Musical Raunds - Remarkable Concerts in 1858 Recalled
Mr. T.C. Clarke of 24 Moor Road Rushden, father of Councillor C.W. Clarke of Kettering, writes to inform us that the short paragraphs in our journals and the news of the death of his friend Mr. Wm. Nobles has brought to his mind two remarkable concerts that took place in the Parish Church at Raunds on Whit Thursday 1858.
He says: - It was a unique occurrence in many ways and worth recalling. A year or two previous to this event the Rev. Charles Porter had taken up his position as vicar of the parish. At that time the bells were in a bad condition, two of them being cracked. The Reverend gentleman was anxious to devise means to get them repaired and he was willing- without any question whether the vocalists were church or chapel-goers – accepted the offer of the Raunds….. church, the proceeds to go to the repair of the bells.
Fond of Music
Raunds at that time was a small village of about 1,200 inhabitants; but it was remarkable for its remarkable music talent, both vocal and instrumental. The musicians were principally shoe makers of the old hand sewn type, working in their little shops or back rooms, holding two or three persons. Their education was of a very limited character, self-tuition predominating; but they were not debarred from studying music and succeeded in being very able readers of music. No assistance was available at that time from harmoniums or pianofortes and probably not more than two of the latter could be found in the village, and these were of a dulcimer type. The musicians only chance for practice was when about half a dozen got round the candle in their little workshops or by an extra meet in the Plough Inn.
Their ability was put to the test when they were announced to give two concerts in the church on one day:- Judas Maccabeus” in the afternoon and “The Messiah” at night. The ……… School children was used for the orchestra platform. The instrumental portion consisted of eight violins, four single and four double basses. The organist of Oundle Church presided at the organ and two orchestral drums were brought from Peterborough Cathedral. The soloists were Miss Emily Shellor (soprano), London; Mr. Harley (bass) Peterborough Cathedral; Mr. William Nobles, Raunds, taking the contralto solos and Mr. Thomas Nobles (tenor) Raunds. The leader of the band was Mr. W. Nobles senior, ably assisted by Mr. George Packwood, of Rushden and Mr. John Sanderson, of Higham Ferrers. There was no conductor of rehearsal. Each one was expected to read his own part correctly.
It was a remarkable gathering when looked at from the present day standpoint. As your readers will perceive, both singers and audience were looking east and with the high straight back pews nothing could be seen of the company but the back of their heads. There was a small reserved platform erected across…….
Of all the male voices
The lady portion of the village had not yet taken up their part as vocalists, but they were in training, as was seen a few years later when the robust Choral Society was started, the writer then being the youngest member.
“The two concerts were considered a splendid success from a musical standpoint. The sacred edifice was full at the evening concert. Financially it was beyond expectation, the sum of £44 being realised and the bells were soon put to order. Copies of “The Messiah” at that time were 10s 6d each but they were of such large type that four persons could see to sing from one copy.
I think it would not be right to close this letter without referring to the notable musical talent of Mr. Thomas Nobles. It has been said many a time that he was the finest reader of music in the county. He was a fine looking robust man, of regular habits, a great reader and the principal politician in the village. Like many others he missed the happiness of matrimony and his later days lacked enjoyment.
A few months prior to these concerts an invitation was sent from Kettering to the well known Raunds Singers to join them in giving “The Messiah”. Eight of them (my father being one of the number) walked to Kettering and back. That showed their love of music for that was the only way of getting to the town and demonstrated that they were not only firm on the key but also on their feet. Three or four years later the Raunds Choral Society was formed. I myself was a native of Raunds. My father and brother took part in the concert, my position being that of an earnest and delighted listener.