Open Afternoon at The Elgar Birthplace
On Saturday 3rd June there was a gathering at the Elgar Birthplace at Broadheath. Local residents and Friends of the Elgar Chorale were invited to see how the work by the National Trust was progressing. It was called a “soft opening” and the “hard opening” will be on 1st September, when the Birthplace will be opening to the public for the first time since the National Trust took it over.
The Elgar Chorale performed Elgar part songs twice during the afternoon, conducted by Piers Maxim. The Chorale sang beautifully and the music was very moving.
It was interesting to see what the National Trust is doing to the cottage. It has been stripped out, so it is hard to tell what it will be like when completed, but the intention is to restore it to how it would have looked in Elgar’s time. All the artefacts have been removed and stored.
I was on the original committee, chaired by Diana Quinney, to raise money to save the cottage and build a visitor centre. On one occasion, we found a small company to perform Elgar’s only opera, The Spanish Lady, at Madresfield Court and gave a supper. I recall that Lady Beauchamp had died and the Morrisons had not yet taken up occupation. There were a few repairs which needed doing. The opera was performed in the back hall (I can’t remember is correct name) and I was allocated the job of watching and emptying the buckets on the top landing, up the staircase with crystal balustrade where the dome was leaking. The “pings” as the rainwater landed in the buckets was rather distracting and discordant with the music!
The day when Dame Janet Baker came to open the shell of the visitor centre and to sing was memorable. The Elgar Chorale also sang.
As far as I remember, Prince Charles, who was interested in the project, had vetoed one set of plans for the building as it didn’t look sufficiently like a Worcestershire barn.
The Council subsequently took over the running of the Cottage and Centre.
It is exciting to contemplate the next phase in the Birthplace’s existence and look forward to the opening.
Jacquie Miller June 2017