Inaugural Concert

Brahms’ Requiem

10th May 1905 in the Great Hall, Tunbridge Wells

Lovers of music who have been looking forward to the performance of Brahms’ Requiem were by no means disappointed, judging from the enthusiasm which prevailed at the Great Hall on Wednesday, when his great and difficult work was rendered by a well-selected choir of 90 voices, and an orchestra of 47 members, under the able conductorship of Mr F.J. Foote. Indeed, the performance was regarded as the most magnificent yet given before Tunbridge Wells audiences, the orchestra containing some of the best talent from the Royal Academy, and the choir being unsurpassed.

Extract from the Courier, 12th May 1905


Dvorak’s Stabat Mater, Brahms Song of Destiny and Foote’s Mass in C minor

Wednesday, 2nd May 1906 in the Great Hall, Tunbridge Wells

A crowded and fashionable audience at the Great Hall, Tunbridge Wells, on Wednesday evening, testified to the popularity of that rising and eminent musician, Mr. Francis J.Foote, R.A.M., a local gentleman whom we may feel proud in having in our midst, who although young, is highly cultured and gifted, not only as a conductor, but composer. Ample evidence of both attributes were forthcoming, and those who were fortunate enough to be present must have gone away wonderfully impressed with what they had seen and heard.

Mr. Foote has organised a thoroughly efficient choral class, and it will be remembered that some twelve months ago a remarkable performance of Brahms’ Requiem under his guidance was given. The general public being aware of this, it was not surprising to see such an excellent attendance on Wednesday, when Mr. Foote’s programme comprised Dvorak’s Stabat Mater (‘at the foot of the Cross’), produced locally for the first time; the Kyrie and Gloria from Mr. F.J.Foote’s Mass in C minor, and Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto in C rmnor, with full orchestral accompaniment. Solo violin, Herr Hans Wessely.

Referring to the libretto of the Stabat Mater, the English version by Mr. Fred. J.W. Crowe, organist of Chichester Cathedral, which was used, brings the beauties of the work within the reach of those who, for various reasons, prefer not to use the Latin, the adaptation avoiding the introduction of any passages of a controversial nature, whilst preserving as far as possible the original rhythm. The beauty of the poem, as originally written, has rendered it so great a favourite with composers that the number of fine settings is very great. However, we have now to deal with the musical composition of Dvorak, who we read, was born at Muhlhausen in Bohemia, on September 8th, 1841, and during his very early school days he learnt both to sing and play the violin with so much effect that soon he was able to assist in the Parish Church services. His early life, though, was practically a struggle for existence, but as years went on, with the kind help he received, he was enabled to realise his craving for a musical career, which gradually brought him to the front, and eventually we find him a prolific composer, his industry having been monumental.

As it has been truly said, “Dvorak was a past master of the orchestra, and a composer of real individuality; he has earned and deserved his place among the elect, not only by his great gifts, but by his abnormal energy in their development.” In dealing with the work in question, it is safe to assert that the music is very beautiful and original, the orchestration whether in breadth of tone and variety of colouring, being superb; and here we have to heartily congratulate Mr. Foote on the magnificent orchestra (Leader, Mr. Spencer Dyke) which he had around him. Nothing could have been finer than the interpretation we had the pleasure and privilege of hearing that evening, and when we mention that (in addition to our local amateur talent), the members of this orchestra are connected with the Philharmonic Society, London Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal College of Music, it will readily be seen that from an orchestral point of view Dvorak’s masterpiece received the treatment it so amply requires and deserves.

The choruses were also admirably rendered, the sopranos and contraltos more especially singing with splendid effect. The music throughout bristles with difficulties, which were nevertheless surmounted under the skilful conductorship of Mr. Foote, whose masterly “handling of the reins” in obtaining his requirements, being very interesting to witness. There is plenty of work for the chorus, and every member assisted with a will, with the result that no small gratification must have been experienced by the promoter. Perhaps one of the best numbers was the one in six-eight time, “By Thy glorious death and passion”, while some were interspersed with quartets and solos; and that now brings us to the principal vocalists, who were Miss Alice Baxter (soprano), Miss Constance Dugard (contralto), Mr. Hubert Baker (tenor) and Mr. Marcus Thomson (bass), each singing with distinguished success. They may or may not have been students of the Royal Academy of Music, and although neither possessing voices of exceptional power, yet their singing was characterised by sound judgement and highly artistic perception of what was allotted to them, the audience not being slow in recognising their abilities with acclamation. Special mention should be made of the duet for soprano and tenor, and the touching delivery of the contralto solo, ‘All my heart inflamed and burning’ by Miss Dugard.

