We enjoyed a very interesting workshop at Stockton Reference Library on 31st January, when we were shown how to use the British Newspaper Archive and the newspapers on microfilm. It was fascinating – and absorbing. A form of time travelling which transported us to the 19th century.
It was exciting to find a notice promoting Paganini’s visit to Stockton in 1833. This was addressed to the “nobility, gentry and public, resident in Stockton and its vicinity” – wonder who they were? The notice was dated 1st October 1833, and stated that this “was positively the only time that” Paganini could “possibly have the honour of appearing before them, previous to his departure for the Court of St Petersburgh”.
The concert planned was arranged by a Mr Watson, who “presided at the piano-forte”, and was said to be composer to the Theatres Royal, English Opera House in Covent Garden, and Member of the Royal Academy of Music”. Signor Paganini performed several pieces: Preludia and Rondo Brilliante, Grande Variations Sur l’Air, Sonata Militaire, “entirely on one string” (the fourth), The Admired Variations upon popular Neapolitan Canzonetta”, The Carnival of Venice.
Patrons were able to buy their tickets from Mr Jennett’s on the High Street, where they could also see a plan of the boxes, which cost 7s 6d that evening. Alternatively you could pay 4 shillings for a place in the Pit, or 2s 6d for the Galleries.
Miss Wells and Miss Watson were engaged to perform alongside Paganini, entertaining the audience with ballads, arias and duets. It is interesting that they included “A Melody of the North”, “The Keel Row”.
It must have been quite an occasion for the people of Stockton, and visitors to the town that evening.