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RESEARCH ARTICLE - Castletown Orchestral Society

Fri, 31 Mar 2017

The Castletown Orchestral Society
Maurice Powell 2017
When researching material for a book about amateur orchestras on the Isle of Man I came across a concert review for the Castletown Orchestral Society, which gave no details concerning the Society’s origins, repertoire, development or later history. As further details of this noble enterprise came to light, a cautionary and all-too-familiar tale in the story of music making on the Island emerged, as the aspirations of the Island’s finest musicians proved to be no match for the shadowy rivalry and jealousy, and a deep-seated unwillingness on the part of local audiences to engage with any kind of music they considered to be ‘high brow’ or ‘classical’ in nature, that existed at that time.
The Society was founded by John Edward Quayle2 during the winter of 1900 at a time when the highly-regarded violinist and up-and-coming composer was resident in Castletown. The inaugural concert took place at the Town Hall on 28th February 1901, when the orchestra of twenty-three players comprising strings, one of each of flute, oboe and ‘clarionet’, two cornets, trombone, percussion and piano accompanist performed Mozart’s overture to Cosi fan tutte, a Concert Waltz, the War March of the Priest’s from Mendelssohn’s Athalia and a Suite of Manx Dances, either a ‘lost’ work of J.E. Quayle himself, or a selection from Harry Wood’s popular Manx Airs, The Cushag. The rest of the programme consisted of popular songs and arias, harp solos and shorter orchestral pieces.