written by Maureen O’Neil.
For all her hard work with Ackworth Concert Society and the benefits it has brought to the local community, Maureen was awarded an MBE in 2010.
Having attended many concerts in Co. Antrim which my parents had organized, I decided that I would like to do something similar in Ackworth. Joe Feiweles, the then chief librarian in Wakefield, who worked tirelessly to bring more culture to the area, including the RSC, was very excited about my idea. He guaranteed to pay any losses made during the first two years.
The first concert I put on was in St. Cuthbert’s church in 1983. David Jakes, a local piano teacher and Graham Hall, a violin teacher, played to a full house. I organised one further concert and then started approaching people to form a committee. Jenny Firth, Mollie and John Gardham, Grenville Needham, Graham Hall and I formed the founding committee.
Jo Feiweles arranged for us to meet Joan Audsley who had been on the Horbury Concert Society (now called Wakefield Concert Society) committee for years. She was so informed and enthusiastic and gave us so much help and advice but we all came away, our heads spinning, wondering if we could cope. We did cope. The first season of concerts took place in 1984 in St. Cuthbert’s church. We then decided to use the Meeting House as well as St. Cuthbert’s church for the following season. The positive comments from the audiences spurred us on. We always endeavored to put on a variety of concerts. Once we even had a silent film, Nosferatu, with a quintet playing throughout .
We put on children’s concerts in the Methodist Church, Mill Dam School, Hemsworth High School, Ackworth Village Hall and the Meeting House. The children’s concerts have included Indian dancing, Japanese flutes, a puppet making and music composition workshop, story telling with music and we also organised three master classes.
There have been many wonderful concerts and many new friendships have been made and developed. There have been full houses and other evenings when audiences have been small.
One of our aims has been to catch top quality musicians just before they become famous, thus avoiding huge fees.
Over the years there have been many high spots. John Suchet has been twice. We have had the resident pianist at Ronnie Scott’s several times and Jackie Dankworth among others. Sir Willard White has also given us two concerts. It was a moving moment when he sang “The Miner’s Blues”, the lyrics of which were written by John Godber and the music was composed by our very own treasurer Paul Taylor.
The good news is that there continues to be an excellent committee keen to bring wonderful concerts to Ackworth Village for you and your friends.
Enjoy them and spread the word.
Ackworth Concert Society Committee
President: Maureen O’Neill, MBE
Chairman: Saul Salter
Secretary: Julie Davis
Treasurer: Paul Taylor
Member: Bob Davis
Member: Alison Ferguson
Member: Peter Harris
Member: John Issitt
Member: Lillian Issitt
Member: David Roydhouse
Member: Judy Rylance
Member: Liz Salter