Wilhelm Kuhe was a Czech born pianist and composer. Having settled in England in 1847, he divided his time between London and Brighton and became a successful concert promoter. Kuhe established the annual ‘Brighton Musical Festival’ which took place in Brighton Dome Concert Hall between 1871 – 1882. Kuhe’s musical connections in London meant that he could attract famous composers and artists to perform in Brighton.
Adelina Patti is one of the most famous opera singers of all time. The purity and beauty of her lyrical voice made her a huge celebrity in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Patti also gained a reputation for being a fearless businesswoman, demanding to be paid $5000 a night, in gold, before her performances. The opera promoter James Henry Mapleson recalled that Patti had trained her pet parrot to shriek ‘CASH CASH!’ whenever he walked into her dressing room.
Patti performed in Brighton on numerous occasions throughout the latter half of the nineteenth century, including as part of a ‘Grand Morning Concert’ at Brighton Dome in November 1901. She became such a sensation that late trains to Worthing and Haywards Heath had to be especially arranged for audience members to get home. Patti made her final appearance at Brighton Dome in November 1906.
Samuel Coleridge Taylor
Samuel Coleridge Taylor was an English composer and conductor who received great acclaim at the turn of the twentieth century. Born in London to an English mother and father from Sierra Leone, he identified as Anglo-African and was dubbed ‘Black Mahler’ after a successful conducting tour of the United States. Two of Coleridge- Taylor's works - Bon-Bon Suite (1909) and Endymion’s Dream (1910) - received their world premieres at the Brighton Musical Festival held at Brighton Dome.
Anna Pavlova is one of the most famous ballerinas of all time. She was the principal artist of the Imperial Russian Ballet and, from 1912, with her own company, became the first ballerina to tour around the world. Pavlova travelled to countries who had hardly heard of ballet, to small towns and major cities, captivating audiences with her artistry. In January 1912, Pavlova performed on the Brighton Dome Concert Hall stage to great acclaim. A reviewer in the Pall Mall Gazette noted that ‘The Dome was crammed on Thursday night, when she made her first appearance. The large audience gave her a splendid reception, and almost buried the dancer in bouquets'.
The Southern Syncopated Orchestra
Early jazz pioneers, the Southern Syncopated Orchestra, had a four-week residency at Brighton Dome in August 1921. Founded by composer and violinist Will Marion Cook, they were amongst the first jazz bands to visit the UK and Ireland. They introduced us to jazz years before the music saw its heyday and members of the orchestra included clarinettist Sidney Bechet and singer Evelyn Dove.
In October 1921 – just one month after their last performance at Brighton Dome – tragedy struck. The players were sailing from Scotland to Dublin to play at the La Scala Theatre when their ship collided with two others. Eight of the musicians died. The survivors returned to Glasgow, where theatres staged benefit concerts in aid of the surviving members and to help replace their musical instruments.
The Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra
The Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra was formed by Herbert Menges in May 1925 as the Symphonic String Players. By 1928, the players had moved into Brighton Dome and become the fully orchestral Symphonic Players. The orchestra became the Southern Philharmonic in 1945 before becoming the Brighton Philharmonic in 1958 and are still performing a concert season each year.
The Grand Re-Opening Concert 1935
In 1935, Sir Thomas Beecham conducted the London Philharmonic Orchestra in two concerts that marked the reopening of Brighton Dome after its Art Deco style refurbishment. However, the concerts did not go to plan. A scheduled appearance from Spanish mezzo-soprano Conchita Supervia had to be cancelled, and when asked his opinion on the new concert hall, Beecham retorted:
‘What it is like from where you are sitting I don’t know. From my impression as a conductor it must be pretty bad ……I must inform you that the windows of the dressing room are hermetically sealed. There are windows which no one can open. I have put my stick through three or four. Before I go home I am going to put it through all of them’. Beecham concluded: ‘I congratulate you on this magnificent structure. I hope it will be of some use to you. It is of no earthly use to me’.
First appearing in 1936, world famous singer, actor and activist Paul Robeson performed several times at Brighton Dome. He appeared as part of an International Celebrity Concert Series, promoted by Harold Holt, which also featured tenor Richard Tauber and conductor Wilhelm Furtwangler.
During World War Two, Douglas Reeve made Brighton Dome’s organ famous with his BBC Light Programme broadcasts. His twice-weekly series of organ concerts attracted capacity audiences who instantly recognised his signature tune, Pack Up Your Troubles. He even carried on playing during air raids, and once famously continued his concert after a bomb landed on the nearby Royal Pavilion lawns. Starting in 1946, Douglas’ weekly Tuesday at the Dome variety shows ran for over 1,600 performances, earning him an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest seaside variety show in the world.
During WW2, Brighton Dome hosted the popular ‘Dome Dancing’ events. These weekly entertainments included free dancing lessons twice a week for members of the allied forces and regular Saturday night dances.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe
Sister Rosetta Tharpe was a true pioneer of mid-20th-century music and one of the founders of rock'n'roll, influencing musicians such as Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis. She gained popularity in the 1930s and 1940s with her gospel recordings, characterised by a unique mixture of spiritual lyrics and electric guitarist. Tharpe performed twice at Brighton Dome in 1957 and 1964.
Jimi Hendrix played Brighton Dome on the 2nd December 1967, supported by British rock band The Move (later to become E.L.O). According to the Brighton Gazette, Hendrix was:
‘well worth the billing……Long limbed in his flash gear, he strolled onstage playing his guitar with one hand only. He played it with his teeth, on the floor, and behind his back. ‘Remember you’ve got to practice every day’ he cracked'
Pink Floyd debuted their classic album Dark Side of the Moon live at Brighton Dome on 20 Jan 1972. Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, they had to stop playing for a short period, and then continued with some older material. Writing in the NME, music critic Tony Stewart described the concert:
'A pulsating bass beat, pre recorded, pounded around the hall's speaker system....the organ built up; suddenly it soared, like a jumbo jet leaving Heathrow; the lights, just behind the equipment, rose like an elevator...The Floyd inventiveness had returned, and it astounded the capacity house'
David Bowie played Brighton Dome five times between 1969 and 1973, including two dates on his legendary Ziggy Stardust world tour. Bassist Woody Woodmansey recalls:
'We played a matinee concert at the Brighton Dome..…. The crowd went crazy. After an evening show that was just as brilliant, however, we were informed that David Bowie had been banned from ever appearing at the Dome again. Apparently overenthusiastic fans had done considerable damage to a section of the seating, and this was too much for the Dome’s proprietors.'
In 1974, Brighton Dome hosted ABBA’s victory in the Eurovision Song Contest. Waterloo scored 24 points and was the first ever Eurovision win for a Scandinavian country. The UK entry, sung by Olivia Newton John, came in fourth and the UK Jury awarded no points to ABBA. The Mayor of Brighton beckoned ABBA back to the Concert Hall stage and offered the group a free week's holiday in Brighton. Later, Benny Andersson recalled:
We must take him up on that one day. Just as soon as we have the time.