The Elgar Society was founded in 1951 and was registered as a charity on 22 January 1988. The society seeks to promote performance of Elgar’s music, especially the more rarely performed items. It is particularly concerned to introduce the composer and his music to younger audiences and, by making grants to appropriate educational activities, to enhance the quality of life of members of the public. It also supports the Elgar Birthplace Museum with an annual grant with the objective of widening accessibility to the location and its contents and encouraging research.
The society publishes a journal three times a year, which contains the results of Elgar research and is sold to educational institutions and the general public as well as being sent to members as part of their subscription benefit. There is also a thrice-yearly newsletter sent to members only.
There are seven UK Branches organised geographically: Great Western, London, North West, Scotland, Southern, Thames Valley and West Midlands; and a branch in Vancouver, Canada. The creation of a Branch is at the discretion of the Society’s Council and requires substantive evidence from a sufficiently large group of members that there is a reasonable assurance of viability. Branches are required to report periodically to the Council on their activities and submit their annual accounts to the Treasurer.
Before 2011, The Elgar Medal was awarded only to foreign scholars and musicians who publish or perform, and therefore promote, Elgar’s music abroad. During a concert in Birmingham’s Symphony Hall on 11 December 2008, Steven Halls, Chairman of the Society, presented the medal to Sakari Oramo. The remaining outstanding award, to Vladimir Ashkenazy, presented in 2010. However, in February 2011, the Elgar Medal was presented to Michael Kennedy, CBE, a renowned British journalist, writer, and music critic, for his major contribution to promoting the works of Elgar.