Last hurrah of Northampton music society after 66 years of friendship

The Northampton Music Appreciation Society held one last concert.
The Northampton Music Appreciation Society held one last concert.

A chapter of Northampton's homegrown culture with more than 60 years of history closed for good last month.

Many residents will not know that, on June 18, the Northampton Music Appreciation society held one last concert at the Quaker Meeting House in the town centre.

Violinist Sophie Phillips.

Violinist Sophie Phillips.

It was the grand finale to a modest club that in its 66 years had hosted hundreds of soloists, choristers and artists and championed young and amateur talent in the county.

The society was founded in 1952 by Ken and Edna Lillyman as a place to enjoy live music. If there was ever a show of support for the group, it came in 1989 when the club's piano fell over and was damaged beyond repair. Rather than let the society go under, the group was saved by a £1,000 lifeline from an anonymous donor.

But sadly, times have changed.

Alun said: "We were young people in the 40s and 50s and we liked classical music and the evergreen songs like Frank Sinatra and the shows.

The society has been running for 66 years.

The society has been running for 66 years.

"But we're an ageing society and membership has fallen away. Young people appreciate a different kind of music and would rather go clubbing."

NMAS has met every fortnight for the past 66 years. But where they had 70 members in the 2000s, in recent winters they "would be lucky" to get 20 people out to an evening.

What's more, licence and royalty fees have had a devastating impact on the humble club.

Alun said: "The Performing Rights Society takes £350 a year. It might not sound like a lot but for a small society like ours, it was crippling.

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"The quality of persons you met at the society was wonderful. So many people have put in their time and effort and money into it. We would have gone out of business years ago if not for the generosity of our members."

Then, on June 18, the club was called together for what would be its last concert. But rather than let it be a swan song, they held a grand finale and invited back some of the best talent from over the years.

Alun said: "It has been a meeting place of friends and of warm fellowship. Over the years, people became very friendly with each other as people who appreciate the same values and culture.

"We were celebrating 60 years of doing some good in Northampton for ourselves and for others. It was always rewarding to see people really enjoying the concerts."

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The committee at their last concert.

The committee at their last concert.