Arthur Butterworth, composer, trumpeter and student of the Royal Manchester College of Music, remembers what going for orchestra auditions was like in the 1940s.
Arthur: So, college life, whilst it was intriguing in one sense and I learned an awful lot from Richard Hall, met lots of people, both professors and students, whom I’ve maintained contact with over many many years, the upshot was that I said that I left early and didn’t get a diploma. And, as always, I’ve also said to you I realise that things have changed and one has to be qualified, but, for example when I went for a trumpet audition, to Susskind, and he held auditions at the Midland hotel in Manchester, he were looking for young students, he didn’t ask me if I’d been at college, he didn’t ask me if I’d got a diploma, he only wanted to know: ‘Can you play the trumpet now! If I put something on this music stand, can you play it?’ That’s all he wanted to know! Not who I’d studied with, whether I’d done harmony, whether I’d done this, that or the other, whether I played the piano, only ‘can you play that, now!’ And I did and he said: ‘Right, you can have the job.’ Simple as that. I also, the same week, had gone for auditions to Liverpool Philharmonic, where Hugo Rignold was the conductor, and he said ‘Well I suppose you’re going to play the Haydn Trumpet Concerto, are you? Because all trumpeters play that!’ And I said, ‘Yes’ , and he said ‘Well, crack away and play it’, he says ‘I can’t accompany you on the piano because I’m not a pianist’, he said ‘I’m a viola player’. And uh, I played it and he put something up from Rimsky-Korsakov on the music stand, ‘Can you play that?’ – ‘Yes OK!’ – ‘Well, alright, uh, I think I can offer you first trumpet!’ So I said ‘Well, I have to think about it’ – ‘Alright then, you go away and think about it’. I also had, a couple of days later, an audition at the BBC with Charles Groves, for 2nd trumpet in the then BBC Northern Orchestra. Now he was a bit more specific about things – ‘Oh yes I’d like you to play this…’ And, for the audition he also had with him, the doyen of trumpet players of that time was Ernest Hall, who was principal trumpet of the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Now he was a martinet and wanted to know exactly what you’d done, who had taught me and so on. And they said they would think about it, and eventually they too offered me second trumpet, but I chose to go to the Scottish because it offered some conducting. So, within one week, and it’s incredible to think, within one week I had three auditions, and three offers of posts in an orchestra.