Next on the programme came the Concerto in C minor by Max Bruch, the celebrated composer; and here again a musical treat was in store. Herr Hans Wessely was the soloist, and his extraordinary skill as a violinist, which is universally known, was a veritable triumph of instrumental art, his wonderful performance creating a perfect storm of applause. As it was necessary that many of the artistes should return to London the same evening, Mr C. Hilbert Strange, the indefatigable and energetic secretary, announced from the platform that time would unfortunately not allow of Brahms’ Song of Destiny being given, so that Mr, Francis J. Foote’s Kyrie and Gloria from his Mass in C minor was at once proceeded with, and we may say that the religious character of the movements is apparent from the first bar, and very ingenious in design, while complete justice was done to this scholarly exposition by the chorus and orchestra, Miss Baxter lending valuable assistance in the soprano soio which is attached.

Taken on the whole, the evening may be said to have been one of a thoroughly enjoyable character (unbounded enthusiasm being manifested), combining with the enjoyment an educational insight into the works of one of our great modern masters, and it is rumoured that Mr. Foote will present the Dream of Gerontius on the next occasion.

Transcribed from the Courier of 14th May 1906
Also reproduced in Mary Standen’s book “90 plus”

Mr. Francis J. Foote’s Choir

Festival Performance of Handel’s Messiah

12th May 1909 in the Great Hall, Tunbridge Wells

Nothing that Mr. Francis J. Foote accomplished in pursuit of his art is devoid of interest, and oratorio lovers made their way the Great Hall on Wednesday evening, in the assurance of hearing a praiseworthy performance of Handel’s masterpiece. It is not too much to say they were rewarded by an interpretation rarely achieved out the festival towns.

The well equipped choir and orchestra of 100 performers approached their task with a fine sense of dignity and conviction with which each phrase was delivered, made a profound impression upon the large audience, and enthused them to outbursts of admiration that could only have been most gratifying to the conductor, and to those who have been working for many weeks for the success of the concert.

Morbid moderns, who are inclined to sneer at everything not written in their own particular epoch, are for once silenced in the discussion of Handel’s “Messiah;” its performances grow more frequent every year, and the “old-fashioned” flavour of the music is a positive force in favour of its continued popularity.

Who would part with a single quaint cadence, of mechanical progression? Who would lop a single one of the dizzy vocal ladder which the master raises in nearly every solo? One regards the settlement of Handel in this country as one the most important annexations in British history. It is appalling to imagine what would have been the condition of music in England without his influence.

In selecting his soloists for the present performance, Mr Foote went to the oratorio, rather than the operatic school, which means that what was lacking in showy effect was amply made up for in the religious fervour with which the numerous solos were infused.

Miss Maria Ricardi, the soprano, is a good interpreter as well as a singer; her voice has its weak points; they were most evident in the recitative, “And Suddenly,” but her faculty for intelligent and thoughtful reading is undeniable, and all that fell to her share was distinguished by these qualities. Her best work was revealed in “For unto us,” and in the exacting air, “Rejoice greatly.”

Mr Cynlais Gibbs, a tenor we do not remember to have to heard before, has a voice of natural sweetness and compass, though without any phenomenal power of magnetism; his phrasing was at all times exceptionally neat, and every word range through the hall with telling effect. An ovation was accorded him after the solo, “Behold and See,” and still greater appreciation deservedly expressed for his fine rendering of “But thou dids’t not leave,” and “He that dwelleth in heaven.”

It is not too much to say the that the gem of the evening, so far as the solos are concerned, came from Miss Maria Wadia, who was entrusted with the contralto part. Her plaintive sympathy in “He was despised” deeply stirred the audience, and her work all through was performed with so much simplicity and quiet restraint that it it could not fail to win admiration.

