Never has the phrase 'the show must go on' been more suitable at the Civic and Wulfrun Halls than during the Second World War.
Although it was considered a relatively safe town with a lower risk of bombing, the fear of air raids, the black-out and travel difficulties all meant the people of Wolverhampton didn't venture far from their homes and attending a concert had dropped down the priority list.
In 1940 there were just three symphony concerts and the same number in 1941, but as the war continued things started to change.
Heavy raids in London meant musicians and performers began to move out of the capital and look for other venues across the country where the risk was lower.
And people were becoming more willing to go out – looking for ways to life their spirits during the dark days and nights of the war.
A combination of public demand and the growing reputation of the halls led to an increase in performances from 1942 onwards with entertainment including concerts, opera, poetry readings, and a week-long Bernard Shaw festival.
By 1943, 15 concerts had been given with the same number being performed in 1944 – programmes from the time show visits from the National Symphony Orchestra and the Liverpool Philhamonic Orchestra – led by the renowned conductor, organist and composer Malcolm Sargent.
Members of the Cambridge-based Apollo Society gave an evening of poetry and music in June 1944.
The society was formed by a number of musicians, poets and readers and their performance in Wolverhampton included readings from Peggy Ashcroft – later a Dame and Academy Award winner for her role in A Passage to India – and John Laurie, a Shakesperean actor who is probably best known to TV audiences as Private Frazer, the pessimistic Home Guard soldier in Dad's Army.
Keep away from the foire!
Despite hosting a growing number of performances, there were a range of difficulties of playing on during a war.
And these were not always due to the risk of bombs – sometimes the local accent might have caused its own problems.
An account from the time tells of a Civic Hall attendant causing a minor panic just before a concert by shouting out “Keep away from the foire!”
It turned out that what he was trying to say was “Keep away from the foyer” so that people would keep the entrance clear.
A further difficulty in wartime was providing enough accommodation for all the members of a visiting orchestra.
The problem was solved by an appeal to the audience before a concert began and the request for beds for the night.
This quick thinking became a permanent answer as regular concert goers were invited to add their names to a list of people who would be willing to offer accomodation to visiting musicians.
The plan proved so successful that staff at the Civic Hall were able to offer rooms for all their visitors – including the members of three brass bands.