Perkins Industrial Concerts

by Simon Collings

Having recently invested in a new CD player and amp I now also have a turntable which works. This has given me access to old vinyl records which for years I haven’t been able to listen to. Looking through the collection I found a recording of Krzysztof Penderecki’s first symphony – called simply ‘Symphony’ on the cover.

The work was commissioned by the British manufacturing company Perkins Engines, and given its premier in Peterborough Cathedral in 1973 by the London Symphony Orchestra with Penderecki conducting. This was the fifth in a series of Perkins Industrial Concerts designed to ‘bring the best artists and orchestras in the world to Peterborough, where they can be enjoyed by all members of the community from which Perkins draws its workforce.’

The sleeve note continues: ‘Perkins, the world’s leading manufacturer of diesel engines, offers tickets for its concerts at half price to all industrial employees in the area below supervisory level, and each year two-thirds of the 1600-strong audience for the concert is made up of people entitled to this concession.’

What, I wonder, did those thousand plus shop floor workers in Peterborough make of what Penderecki later described as the ‘summa’ of his avant garde style.  Sadly the Perkins Engines website makes no mention of these concerts.