October 9th marks the fifty-fourth anniversary of our founder Ernest Read’s death.
Having recovered from a mild heart attack earlier that year, Ernest Read was back to work reheasing and teaching. He collapsed suddenly and died on October 9th – which was also the first Children’s Concert of the season. Knowing what her husband would have wanted, Helen Read told no-one and went to the Festival Hall to make sure the event ran smoothly.
Once the sad news spread there were obituaries in papers such as the Times and the Musical Times. Read was described by Yehudi Menuhin as:
“a prime example of what one inspired man can do with single hearted devotion decade after decade in awakening the passion for music in successive generations.”
The Musical Times said: “No one who played under him could fail to warm to his whole-hearted, eager devotion to music. “
Ernest Read held two major appointments: at the RAM 1914-59, and director of music at Queenswood Girls’ School for over 40 years. The London Junior Orchestra (founded in 1926) and the London Senior Orchestra (which later became ERSO) gave amateurs a chance of orchestral experience, and young professionals a chance to learn the repertory. In 1944 he launched the first school holiday orchestra and he was famous for his children’s concerts. He knew that the length, content and style of a concert needed to reflect the audience and developed an innovative format that many professional symphony orchestras still follow today, with short programmes, accessible introductions to the repertoire and audience participation.
Read lived to see his ideas for youth orchestras widely accepted and his ideals achieved and on the 30th birthday of the London Junior Orchestra he was awarded a CBE.