It is probably true to say that the tenure of Charles Groves as Principal Conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra saw it firmly established as the most respected British orchestra outside London. In a wide-ranging career it was his years with the RLPO with which he is most clearly remembered, based not only upon his musical achievements but on the close relationship he enjoyed with the city.
Charles Barnard Groves was born in London on 10th March 1915. His father died in 1921 from injuries sustained in the First World War and his mother died just four years later and he was made a ward of court. A precocious musical talent, he was a chorister at St Paul’s Cathedral and attended the St Paul’s Cathedral School, and aged 12 attended 41 of the 44 BBC Proms concerts. After attending the Royal College of Music he worked as an accompanist for the BBC and was the conductor of the BBC Northern Orchestra from 1944 to 1951 and then spent ten years with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra which led to his becoming conductor for the Welsh National Opera.
In 1963 he took on the role of Musical Director and Principal Conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, a post he held until 1977. Often thought of as an exponent of British music, especially Delius, Vaughan Williams, Elgar and Walton, he eschewed any particular ‘specialism’ saying “I feel myself a GP rather than a consultant”.
He received an OBE in 1958, a CBE in 1968 and was knighted in 1973. He died in London in 1992 aged 77.
During his time at the RLPO Charles Groves lived at 23 Fulwood Park L17, one half of a sizeable mansion tucked away at the river end of the park.
Charles Groves Liverpool home hidden from public view at the river end of Fulwood Park.
© Liverpool Footprints