“Early in the present century the late Mr. Binfield was the principal music master [in Reading], there being only one other, Mr. Tanner, who, although a sound musician and excellent timeist, did not excel as an instrumentalist. At the earliest period of my memory Mr. Packer established a business in Minster Street as a watch-maker and jeweller, with whom was Mr. Trendell, who subsequently had this business in consequence of Mr. Packer's decease. The latter was succeeded by the late Mr. Bracher, now Messrs. Bracher and Sydenham. The Mr. Packer above referred to had a son who was educated as a musician and eventually became an organist at St. Mary's Church. About the year 1815 he had a music shop in Minster Street, the front pilasters of which were adorned with gilt organ pipes. Mr. Packer subsequently removed to a house in Castle Street and had a considerable amount of patronage as a teacher. This gentleman used to have an annual concert, at which most of the popular artistes of the day were engaged, supplemented by local amateurs. One of these was Mr. Richardson, who was also a dancing master with an extensive practice, but somehow Mr. Packer became annoyed at the interference of Mr. Richardson who, it seemed, always promoted Mr. Binfield's interest. This induced Mr. Packer to persuade Mr. Venua to come to Reading to teach dancing, and as this gentleman had been leader of the Ballette at the London Opera House, it was not a bad advertisement for him. This beginning of discord amongst the avowed promoters of harmony never ceased.
I think the period to which I am referring was about 1814 or 1815. Mr. Venua, who was a thorough musician and an able leader, felt that he was not in his proper position as a teacher of dancing only, and this feeling was intensified by Mr. Richardson's introduction of Mr. and Mrs. Goodwin from the Opera House, the former of whom he took as a partner with the assistance of his wife, who taught deportment & co.
In the year 1819 Mr. Binfield, who was at the height of his popularity, gave a musical festival which continued for three days. The sacred part of it was performed in St. Laurence's Church and the secular in the Town Hall. The patronage Mr. Binfield received surpassed anything of the kind known to us.
The lovers of good music will not fail to be interested in hearing of the treat we had when I state that the three days' performance of sacred music consisted of Haydn's 'Creation,' the 2nd day of the 'Messiah,' and the 3rd of Handel's 'Redemption.' The best talent in the Kingdom took part at this Sacred Festival, but never shall I forget the wonderful effect produced in the sacred edifice by the singing of Miss Stephens (Countess of Essex) of 'Let the bright seraphim,' accompanied by Mr. Harper on the trumpet.
All the amateurs gave their gratuitous services, and attended several rehearsals in the large room at Mr. Binfield's house. At these I played the flute part, but at the Festival I was put in the shade by the celebrated flautist, Mr. Ireland, with Mr. Kates as second, and I was content to play an oboe part. Soon after this musical festival Mr. Venua came to live in Reading, when another Amateur Society was established, which met with very cordial public support, that gentleman not only conducting and leading the concerts, but occasionally himself playing a solo on the violin. He also frequently wrote orchestral parts for the Band, which with the Chorus consisted of about 150 persons.”
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