Mr David Braxell is too well known among the leading concert basses to require much eulogy; in his case, much is expected, and much is given, but we should not no call him a born exponent of Handel: he has scarcely the volume that carries weight in those massive solos like “Who may abide,” and “Why do the nations.” At the same time he is a mature and highly finished vocalist, and one to whom it is always a great pleasure to listen. His best effects were perhaps achieved in the recitative and aria “For behold darkness.” The latter was indeed a beautiful piece of singing.


For the choir, one can find nought but praise: and nought but praise for the conductor, who presented a perfect piece of workmanship. The was no raggedness, nothing immature; no sign of the rehearsal room, but the complete design, which is always a pleasure to contemplate. Mr Foote exploited Handel’s many motives with a masterly hand; whether in the moments of exaltation, or in the deep wall of lamentation, the choruses were marked by the earnestness, authority and enthusiasm of those forces responding to his baton, and he has undoubtedly the magnetism and artistry of a great conductor. The performance was fine in its precision, and especially in its feeling for climax. Behold the Lamb of God was delivered with a magnificent volume of tone, as was also Lift up your heads; and the Hallelujah Chorus – sung, as usual, with the audience upstanding – was indeed “a hymn of praise.” The unanimity of feeling with which the various passages were attacked is worthy of all praise, and the ensemble preserved throughout reflects the very highest credit upon this choral body of picked voices, of which as an entirely local society, Tunbridge Wells should be very proud. The men’s choir was especially good in the choruses, All we like sheep and He trusted in God; while the splendid value of the sopranos – which in local choir so often overlap – was felt at every point.

The orchestra, including some of London’s best known instrumentalists, augmented by experienced amateurs, gave adequate support. Mr Spencer Dyke, as leader, did grand service, and among the first violins we noticed Stanelli, the prodigy boy violinist who is wise in picking up some experience in orchestral playing. Disappointment was naturally felt that the grand air, “The Trumpet shall sound” had to be omitted, in order that the large orchestra should be able to return to Town that night, particularly as was so fine a soloist to perform the obligate as Mr John Solomon. The Pastoral Symphony we have never heard more poetically interpreted. The ovation that was accorded to Mr Francis J. Foote at the end of the evening in no sense described the feeling of deep enjoyment his work had occasioned. Applause is but a garish means of expressing thanks for the inspiration of genius, but there was a atmosphere of Handel in the hall which, had the old master been there in the flesh, in place of the clay bust which stood near the conductor’s desk, he must have greatly rejoiced in.

M.R.G. (from the Courier – 14th May 1909)

Mr. Francis J. Foote’s Classical Chamber Concert

Although essentially a chamber concert, there was more than a festival air in the Great Hall on Thursday evening on the occasion of Mr. Francis J. Foote’s interesting concert. The event, long and pleasurably anticipated by genuine music lovers was extremely satisfactory in fulfilment, the appreciation of the large and enthusiastic audience showing plainly that Mr Foote is slowly but surely educating Tunbridge Wells up to the artistic standard which accepted nothing short of the best. The choir associated with his name has become a firmly established musical institution in the County of Kent, and there is no doubt the time is fast approaching when its merit will become known further afield, when it haply carry the message that Tunbridge Wells, which retains it regal supremacy among the English Spas, against all compeers in the matter of health and beauty, can also hold its in the world of Art.

Mr. Foote’s enterprise – we may add courage – in giving a chamber concert, is worthy of all praise, for chamber music, in its very name implies, is for the favoured few, although of late years, especially in the Metropolis, the taste for it has revived considerably. The reception given to all the works of this description at the Great Hall last evening is alone a satisfactory index of advance, since it shows that musical composition in its purest, most abstract, and least sensational form, will now make its own appeal according to the manner in which it is exploited.

On this point the concert giver was particularly happy having such a fine medium for the classical works chosen for performance as the Wessely Quartet – that celebrated combination let by Professor Hans Wessely and including Mr Spencer Dyke, Mr Ernest Tomlinson, and Mr B. Patterson Parker. Listeners, accustomed or unaccustomed, as the case may be, to the performance of the Wessely Quartet, knew they were enjoying a reading which removed every difficulty of abstruseness, through the intelligence and sound artistic judgement brought to bear up on every well phrased passage. Hans Wessely is himself a man who commands attention and the other members are careful and correct executants, whose talent may be rather that of the sympathetic accompanist, than the brilliant soloist, but they all play with a sound knowledge of technique, and an unerring discretion, and always of course with the maturity and mellowness that comes from nearly a decade of artistic association.

