Huddersfield Town Hall

Huddersfield Town Hall and the Father Willis Organ in the large Concert Room, represents a statement of municipal identity that was growing in the town throughout the nineteenth century. This civic pride reached its peak when the building of the Town Hall was complete.

As Rachel Milestone has pointed out ‘a town hall was seen as a monument to the glory, ability and achievements of a town or city’, and, according to E.A. Axon in 1878, a town hall symbolised ‘not merely the opulence of a city, but also that great principle of local self government’. As such a town hall would enable or encourage the holding of a musical festival, promoting the engagement of international artists, and the commissioning of new repertoire. The frequent use of the Town Hall by local musicians ensured the Town Hall acted as a stimulus for the musical life of the town.32

It was these performances in the Town Hall that many external commentators reported on: the subscription concerts, the annual performances of Messiah, together with the founding of musical festivals, brought the musicianship of the area together in one place to be observed. These observations – reaching a peak with first televised performance of Handel’s Messiah in 1953 – reinforced the ‘northernness’ of Huddersfield’s music-making. Moreover, as Milestone argues, ‘A local government could act as patron, bringing the community together through musical provision designed to ‘improve’ [using music as a rational recreation] the citizens of all classes. In an age of diversity and division the nineteenth-century town hall played an important role, open to all members of society, and uniting them in one common cause – the love of music.’

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