The Show Must Go On

100 years of the LSO on tour

On 28 March 1912, the LSO embarked on a famous three-week tour (plus three weeks of travel!) to the United States of America and Canada, the first British orchestra to visit those distant shores.

Medal from the 1912 US tourThe tour was conducted by Principal Conductor Arthur Nikisch who, with his band of ninety-nine men and one woman – a harpist named Miriam Timothy – travelled across North America in a special eight-car Pullman train. Visits were made to New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, St Louis, Kansas City, Wichita, Des Moines, Madison, Milwaukee, Oxford OH, Cincinnati, Toledo, Detroit, Buffalo, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Boston and Providence.

The tour has become something of an LSO legend: the story goes that the Orchestra narrowly avoided sailing on the ill-fated maiden voyage of the Titanic. But was that the actual story? In 2011 we were enlightened: we were sent a diary kept by the timpanist Charles Turner, which had been discovered in his granddaughter's attic. For the first time we could read first hand what happened both with the Titanic and with all sorts of other incidents that happened while they were away. What exactly was it like to sleep on a train for three weeks? Now we knew.

Principal Flute Gareth Davies was inspired by the discovery. As the author of the popular LSO On Tour blog, Gareth was intrigued by the parallels between his own writing and those of Charles Turner 100 years before. A later discovery of another diary from the tour, written by flautist Henry Nisbet, cemented an idea – he wanted to research the story of the tour and juxtapose it with the stories he writes about in his blog 100 years later.

The result was a book, The Show Must Go On: On Tour with the LSO in 1912 and 2012. Published on 30 May 2013 by Elliot & Thompson, the book recounts the story of the 1912 tour from before they left, using the diaries and items from the LSO archive, and tells behind-the-scenes tales from LSO's tours in the 21st century, revealing that a surprising number of similar challenges remain.

An accompanying film also brings the 1912 and 2012 stories to life. Actor Samuel West voices Charles Turner, whilst we follow Gareth as he and the LSO visit New York City in October 2012.

The Show Must Go On
On tour with the LSO in 1912 & 2012
By Gareth Davies

Available to purchase from Amazon

Contact the Archivist

Libby Rice LSO Archivist

Tel: +44 20 7382 2533