The appearance of the quartet was attended with more than the usual amount if interest on this occasion, for they enjoyed the distinction of introducing a new string quartet in D by Francis J. Foote, who has thus added a most acceptable edition to the library of chamber music. The new work opens with a beautiful allegro movement which at once give the impression that the composer is working to pictures, rather than to moods. There is nothing introspective throughout the quartet, and fine as the workmanship is, in such well contrasted movement, it must be reckoned with less telling than the Themes; which are indeed among the most spontaneous of Mr. Foote’s musical thoughts. The “Andante” is however the gem of the production; it introduces itself to the ear in a gracious and graceful style, after the manner of a child who has not reached the stage of self consciousness, yet to the beautiful simplicity of theme and structure the composer has brought to bear the tender expression and poetry, which he is known to have so largely at command. It is altogether an artistic, not say masterly piece of work, and, needless to say, the Wessely performers gave the most admirable account of it, particularly of the joyous last movement, which one cannot hear without experiencing the effect of pure, bracing air. At the conclusion of their performance, the quartet were heartily re-called to the platform, and Mr Foote as also brought forward to acknowledge the prolonged expression of genuine appreciation.

Of the same performers ineffably lovely rendering of the Schubert Quintet in C major. which covers almost the whole gamut of the human emotions, we have no word to praise too deep to offer. One forgets in face of such interpretations to speak of technique, ensemble and execution, perfectly as all such secrets are mastered, and thinks only of the spirit of music, summoned up her most alluring shape by wood and cat-gut. Schubert is dead; yet Schubert has never been so much alive as he was in the Great Hall Tunbridge Wells on Thursday evening when the Wessely Quartet enthused the audience to rapture over of the Master’s greatest works. Mr C. A. Crabb, as 2nd ‘cellist, assisted materially in the performance, which was one of surpassing beauty throughout.

The good work of Francis J. Foote’s choir ought to have had earlier mention, both on account of the selection of part songs – Brahms looming large on the programme – and the finished manner in which they were rendered. Not one item belongs to the hackneyed order of things, and at the commencement stood Tchaikovsky’s Hymn to the Trinity, in which the master of melancholy in the fervour of adoration escapes from the gloom that environed him. Following was Brahms’ Dim lit woods, of which Mr Foote, with his well-known appreciation for this little understood “Modern,” secured a wonderful rendering.

For the second occasion during the concert, the conductor won honours as a composer, having set to music for his choir the marvellous charming sonnet, by Keats, “Oh how I love on a fair summer day.” Her again he was discovered in a mood influenced by Nature’s calm and contentment, his genius for melody also being evidenced in every cadence. The well equipped choir, which has profited my much of the conductor’s art and industry, sang the work “with one voice,” in which there was positively no flaw; and again compliments were showered thickly upon the composer, and body of artistes who work so graciously under his persuasive baton.

Once again the choir contributed to the pleasures of the evening with Brahms’ part song, The Maiden, in which the solo part was undertaken by no less accomplished a vocalist than Miss Kate Cherry. All the part songs were given without accompaniment, yet to this certain test of tone qualities all departments answered with the most delightful unanimity.

Dr Theo Lierhammer, the eminent vocalist, who took London by storm some years ago when he first came over from Vienna, has firmly established himself in the favour of the Tunbridge Wells public as was evidenced by the reception given to him last night. His magnificent baritone voice which is so well controlled as to be capable of conveying every shade of meaning, was heard in a variety of songs. Ranging from Schumann to Somervell – the latter’s setting to Tennyson’s Birds in the high hall garden was one of the gems of the evening, and a delighted encore followed immediately, this song being repeated. A group of songs lower down in the programme submitted by the renowned Lieder singer, drew from his adherents many token of appreciation. These were all given with the commendably clear enunciation and in the quite and unaffected manner which Dr Lierhammer has made familiar to every London concert goer, Mr Harold Cranston was the efficient accompanist.

