Arthur Butterworth and Mill Town

The composer Arthur Butterworth (1923-2014) started his musical career as a trumpeter in the Scottish (now Royal Scottish National) and Hallé Orchestras. But in his late 30s he gave up playing professionally to focus on conducting, instrumental teaching and, primarily, composition. He was a lecturer at the University of Huddersfield and conductor of the Huddersfield Philharmonic Orchestra from 1964-1993. He wrote more than 150 pieces, producing seven symphonies, concertos for violin, viola, cello, guitar, bassoon, trumpet and organ, and sonatas for instruments with scant repertoire such as the double bass, saxhorn and heckelphone.54


Arthur Butterworth and Mill Town

University of Huddersfield, Queensgate, Huddersfield, UK



Butterworth was an ardent admirer of Sibelius and Nielsen, and their influence is identifiable in the language and structure of his writing. The greater part of Butterworth’s inspiration, though, was the industrial and rural landscape of the Southern Pennines. His Dales Suite for brass band suggested vast swathes of open moorland.55

Mill Town: A Romance for Orchestra was dedicated to the Huddersfield Philharmonic Orchestra in 2003, and relies heavily on the industrial landscape of the town. The composer’s programme notes for the first performance of Mill Town evoke industrial northern England in the 1920s: ‘From the dark and silent moorlands far above the town, nestling down the valleys could be seen a beckoning fairyland of twinkling lights from countless mills, factories and warehouses throughout the West Riding of Yorkshire… In townships and villages the evening echoed to the sound of devout and ardent chapel choirs rehearsing ‘Messiah’, while in the backrooms of clubs and pubs could be heard the even more resounding clangour of brass bands practising for a contest.’56

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