastle-under-Lyme, UK, with Juan Ortuno conducting Aaron Copland's Billy the Kid Ballet Suite.

2015/6 Rehearsals

Saturday, 1 July 2017,  7.30 
With the Arnold Bennett Society
Celebrating the 150th Anniversary of Bennett's Birth

St John Fisher Catholic College, Ashfields New Road, Newcastle-under-Lyme ST5 2SJ Conductor - Juan Ortuño
Leader for this concert - Helen Corcoran

Goossens Intermezzo from Don Juan de Marana Op. 54
William Alwyn Suite from the film “The Card”
Ravel Piano Concerto in G with 
Soloist Robert Thompson
Ravel Mother Goose Suite
Borodin Symphony No. 2

North Staffordshire Symphony Orchestra Concert – July 1st 2017

A Review by Ray Johnson MBE
Vice President Arnold Bennett Society

On Saturday July 1st 2017 the North Staffordshire Symphony Orchestra performed an excellent concert paying tribute to Arnold Bennett and our 150th Anniversary celebrations of his birth. Conductor Juan Ortuño was masterful, animated and entertainingly full of information about each piece in the well-constructed programme.

The Intermezzo from Don Juan de Maraña by Eugune Goossens began the evening. Bennett wrote two libretti – Don Juan de Maraña and Judith (both with a score by Goossens) – and this delightful intermezzo was a token tribute to Arnold’s venture into opera. Bright as a button, it was a dazzling opener to the concert and a perfect contrast to the following piece – the world premiere of the William Alwyn Suite: The Card.

This score was published in 1952 when the film of The Card was in the cinemas, but has never actually been performed live – until this concert! The music for a film is one of the final elements to be put in place – after the editing of the film has been finished – so it follows the assembled visual sequence, sometimes in the foreground but often as underscore to action or dialogue. 

This suite brings all to the fore, and we are immediately carried into it with the jaunty tune (whistled in the film) introducing the opportunist jack-the-lad who is Denry Machin. We sweep forwards into the Countess’s Ball (to which Denry has invited himself) with a grand waltz and lively polka. Then we have the tender love scene as Denry is courting young Nellie, followed by the quirky journey into Bursley with Denry giving the Countess a ride in his mule cart. And the grand finale when, as the youngest Mayor of Bursley, Denry saunters off triumphantly with Nellie to conjure up more new schemes – in a full-bodied rendering of the opening refrain. 

The first half of the concert came to a thrilling conclusion with Robert Thompson and the Orchestra giving a rich rendition of the Ravel Piano Concerto in G. 

The syncopated rhythms of the first movement are drawn from a Basque dance, melting into a languorous theme showing how much George Gershwin owed to Ravel. Then a high-energy staccato sequence on the keyboard pierced with stabbing chords from the brass section – calmed by beautiful glissandi from the harp before climaxing with a colourful keyboard cadenza and a forceful, jovial celebration of the Basque dance and brass fanfare to finish. The second movement was full of emotional intensity mixed with ethereal tranquillity. The third was a wild scherzo with soloist and orchestra in a mutual chase – with the pace rising to plunge us headlong to the conclusion. What a great performance from Robert and the Orchestra – and what cheering and applause ensued!

The second half opened with the popular sequence of ‘miniatures’: Ravel’s Suite: ‘Ma Mere l’Oye’ (The ‘Mother Goose’ Suite). Five short fairy tales like items of gold on a charm bracelet: the stories of Sleeping Beauty, Tom Thumb, Empress of the Pagodas (my favourite), Beauty and the Beast (with a gigantic bass bassoon) and The Fairy Garden. Immaculate.

The grand finale to the concert – and it was grand – was Borodin’s Symphony No.2 in B Minor. No-one could fail to be immediately drawn in by its magnificent, magnetic and powerful opening movement. Very Russian, with lots of light and shade. I was singing along with it in my head and rocking with the wonderful rhythms I’ve known for years. A very fast Scherzo left us breathless before enjoying the innate Russian-ness of the lovely themes of the Andante third movement. The ebullient Allegro of the final movement permits us to join in “the knight’s feast, and jubilant throng of people” and lively dancing. Then a gallop with increasing volume to the magnificent re-statement of the majestic opening theme. An epic symphony given and epic performance!

Congratulations to the entire Orchestra, to Robert Thompson for his absolutely memorable performance in the Ravel Concerto (and thanks for his achingly beautiful encore of the Gershwin) and the magnificent, stylish maestro Juan Ortuño – at one with the music, the NSSO musicians and the hugely appreciative audience!

Ray Johnson MBE
Vice President Arnold Bennett Society

Also a review by David Roberts, published in The Sentinel here