M.R.G. (from the Courier – 18th February 1910)

(Following the death of King Edward VII)


Wednesday 25th May 1910

Many tributes of loyal affection have been paid throughout the Empire to the memory of a beloved monarch since the passing of King Edward the Seventh to his eternal peace, but none has been more reverent, none more inspired, none more solemn that that offered at Mr. Francis J. Foote’s In Memoriam Concert at the Great Hall last evening. With the accomplished conductor’s well-known sense of the fitness of things, he made the performance of Verdi’s “Requiem,” the ambitious work which his choir have been rehearsing for three months, the occasion of a public memoriam to the illustrious dead, and in this offering of Art he has had the support of many distinguished people in Tunbridge Wells and the surrounding neighbourhood.

The presence of the Deputy Mayor and Corporation gave to the concert a official importance that us more than gratifying to those outsiders who have watched with growing enthusiasm and admiration the great work that Mr. Foote has been quietly and unostentationaly performing in Tunbridge Wells for Art’s sake, and it is hoped that these civic dignitaries may not confine their encouragement and support to this concert only.

We have spoken of the Requiem as “ambitious,” but that is a very mild term to apply to the intricacies and complications with which the work abounds. That the town should possess a choir and a conductor capable of doing justice to such a noble and inspired piece of writing is something of which Tunbridge Wells should be not only proud but jubilant, for it is an asset of which few towns of the size are possessed. It is not only upon the production to the work that Mr. Foote has earned the congratulations of musicians, amateur and professional, but the setting he gave it was so very, very beautiful and memorable in every way. Little as he imagined, in choosing the masterpiece for performance what a pathetic interest would be attached to it before the day of the concert dawned; but those who grasped the passionate intensity of the music and its full dramatic meaning felt that there was something almost uncanny in Mr. Foote’s choice having fallen upon it, week and weeks before there was any thought pending of the great national sorrow.

It was a solemn black-robed audience which filled the Great Hall last night, and the atmosphere was pregnant with meaning. There was a feeling that the solemn observances of last Friday were being re-enacted, only that the sermon had been set to music, and the spirit of submission was easier to follow. The purple drapings, in the which King George asked his people to typify their mourning, were arranged, with white relief, with great taste about the platform, and each member of the choir displayed signs of mourning which has been so universally adopted throughout the Empire. In the centre surrounded by regal purple and with he laurel wreath, the symbol of victory and peace, was a lifelike bust of the dear dead King. There were few eyes that could gaze upon this unmoved, and when the sonorous chords of Handel’s Dead March in Saul echoed through the building, the muffled drums told that it was a memoriam concert indeed. There has been no music written that can touch the hearts of the populace like this funeral march with it implacable tragedy of death and hope of the resurrection, and Mr. Foote secured such a rendering last evening as a embodied a lifetime of service and love and reverent mourning.

Once again the conductor was fortunate in his soloists, while to the choir and orchestra can be attributed no fault all that flawless performance, The opening quartet and chorus, Requiem – Kyrie Eleison, practically brought the whole body of musicians into play, a splendid blend of harmony being produced by the part-singing of Miss Ethel Wood (soprano), Mr Cynlais Gibbs (tenor), Miss Marie Wadia (alto), and Mr. Percival Driver (bass).

This opened two hours of intense spiritual elevation for music lovers, apart from the impressive occasion of the concert, but the appreciation of the good and the beautiful was to have further encouragement as the evening wore on. Fine work was forthcoming from the choir in the lamentation, “Day of Anger,” (Dies Irae); and “Hark the trumpet,” was a magnificent piece of tonal singing in which Mr. Percival Driver’s rich voice did justice to the solo, “Death with wonder is enchained.” Religious fervour and much innate sweetness marked the admonition of Miss Marie Wadia, “Now the record shall be cited”; and Miss Ethel Wood realised to the full the majesty and remorselessness of “When to judgement all are bidden.” The beseeching appeal in “What affliction” was exquisitely conveyed by the trio of voices, Miss Wood, Miss Wadia, and Mr. Gibbs; and the quartet and chorus, “King of Glories”,” burst forth with glowing colour and picturesqueness, as though the singers and musicians were all inspired by this touching and beautiful appeal. The duet, “Ah, Remember!” by Miss Ethel Wood and Miss Marie Wadia, touched the audience very deeply, and attention was riveted upon the vocalists as the beautiful passage of “Recordare” (which is so much more than a prayer) were unfolded. Mr Cynlais Gibbs’ cultured voice gave additional refinement to the solo, “Sadly groaning, guilty feeling,” and displayed an intelligence in exploiting the text that is very rarely met with. “From the accursed” furnished Mr Percival Driver with fine scope for his powerful deep notes, which are always held in such admirable restraint. This also made its own effect upon the thoughtful listeners. All the pent-up sorrow of the past three weeks seemed to find an outlet in the dirge of the anguished “Lacrymosa” – “Ah what weeping on the morrow,” which is followed by the “Domine Jesu” of reassuring comfort. In both these numbers the choir reached a high point of excellence, adequate choral support being forthcoming in the former excerpt.

