Sir Thomas Beecham

The elder son of Sir Joseph Beecham, he was born on 29th April 1879 at St. Helens. The home of the Beecham family from 1885 was Ewanville (HU273) one of the fine villa mansions, built in the 1840's, situated in the 'orchards' area of Huyton. The estate encompassed today's Blacklow Brow, The Rooley and part of Tarbock Road.

He started playing the piano (HU282) at the age of six, but also excelled at sports at Rossall School in Lancashire. In 1900 he moved to London when he studied musical composition with Charles Wood. In 1903 he married Utica Celestia, the daughter of Charles Stuart Welles an American diplomat. They had two sons, but the marriage quickly fell apart and the two were divorced in 1943 after a lengthy separation.

An injury to his wrist in 1904 thwarted his ambition to become a concert pianist and he diverted his energies into other channels. In 1906 he founded (with Charles Draper) the New Symphony Orchestra and in 1910 started the first in a series of Opera seasons at Covent Garden. He succeeded to the baronetcy in 1916 on the death of his father and was knighted in the same year.

In 1932 he founded the London Philharmonic Orchestra and was appointed artistic director at Covent Garden, a position he held until 1939. During the war he was based in the United States, although spent much of the time touring. In 1944 he married the pianist Betty Hamby (who died in 1957) and founded the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1959 he married for the third time, this time to his personal secretary Shirley Hudson.

He was renowned for his after concert speeches and for introducing British audiences to a large number of new pieces. He was quoted by the New York Tribune, shortly before his death in March 1961, that 'The English may not like music, but they absolutely love the noise it makes'.

(figures in brackets are reference numbers of photos in the main site)

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