Mary White MBE
Mary White was brought up and educated in Yorkshire. She trained and became a doctor of medicine and bachelor of surgery in 1949 at St James’ University Hospital Leeds, one of the UK’s most famous hospitals. More advanced qualifications followed in obstetrics and gynaecology.
In her mid-twenties she met Max White, one of Bromsgrove’s general practitioners. They married in 1951 and settled to live in Marlborough Avenue. Mary worked in local hospitals as a surgeon. With her natural verve she soon started to take an active part in Bromsgrove public life, and was for many years a magistrate, a governor of North Bromsgrove High School, and chairman of the Bromsgrove Police Consultancy Panel. She was also closely connected with St. John Ambulance as District Surgeon, and, at national level, was on the Council of the British Medical Association.
But in Bromsgrove she became best known for her chairmanship of the Bromsgrove Festival. Through her interest in music she was involved in the Festival from its inception in 1960, and, when the Festival faced a funding crisis in 1980, she took over the chairmanship. She formed a new committee, attracted big-name and local sponsors, and appointed Dr Donald Hunt, then head of music at Worcester Cathedral, artistic adviser.
The first Festival under her direction was in 1981, and included the first Young Musicians’ Platform, which now continues in its new form. Under her and Dr Hunt’s management a number of celebrated artistes performed at the Festivals. Her enthusiasm to involve young people also led to finalists from the Young Musicians Platform being invited back to perform at later Festivals. The Platform meanwhile developed to become widely respected and the stepping stone to success for many young musicians. She was awarded the MBE in 2006 for her services to music.
Donald Hunt OBE
An internationally known musician, it was Donald Hunt’s inspiration that led to the founding with Mary White of the Bromsgrove International Young Musicians’ Platform in 1981 whilst he was Artistic Director of the Bromsgrove Festival.
His own career began as a chorister at Gloucester Cathedral. At the age of 17 in 1947 he was appointed assistant organist adviser, and over the next seven years his initial contact with the Three Choirs Festival gave him both experience in choral and orchestral work and contact with such luminaries as Finzi, Howells and Vaughan Williams.
Following prestigious appointments working with leading choral societies in Torquay and Leeds in company with many distinguished conductors including Bernstein, Giulini and Richter his career expanded into orchestral conducting. He has conducted many of the country’s leading orchestras especially the BBC Philharmonic and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. He later returned to Three Choirs territory when in 1975 he was appointed organist and master of the choristers at Worcester Cathedral. His leadership thereafter of the Worcester Festival Society and Worcester Three Choirs Festival enabled him to promote the music of his hero, Edward Elgar.
In retirement he has continued to champion Elgar’s music; in 2007 as artistic director and conductor of the 150th Elgar Anniversary celebration in Worcester and through his close association with the Elgar Foundation. In 2010 he conducted a special performance of Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius in Worcester Cathedral to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Bromsgrove Festival. In addition he continues to work as a conductor, lecturer and composer/arranger. Of his many compositions the most recent is The ‘Joys of Christmas’ – anthems, carols and songs, which had its first performance in December 2010.
His honours include a Doctorate in Music from Leeds University, a Master of Arts degree from the University of Worcester and a Fellowship of the Royal School of Church Music. He was appointed OBE for services to British Music in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List of 1993. His hobbies still include gardening, poetry and the more stressful pastime of being a fan of Leeds United, Worcester Warriors and Worcestershire Country Cricket Club!