The choir’s most representative work was heard in the fugue “Holy, holy, holy”. This is written for two choirs and exacts the most musicianly handling. Mr Foote, however, dug no pitfalls for himself or those forces who work so willingly under his baton. Careful rehearsal in each department perfected the ensemble and a smooth an voluminous delivery of words and music was the result. There was an intellectuality and massiveness in the hosannas that indicated how very deeply the conductor goes to the root of things in his art. There is no “surface” staging in the Francis J, Foote choir, and the higher interpretative branches of music only are cultured, and his ideas, we are sure, is merely to act as guide the wonderful temple in which all may be lifted to nobler inspirations than this mundane world of our possesses.

The Agnus Dei, one of the concluding numbers in the Requiem, was sung by Miss Ethel Wood and Miss Marie Wadia, and could not fail to impress by its lovely utterance of faith and love so spiritually conveyed by the vocalists; then came “Light Eternal,” with its message of peace and love in which the dark shadow of Death loses all its terrors. This trio was an emphatic success for Miss Marie Wadia, Mr Cynlais Gibbs and Mr Percival Driver. The final solo and chorus “Libera me,” brought the “Requiem” to a memorable close, and the sweet soprano voice of Miss Wood, backed up by the grand choir of nearly 200 voices, was heard in such a way as to bring the spirit of Verdi into the very building where his immortal genius held sway.

The calibre of the orchestra can be judged by the fact that it was led by Mr Spender Dyke, while among the first violins was Stanelli, the celebrated boy violinist. Other instrumentalists, most of whom are soloists in famous London orchestras, came down expressly to play for Mr. Foote on this occasion. This alone, to our thinking, is a striking indication of the high repute in which the conductor is held in musical centres. A word of praise must be accorded to Miss Gladys Duncalfe. Who presided at the pianoforte. Her work as accompanist, a role she has filled with undeviating regularity at all the rehearsals, was of enormous value to the production.

One of the greatest sources of satisfaction was the absolute silence in which the work was received. This as not only a fitting tribute dead King, but to Art itself, of which he was ever a kindly patron; for applause is but a poor way of expressing the deep things in one’s nature that are stirred and quickened by the influence of great minds.

With the audience upstanding, the National Anthem brought in the “In Memoriam” concert to a reverent close.

It should be added that Alderman Caley J.P., prefaced the concert with a few remarks as to the suitability of Mr. Foote’s choice of a work to the present sad occasion of the national bereavement. He said that in every the sympathy of the audience would reverberate. At the close of the concert his remarks were as follows:-

“I am sure we will have all had great difficulty in restraining ourselves from applause, as we have listened to the beautiful music and singing. Before the sacred concert is concluded, I am sure I shall only be voicing your feelings if I tender to Mr. Foote our sincere and hearty thanks for having introduced into Tunbridge Wells this fine work of Verdi’s. On your behalf I must also thank the ladies and gentlemen who have acted as soloists, and to the choir and orchestra, to who we are inded greatly indebted for such a very fine and inspiring performance. Mr. Foote was labouring under great disadvantage in the fact that twelve of his choir were absent through illness, inlcuding Miss Sibella Jones, who is always a great force in the organising duties.”

The members and officials of the Council who attended the concert included Alderman Caley, Alderman Ryder, Alderman Thorpe, Councillors Badcock, Berwick, Dennis, Emson, Gower, Huggett, Col. Newnham Smith, Passingham, Mr J.W.Forster, Mr. W.H Maxwell, and Mr W.F.Bellamy.

The above critique is reproduced from yesterday’s “Tunbridge Wells Gazette,” in which a portrait of the conductor, Mr. Francis J. Foote, appears.

Transcribed from the Courier of May 27th 1910