Blackpool Symphony Orchestra, originally called Blackpool Amateur Symphony Orchestra1, was founded by Percy Dayman in 1921 and by 1922 had 50 members, led by Mrs J H Shorrocks.
Percy Dayman, Founder
Percy Dayman grew up in a Cornish village and was educated at Shebbear College, Devonshire where he was a violinist in the orchestra.
He was an insurance manager with a passion for music and he founded the orchestra soon after moving to Lancashire.
Percy was the orchestra's conductor until his death in 1943.
The Blackpool Music Festival 1922-1930
The oldest source in the orchestra's archive is a 1922 Blackpool Musical Festival programme1. This shows that the orchestra participated in the Blackpool Musical Festival in the String Orchestra section.
An article in The Musical Times about the Blackpool Musical Festival (Nov 1922) reports
"Orchestral playing at these big northern festivals has languished in comparison with choral work. Committees have tried again and again to stimulate this branch, and the solution appears to be in the direction of prescribing works for strings and single wind with timpani .............Honours went to a local band making an initial appearance under the direction of Mr Percy Dayman" .4
Entry in 1922 programme of the Blackpool Musical Festival.
From this beginning the orchestra successfully participated in festivals and competitions and performed concerts around the region.
In 1923 Blackpool Amateur Symphony Orchestra won the Daily News Challenge Trophy for Orchestras of 40 with 89 marks at the Blackpool Musical Festival. 5
In 1924 Percy Dayman won six first prizes at The Blackpool Music Festival including the Daily News Challenge Shield for full orchestras (fifty players) for the third year in succession and the first prize for string orchestra. 6
In May 1928 Blackpool Amateur Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Percy Dayman, was the only orchestral appearance at the Morecambe Competitions Festival. The orchestra also participated in a performance on the Friday evening of 'Elijah' with a choir of 350 voices from Morecambe and Lancaster districts. This performance was conducted by My Julius Harrison and the choir trained by Mr N S Wallbank. 7
The following year in 1929 it joined with local choirs to perform 'The Messiah' under My Julius Harrison. 8
In October 1930 it won first prize in The Blackpool Musical Festival category for full orchestra. 9
Collaboration with other Societies
In addition to founding and conducting Blackpool Symphony Orchestra Percy also founded the Blackpool Philharmonic Society and the orchestra became the instrumental section of the society. He also conducted the Blackpool Lyric Choir, the Lytham St Anne's Orchestral Society, the Blackpool Choral and Orchestral Society, a church choir andwas also a church organist. 6
Blackpool Symphony Orchestra therefore has a long history of collaborating with other societies, which still continues today.
In August 1941 Blackpool Symphony Orchestra performed German's 'Merrie England' at the Tower Circus with a chorus of 275 drawn from local and district choirs. Percy Dayman conducted. 10
A 1942 concert at the Tower Circus, conducted by Percy Dayman, was reported as having the "biggest audience of its career - nearly two thousand" . The programme included the 'Enigma' Variations and Tchaikovsky's B flat minor Piano Concerto with Edith Hothersall as soloist. It also included the first performance on an Overture by Robert Atherton. 11
On the 1 May 1943 the orchestra advertised its 'Coming-of-Age Orchestral Concert' (1921-1942) at the Tower Circus in the Blackpool Gazette and Herald. However, sadly, just a week prior to this celebratory concert, Percy died.
The concert went ahead as planned on Sunday 23 May 1943 at the request of his family and was conducted by the deputy conductor, Mr Dunlop.
Robert Atherton, Conductor 1943-1996
In 1942 Robert Atherton was guest conductor at the performance of his own composition, the Overture "Sine Nomine" 12 which he composed at the suggestion of Percy Dayman. 11
He took over the role of conductor after Percy Dayman's death in 1943; initially sharing the role with William Rees until1947. Robert celebrated his 50th season with BSO in 1995-96.
Robert Atherton was the Music Master at St Joseph's College, Blackpool. He died in 2000 and his Sine Nomine was performed at a concert on 25 February 2001; conducted by Keith Brooks. 13
Robert Atherton's son, David Atherton, and daughter, Joan Atherton, were both associated with the orchestra; David as guest conductor and Joan as a soloist for violin repertoire.