Althea Mildred Langley (1897-1956)

Mildred Langley was a noted child pianist.

Biography

Born Althea Mildred Langley, the daughter of Huddersfield Borough policeman William Albert Langley and his wife Nellie Hempsall (née Gillatt).

From a young age she showed talent as a pianist and was taught by her mother. On Sunday 12 December 1909, aged 12, she gave her debut performance at Huddersfield Town Hall with the Huddersfield Permanent Orchestra. To the surprise of the audience, she performed Liszt's Hungarian Fantasy without sheet music and was rewarded with a standing ovation. For an encore, she performed Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C# Minor. The Huddersfield Examiner praised her ability:[1]

Miss Langley struck everyone as a marvel, and we shall not be surprised to find her taking very high rank as a pianist at a much earlier adult age than usual. She is unassuming and modest to a remarkable extent, but possesses also the coolness and self-possession which are so necessary to thorough success, altogether apart from executive ability, which is hers, in a most marked and extraordinary degree. It may be thought that we are drawing the long bow, but we assure our readers that we are not, and although encores are as a rule not now recognised at these concerts, the breaking of the rule in this case was excusable. We wish for Miss Langley all the musical success which she and her parents could desire. It may be remembered that Miss Langley's sister is a vocalist, and sang at one of these concerts some time ago. One of her two brothers has taken to the violin, so that music may be said to be in the Langley blood.

She performed to strong reviews in 1910 at the Dewsbury Empire (February), Rotherham Hippodrome and Wakefield New Empire (March) and Blackpool (September). It is believed that around this time she became a pupil of Frank Sant Angelo of Leeds College of Music.

In November 1912, she was engaged for a week as pianoforte soloist at the Tivoli Music Hall in London. She proved so popular that the Tivoli extended her engagement twice and regularly had to play at least two encores. According to the Examiner, "she is now booked for some years to come at the highest salary paid to a child".[2] The London Globe newspaper reviewed one of the concerts:

There are so many child pianists at present on the variety stage, with all their precocious arts and graces, that is it quite a relief to find one who still has simplicity and childishness and no affectations. Mildred Langley, a newcomer to the Tivoli last night, combined these virtues with skilful technique and a nicety of touch, though, of course, minus the expression that can only come through experience. She was heard to best advantage in Mendelssohn's Spring Song, which she played, as an encore, very charmingly.

During 1913, she increasingly performed as part of vaudeville tours, playing alongside comedians, trick cyclists and even Olga & Her Performing Geese.

In January 1914, she performed again at Huddersfield Town Hall with the Permanent Orchestra, playing Chopin's Impromptu, Liszt's Rhapsody No. 6 and an etude she had composed herself.[3]

A few months later, she sent some of her original compositions to Buckingham Palace and received the following response:[4]

The private secretary is desired by her Majesty Queen Alexandra to thank Miss Mildred Langley for the beautiful etudes and berceuses she has composed, and is graciously pleased to accept them. Her Majesty is greatly interested in Mildred's promise and ability as a pianist, and wishes her a successful career.

In late June 1914, she performed at the King's Hall, Dover, alongside her sister Dorothy and Hilda M. Garner (who was introduced as being a sister).[5] Together, they billed themselves as "The Three Rubenstein Vladia" and played a handful of dates in July.

Following the outbreak of the First World War, she advertised copies of her own patriotic composition "King of the Land and King of the Sea", with proceeds donated to the Prince of Wales National Relief Fund.[6] A performance of the song was given in Huddersfield which included Hilda "wearing a soldier's cap and waving the Union Jack".[7] By the end of September, around 8,000 copies had been sold and £60 raised.[8]

In December 1914, she organised a benefit concert at Huddersfield Town Hall which included a 400-strong chorus of children and other young performers. Both her sister Dorothy and Hilda sang at the concert.[9]

Mildred, Dorothy and Hilda — the latter nicknamed "Baby Langley" as she was the youngest of the three — were advertised in a notice placed in The Stage (28/Jan/1915) as the Langley Sisters Trio:

The Stage 28 January 1915.jpg

A Great Discovery

THREE OF THE MOST WONDERFUL SISTERS IN VAUDEVILLE.

MILDRED LANGLEY,
Age 14 years,
The Beethoven of to-day, both in likeness and gonitis, whose works have bean accepted by HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN, also by HER MAJESTY QUEEN ALEXANDRA.

BEATRICE LANGLEY,
Age 15 years,
The girl with the marvellous voice, who will sing her Sister Mildred’s works, AND

BABY LANGLEY,
Age 11 years,
Who will give her impressions of great Artists, and CONDUCT THE BAND to her Sister Mildred’s compositions.

