Monmouth music club set to close
2:31pm Wednesday 4th September 2013 in News
A GWENT music club once among the best in Britain is to close a year after celebrating its golden jubilee.
Monmouth Merlin Music Society presented a stellar list of musicians in its heyday, including composer Benjamin Britten, singers Peter Pears and Janet Baker, violinists Nigel Kennedy and Yehudi Menuhin, and cellist Jacqueline du Pré.
But for various reasons, include loss of public subsidy, the society has been cash-strapped.
Its next concert will be its last and admission will be free.
The chairman, Rachel Underwood, said the closure decision was taken with deep regret.
"Membership has fallen during the recession and like many other organisations the society lost its Arts Council support some years ago," she said. "But it will present one last concert, the first scheduled for the coming season, on Thursday, September 12.
"Mezzo-soprano Anna Huntley and pianist James Baillieu will perform works by Schubert, Mahler, Debussy, Quilter, Gershwin and others. Both Anna and James have won major musical prizes and fellowships, and James is a Professor at the Royal Academy of Music."
The concert will be open to all members, past supporters and the public, and will take place at the Blake Theatre, Monmouth, at 7.30pm.
"Members and supporters of the Merlin who wish to learn more about the decision to close are also invited to a brief extraordinary general meeting before the concert, at 6.15pm," she said.
For many events in its illustrious past, the society always had a waiting list and latecomers often struggled to find a seat.
With various kinds of funding, mainly public, on the decrease and many older members dying, the Merlin has had to come to terms with more modest presentations.
But each September it confidently announced yet another season, these days often giving Britain's younger musicians a chance to appear on the platform.
In 1976 there were over 600 members who were either already subscribers or were on the waiting list. The Merlin was officially ranked as the largest music society in Wales and one of the ten largest in the UK.
The gradual reduction and eventual termination of public subsidy was a disaster. With diminishing income the society gradually lost its orchestral concerts and most of its celebrity performers which, in turn, led to falling membership and shrinking audiences.
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