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  • Huddersfield Philharmonic Orchestra
  • December 20, 2009

Casey Jones

Casey Jones

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In June 1976, the “Phil” was on its travels again. This time to a rather unusual venue. Composer Arthur Butterworth (also the orchestra’s conductor at the time) recollects:

“The National Railway Museum having recently been opened, there was a notion that railways could provide a topical theme for the York Festival of this year. Some short time before, I had written a choral work: ‘Trains in the Distance’ and was asked to conduct a concert on the large turntable of the museum.

“The HPO committee considered it and, with much vigour and imagination, arrangements were quickly made. Saddleworth Choral Society and the Ripon & York St John’s College Chorus co-operated in the exciting new venture.

“These last-minute arrangements meant that orchestra and choirs had no opportunity to rehearse together beforehand; and I rehearsed them separately. It was a matter of trusting to luck that the live performance (recorded by Decca and on sale in the museum for years afterwards) would be, as the familiar saying has it, ‘all right on the night’.

“Such a casual, insouciant, not to say reckless way of promoting a public performance would hardly be undertaken nowadays when, in common with almost all other human activities, there is a reluctance to take any kind of risk.

“The concert began with ‘Trains in the Distance’, followed by ‘Pacific 231’ by Honegger, portraying the sound of a huge steam locomotive. Then followed lighter pieces by Eduard Strauss (‘Express Track’ and ‘By Steam Train’) andyork2 ‘The Little Train of the Brazilian Countryman’ by Villa-Lobos. Finally Berlioz’s splendid ‘Railway Song’ composed for the opening of Chemins de Fer du Nord at Lille in 1846.

“The travel included an arrangement with British Rail at York to delay the return train to Huddersfield; but it was touch and go. Since the concert – perhaps inevitably – ran (as trains often do) a little late, the players very nearly missed it!”

** The photos indicate that these was, at least, an afternoon rehearsal in the museum; presumably much to the bemusement of visiting train buffs – Webmaster.

Casey Jones? US railroad engineer (train driver) and folk hero. He died on the footplate, with his hand still on the brake, in a successful bid to save his passengers when a crash was inevitable. Celebrated on the Grateful Dead’s “Workingman’s Dead” album.

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