Musical Notes

Anthony Bernard

August 21, 2014

Anthony Bernard was Music Director for us between 1932 and 1942. The story goes that in 1932, Sir Edward Elgar was offered the post of Music Director by the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, but that he turned it down, recommending Anthony Bernard in his place. True? Hope so! 

Contracts for Music Directors were seasonal back then, rather than full-time employment being offered; so Bernard's duties included booking 'a proper and efficient orchestra of not less than 12 musicians'.

He was to 'consult with the General Manager before hiring any musical instruments not usually supplied by the musicians'; and he was to oversee the writing of new music or of arrangements of older music, depending on the needs of a particular show.

One note in the theatre minutes from 1942 states, rather coldly, that 'Mr Bernard be instructed that Mendelssohn's music be played for the Midsummer Night's Dream production'. One can feel the formality crackling down the years.

Interestingly, Ilona Seckacz adapted Mendelssohn's music for parts of her score for A Midsummer Night's Dream in 1996, but I can't imagine anyone 'instructing' Ilona (more about her soon).

Brandenburg ConcertoBeing a seasonal RSC employee, Bernard needed to work elsewhere too. He was the founder and conductor of the London Chamber Orchestra, which is still running today, championing little-known orchestral repertoire.

Lennox Berkeley - who wrote the music for The Tempest in 1946, and The Winter's Tale in 1960, was a witness at Bernard's second marriage in 1950, and Bernard moved in such exalted circles that he actually introduced Berkeley to Ravel; he made the first recording of Delius's Sea Drift and in 1929 made the first complete recording of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, which are available to hear on British Library Sounds.

The Comedy of ErrorsBernard at the RSC
By 1932, when he first worked here, his achievements were already considerable, and so he brought a wide range of knowledge of music and musicians to the job. So when he was instructed to use pre-existing music, he could adapt that for theatre use, and when he wrote original music, that too was well within his compass.

He studied composition with Granville Bantock, Joseph Holbrooke and John Ireland, and so is another example of a musician bringing huge knowledge of the musical world in Europe at the time.

In 1956 he made a version of The Beggar's Opera for the BBC, scored for flute, oboe, bassoon, harpsichord and strings, which heralded his writing of much music for radio in later life. We have been in touch with his family, as we recorded his 1939 music from The Two Gentleman of Verona for our CD of new music. But I have a feeling that this blog will hear more of Anthony Bernard.

 Under The Greenwood Tree sheet music

After all, that wasn't really his name...

by Richard Sandland  |  2 comments

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Sep 10, 6:50am
Comfrey the Bunny

"That wasn't really his name..." What a cliff hanger! Hope all will be revealed at some point!

Oct 10, 10:57pm

Anthony Bernard – born Alan Charles Butler and also known as Alan Barnard is an illegitimate son of Thomas Bidgood, musician and composer and Rosetta Casselden. This has been established from family records of the Thomas Bidgood, my great grandfather, family records. Alan Butler changed his name to Anthony Bernard by Deed Poll in 1919.
In the document Thomas was a guarantor who stated:-
That I know and have been well acquainted with Anthony Alan Bernard for 28 years and upwards, that I have known him since his birth, that he lived under my care until he attained the ages of 14 or 15 that he then proceeded to earn his own living but I have seen him on frequent occasions since.

Alan’s 1890 birth certificate identified his mother was Rosetta Casselden, who was living with Thomas in 1911. She had married an Alfred Butler in 1887 but they were living apart in 1901 when she was living with three children, Alan, Thomas Walter and Henry James Barnard, who is also known as “Harry” Bidgood and “Primo Scala”. The name Barnard was used by the parents, Thomas Bidgood, who was married to Emily Moore at the time, and Rosetta, when recording Thomas Walter and Henry’s illegitimate births. The evidence of the use of the Barnard name was found in Thomas’s will written in 1916.
Alan’s information from the birth certificate and Deed Poll identified that he was illegitimate. Anthony’s family had known of this and that he was related to someone famous. To add credence to the proof is that when Anthony married first to Augustine Jourdan and later Mary Beattie he recorded his father as Thomas Butler and Thomas Barnard in the respective certificates. Alan’s family connection with his father Thomas declined from about 1903 when at the age of 12 he won a piano competition playing a Mozart sonata at the Crystal Palace where Sir Harry Lauder presented him with a violin and money to be able to study music at the Birmingham Institute of Music. While studying he was baptised a Roman Catholic using Anthony as his baptismal name. In the 1911 census he had become a professor of music at St Augustine’s RC College in Ramsgate the start of a lifetime as a professional musician. He died in 1963.

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