BBC Symphony Orchestra comes to Hitchin

THE prestigious BBC Symphony Orchestra will be coming to Hitchin this month, to commemorate when it played at the funeral of an internationally renowned conductor in the town nearly 70 years ago.

The orchestra are playing at St Mary’s Church on Friday, April 15, to mark a war-time visit when it played at the funeral of Sir Henry Wood.

A plaque recalling the event will be unveiled by violinist and former pupil of Sir Henry, Shirley Robinson, of Chiltern Road, Hitchin.

Former BBC newsreader Richard Whitmore will compere the concert.

“Many local people are probably unaware of the strong link that Hitchin has with this great musician, whose life is commemorated each year by the Henry Wood Promenade Concerts,” said Mr Whitmore.

“A number of us in Hitchin Historical Society have felt for some time that a plaque commemorating the event would be of great interest, particularly to the many visitors who look round our parish church.

“We are so grateful to Shirley Robinson for funding the plaque and making the first positive suggestion that inspired us to get the project underway.”

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Sir Henry and his wife Lady Jessie Wood came to live in North Hertfordshire in the 1940s.

After being introduced to St Mary’s Church by local doctor Basil Skeggs, they fell in love with the beauty of the building and became regular worshippers there during the rest of their time in the area.

After conducting a concert in Bedford in 1944, Sir Henry fell ill and was admitted to hospital in Hitchin, where he later died at the age of 75.

It was decided his funeral should be at St Mary’s, to mark his love of the church.

Extra coaches were added to trains between Kings Cross and Hitchin to bring the scores of musicians, singers and music-lovers who came to pay their respects.

Tickets for the concert can be bought from the Hitchin Initiative Office at 27 Churchyard, Hitchin.