Martin Edwards' post about his visit to the Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool unleashed a whole set of memories of the four very happy years I spent in Liverpool in the early 1970s. I taught and lived in the residential School for the Deaf at Childwall until my marriage in 1973, when we moved into a flat in the lovely riverside district of Grassendale.
After moving to Hampshire in 1974, I found it was impossible to convince anyone that Liverpool was a city full of magnificent buildings, beautiful parks, theatres, art galleries and concert halls; a place where the people were friendly, witty and welcoming. Apart from football teams and the Beatles, most people associated Liverpool with dockyard unrest and slums and the Toxteth riots of 1981 marked the end of my public admission of a past association with the city.
So, thanks to Martin, I've been back to my photograph albums and scrapbooks and I have spent a very happy weekend recalling some of the many historic buildings I used to visit: the Walker Art Gallery, St George's Hall, Speke Hall, the cathedrals and museums. We often saw plays at the Everyman Theatre in Hope Street before they went on to success in the West End and we saw some of the world's leading orchestras and guest conductors at the impressive art deco Philharmonic Hall.
In my scrapbook for 1973, I found a programme (price 5p) for a concert at 'the Phil' for 14 February. I can recall it very vividly because it was the first real 'date' I had with the man I have now been married to for 35 years. Sir Charles Groves was the principal conductor at the time and he conducted the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in Handel's Concerto Grosso in G, and Beethoven's Symphony No 7. The second half of the concert probably secured our relationship, revealing our shared appreciation of the absurd: Elgar Howarth conducted the London Sinfonietta, playing Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire, with Mary Thomas as the reciter. Giant black moths, cranium drillers and 'cheeeeeeeeese cake' have become part of the vocabulary of our personal-history.
Here is a taste of Pierrot Lunaire for anyone who wants to know the basis of a long and lasting, frequently absurd marriage, which all began in that city of culture: