ONE of Basingstoke's treasures has disappeared, as Basingstoke Concert Club (BCC) closes after almost six decades of staging concerts by outstanding international musicians.

Always one for spotting great talent before others, the club has invited some of the greatest classical music names to perform for Basingstoke people. In times gone by, BCC was the only society offering great live music concerts, but today there are more venues, such as The Anvil, who also meet that need.

This is being written at the time of year when BCC would be staging its Christmas Concert. Last year, the wonderful vocal group, the Armonico Consort visited us.

The decision not to present any concerts for the 2012-13 season was taken at a recent AGM, prompted by a slow decline in audience numbers, rising costs and the inability to recruit more help on the committee. But, after a splendid season, which ended in March 2012, BCC bows out on a high note.

The club was founded by the late John Wright and gave recitals in the old Grand Theatre in Wote Street, now The Haymarket theatre. After a few years, a new venue was sought and eventually the Hall at Queen Mary’s College offered a suitable home. There it stayed for a number of years, growing in popularity to reach a membership of over 400.

When The Anvil eventually opened in the mid-90s, BCC was invited to present its concerts there. Unfortunately, it proved to be a mismatch between the scale of the magnificent concert hall and the intimate nature of chamber music performances and the club was forced to find a new venue. This it did when it was warmly welcomed at Trinity Methodist Church on Sarum Hill, which proved an ideal location.

Looking back over more than 50 years, the number of outstanding artists who have entertained lovers of chamber music in Basingstoke and North Hampshire is staggering. Many who came to the club early in their lives have gone on to international careers of great distinction. Established musicians of renown have also delighted us.

To name a few at random, we have heard in recent years from Joanna MacGregor, The Bronte Quartet, The Kungsbacka Quartet, Ivana Gavric, Catrin Finch, Nikolai Demidenko and Leonid Gorokhov, The Sacconi Quartet, The Katona Twins, The Coull Quartet, Martin Roscoe, Bernard Roberts, O Duo, The Doric Quartet, Laura Lucas, Chin-Yun Hu, Morgan Szymanski, Leon Fleisher and the Elias Quartet, The Tippett Quartet, The Armonico Consort, 4Girls 4Harps, The Wihan Quartet, The Heath Quartet, Canteloube, Cordelia Williams, The Pavao Quartet, Chaconne, Aquarelle and The Emanuel Ensemble.

In earlier years, many will remember Sir Willard White who filled the Haymarket Theatre in the Golden Anniversary concert, Fine Arts Brass, The Janacek Quartet, Chloe Hanslip, Dame Emma Kirkby, Peter Donohoe, The Belcea Quartet, Imogen Cooper, Julian Bliss, Llyr Williams, The Medici Quartet, The Bernard Roberts Trio, The Takacs Quartet, The Leopold Trio and The Galliard Ensemble.

And some will remember these from even earlier times in Queen Mary’s Hall: Michala Petrie, Marisa Robles, James Galway, the late Carlo Curley, Katia and Marielle Labèque, the Black Dyke Mills Band (who nearly lifted the roof), Anne Queffelec, Tatiana Nikolayeva (who gave us her last European recital before dying suddenly in America a week or two later), Alfred Brendel (who packed Queen Mary’s Hall to the rafters) and the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble.

But, as it is said, all good things must come to an end, and so it has proved. We can look back on 57 wonderful years, with so much fine music and so many charming and talented musicians to be grateful for.

David Tivey