by Nancy Bush
Alan was invited to write a symphony for Nottingham by the Nottingham Cooperative Society in January, 1949, to celebrate the Quincentenary celebrations of the City, 500 years from the granting of the Royal Charter of Freedom. These celebrations were to be held in June and the Symphony was to be performed during them, and the original score presented to the City. This and all expenses towards the concert was the Cooperative Society's contribution towards the Quincentenary. Never before, as far as we know, has a symphony been thus commissioned by a city and named after it. Alan was paid £400 for his work, and out of this provided two photographed scores and all parts.
Alan put all other work aside and wrote the first three movements without a break. Then he visited Bulgaria on a conducting tour of three weeks. He could not start on the fourth movement, so at last went in April to Mrs. Pointer's house in Newent, Gloucestershire, where we had stayed to begin the opera, Wat Tyler, the previous autumn. Here he managed to make a beginning and sketched the whole movement in a fortnight. The whole work was scored and finished by the end of May.
It was a brilliantly sunny week for the celebrations, which began on Monday, June 27th. The whole city was decorated, and in the evening the Albert Hall, Nottingham, was massed with flowers. The concert hall was full, as it was the first big event, and the Lord Mayor, Sheriff and various aldermen, all hung with chains of office, were there. David Ellenberg, a young conductor and friend of Alan Bush, was conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra. The concert began with Purcell's Trumpet Voluntary, followed by the Leonora Overture No. 3. Then the Nottingham Symphony began. It was splendidly played, very well conducted by David, and received a genuine ovation. Then to the notes of a fanfare, also by Alan, the Lord Mayor, Sheriff and others mounted the platform and received from the Cooperative Society representative the score for the City, beautifully bound in green vellum and embossed in gold, with the names of the orchestra and conductor also in gold on it. In a speech, the Mayor said that if the Quincentenary had brought into the world a great work of art, it would not have been in vain. Alan had previously had a big ovation on the platform. Another fanfare was played and they descended. All wore white gloves for fear of making sticky marks on the vellum!
The rest of the concert went well, and then we went to a reception at the Cooperative Hall. Here it was like the Middle Ages; a boar's head stood on a dish, and several turkeys and chickens as well, richly glazed. Wine flowed like water, and the citizens looked medieval with red, jovial faces and endless good cheer. In the centre was an enormous cake, made and iced by the Cooperative Society. It had corinthian pillars at each side, topped by little musical instruments and notes of music in sugar. On the top was written "In honour of the Nottingham Symphony". The Mayor, the Cooperative Secretary, Alan and David all spoke. It was a splendid and unforgettable evening.
The next night a second concert was given by the Philharmonic under David and the Symphony was played again. This time it was a genuine test and the hall was nearly full. The ovation was really more than the night before, so we felt Alan had had a genuine public success.
Symphony No. 2 'The Nottingham Symphony'
© 2011 Alan Bush Music Trust