First Class Offers only entertained.

All communications, Manager,
West End Reviews Productions Co.,
13, Hart Street, W.C.
'Phone: 2815 Gerrard.

Hilda's talent as a comic and mimic resulted in her starring in at least six short comic films as "Baby Langley" for Bamforth & Co. Ltd. between April and August 1915:

The Three Prodigies (1915-18)

London Palladium (May 1915)

In early May 1915, the Langley Sisters Trio performed at the London Palladium, where Hilda conducted the orchestra. Their popularity led to run being extended through to mid-June.

Infant prodigies on the stage are fewer than they used to be, but occasionally we come across a new one. At the Palladium, Baby Langley, a very clever little mimic, and her two sisters, also quite young — one is an accomplished composer, and plays beautifully, and the other has a mellow contralto voice of surprising richness — are a welcome addition to the programme. Their "turn" is all too short.
Westminster Gazette (04/May/1915)

Following on from their success at the Palladium, the sisters toured as "The Three Prodigies" until December 1918 with dates including:

  • August 1915 — Burnley Palace & Hippodrome, Shepherd's Bush Empire, Southampton Palace Theatre, Leicester Palace Theatre
  • September 1915 — Folkestone Pleasure Gardens Theatre
  • October 1915 — London Coliseum
  • December 1915 — Middlesbrough Empire
  • February 1916 — Bristol Hippodrome
  • June 1916 — Hammersmith Palace
  • July 1916 — Dundee King's Theatre & Hippodrome, Kirkcaldy Theatre, London Palladium
  • August 1916 — York Empire, Woolwich Hippodrome, Croydon Empire, Penge Empire
  • September 1916 — Edinburgh Empire, Glasgow Empire, Aldershot Hippodrome
  • October 1916 — Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Birmingham Grand Theatre, Aberdeen Palace Theatre
  • November 1916 — London Coliseum, The Middlesex
  • December 1916 — Cardiff Empire, Shepherd's Bush Empire, Wood Green Empire
  • January 1917 — Hackney Empire, Bradford Alhambra, Clapham Grand
  • February 1917 — Holborn Empire, Kilburn Empire, Bristol Hippodrome
  • March 1917 — Manchester Hippodrome
  • April 1917 — Ilford Hippodrome
  • May 1917 — Rochdale Royal Hippodrome
  • August 1917 — Leeds Empire, Hammersmith Palace
  • September 1917 — Ardwick Empire, Manchester Palace, Leicester Palace
  • October 1917 — Newcastle Empire, Croydon Empire, Finsbury Park Empire
  • November 1917 — Hull Palace
  • February 1918 — Lewisham Hippodrome, Woolwich Hippodrome
  • March 1918 — Nottingham Empire, Chatham Empire, Cheswick Empire
  • April 1918 — Manchester Hippodrome, Bristol Hippodrome, Shepherd's Bush Empire
  • May 1918 — Lewisham Hippodrome, Glasgow Coliseum Theatre
  • June 1918 — Wigan Hippodrome, Clapham Grand Palace, Hampshire King's Theatre, Portsmouth King's Theatre
  • August 1918 — Mansfield Empire
  • September 1918 — Leicester Palace
  • October 1918 — Manchester Empire
  • November 1918 — Clapham Grand Palace, Shoreditch Olympia
  • December 1918 — Hammersmith Palace, Poplar Hippodrome, Willesden Hippodrome, Ilford Hippodrome

Later Life

Mildred continued to perform to positive reviews until at least the early 1930s. At the time of the 1939 Register, she was a "Music Teacher (Pianoforte)" living in Middlesex with her future husband.

She married music hall artist John Heaton Frederick Stevens in 1942.

Althea Mildred Stevens died on 31 December 1956 at Herne Bay, Kent. Her husband died in 1990.

Gallery

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Further Reading

Notes and References

  1. "Huddersfield Permanent Orchestra" in Huddersfield Daily Examiner (13/Dec/1909).
  2. "Progress of a Huddersfield Young Lady Pianist" in Huddersfield Examiner (09/Nov/1912)).
  3. "Permanent Orchestra" in Huddersfield Daily Examiner (19/Jan/1914).
  4. "Girl Composer's Work" in Leeds Mercury (25/Jun/1914).
  5. The Era (01/Jul/1914).
  6. "Public Notices" in Huddersfield Daily Examiner (26/Aug/1914).
  7. "Patriotic Song and Recital" in Huddersfield Daily Examiner (26/Aug/1914).
  8. "Huddersifled Lady's Efford" in Leeds Mercury (24/Sep/1914).
  9. "Benefit Concert" in Huddersfield Daily Examiner (07/Dec/1914).