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Major Choral Organizations in Late Nineteenth-Century Melbourne
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 13 April 2011
Australian musical life was founded and sustained for over 150 years by a particular class of displaced British and European professional musicians, mostly men, who brought with them what is now known as Western art music. At the time of Australia's foundation, a number of British musicians (many of them composers at the rudimentary level expected of musicians of the day), unable to find work where Italians and Germans were preferred, opted for migration to the colonies in the hope of trading their way out of a difficult situation. Some took ship to avoid the law (the debt-ridden composer Isaac Nathan for example), some came as farmers or joined the gold rushes, only to fail and have to turn to their musical skills again to earn a living (William Vincent Wallace, composer of one of the nineteenth century's most popular operas, Maritana, comes to mind).
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1 Love, Harold, The Golden Age of Australian Opera: W.S. Lyster and his Companies 1861–1880 (Sydney, 1981), esp. 273–75;Google ScholarGyger, Alison, Opera for the Antipodes (Sydney, 1990): 340–3;Google ScholarGyger, Alison, Civilising the Colonies: Pioneering Opera in Australia (Sydney, 1999)Google Scholar; Radic, Thérèse, ‘Melbourne’, The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, ed. Sadie, Stanley (London, 1992)Google Scholar.
2 Information on chamber music has been drawn from Peggy Lais, ‘The Rise and Fall of the Melbourne Popular Concerts’, MMus diss., University of Melbourne, 2004.Google Scholar
3 Argus (8 Aug. 1885).
4 To take one important example: during 1863 the planning for the Melbourne Town Hall was reported to include an interior space with acoustic proportions modelled on those of the Philharmonic Hall of Liverpool. Carne, W.A., A Century of Harmony: The Official Centenary History of the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Society (Melbourne, 1954): 56–7Google Scholar.
6 In Victoria music education in schools followed the British pattern in introducing an adaptation of John Hullah's French fixed-doh solmization method. Massed child choirs became available for church, civic and national events, as they were in the UK. This early training created musically alert audiences and fed into the adult choirs later in life. See Stevens, Robin S., ‘Music Education’, in Oxford Companion to Australian Music, ed. Bebbington, Warren (Melbourne, 1997) (hereafter OCAM): 396–9.Google Scholar
8 Age (12 Mar. 1859).
9 In 1863 news of the progress of the MPS was first published in the musical press in England. This seems to indicate that the society took some pride in being noticed there. No indication is given as to how this reportage occurred, but if the custom of the day was followed it would have been supplied by the MPS itself. Carne, , Century of Harmony: 57.Google Scholar
10 Melbourne Morning Herald (17 Nov. 1854).
11 George Peake, who appeared as a boy alto with the Society under Russell's baton in the 1860s, records that Russell had come to Melbourne via the USA from Liverpool. He was not a professional musician, though he acted for some years as organist and choirmaster of Collins Street Independent Church. Peake, George, Historical Souvenir (Melbourne, 1913): 6Google Scholar.
12 For details of the early history of this society, see Radic, Thérèse, ‘Aspects of Organised Amateur Music in Melbourne 1836–1890’, 2 vols, MMus diss., University of Melbourne, 1969Google Scholar; Radic, Thérèse, ‘Some Historical Aspects of Musical Associations in Melbourne 1888–1915’, 3 vols, PhD diss., University of Melbourne, 1977Google Scholar.
13 Argus (7 Oct. 1853).
14 That La Trobe was an amateur musician is derived by Eastwood from Washington Irving. Hugh McCrae quotes this description of La Trobe from Irving's journal for October 1832: ‘a botanist, a geologist, a hunter of beetles and butterflies, a musical composer, a sketcher of no mean pretensions; in short a complete virtuoso’. McCrae, Hugh (ed.), Georgiana's Journal (1934; Sydney, 1966): 163Google ScholarPubMed; Eastwood, Jill, ‘Latrobe, Charles Joseph’, Australian Dictionary of Biography (Melbourne, 1966–) (hereafter ADB), vol. 2Google Scholar.
15 Rather than as the founder of the State Library of Victoria or as the judge presiding at the Eureka trial.
16 Argus (12 Jun. 1851).
18 MPS Minutes, 15 Oct. 1853 (1853–56).
19 In 1889 David Lee was paid £100 per annum, the minimum permitted. MPS Guard Book (hereafter GB) (1888–1924), State Library of Victoria. Peake began at the same level. This compares with £250 paid to Julius Herz, conductor of the Metropolitan Liedertafel (hereafter MetL). Julius Siede was paid £150 as conductor of the Melbourne Liedertafel (hereafter MelbL). Table Talk (18 Jan. 1889).
20 Circular printed on blue paper in the MPS GB opposite Concert 2. On this sheet the aims of the society were given as ‘the cultivation of Classical Concert Music … with a special view to the improvement of devotional music’.
21 MPS Minutes, 1 and 3 Dec. 1853 (1853–56).
22 Argus (27 Dec. 1853).
23 Argus (23 Dec. 1853).
24 Herald (25 Nov. 1854). John Russell, the first conductor, said in the Argus, 11 March 1857, that he had intended through his work for the Philharmonic ‘to cultivate that style which, by its superiority, would take the place of the low class music so much in fashion at the present time’. The Age for 7 Oct. 1863 expressed the common view of its readership in saying that ‘the chief aim of Philharmonic Societies occupying a position like the present one, should be to instruct and entertain the great middle classes of the community’. In 1858 the MPS reported itself convinced it had helped the ‘rapidly extended and improved’ taste in music that was evident in the large classes for vocal instruction that sprang up under its influence. MPS AR, 1858, GB (1853–87).
25 Herald (23 Dec. 1855).
26 Examiner (13 Aug. 1859).
27 Noel Wilmott, ‘Choirs and Choral Music’, OCAM: 111. For a more extended commentary on the frequency of performance of major works see Janice Stockigt, ‘A Study of British Influence on Musical Taste and Programming: New Choral Works Introduced to Audiences by the Melbourne Philharmonic Society, 1876-1901’ (this issue).
29 Faust (Gounod), Ernani (Verdi), The Flying Dutchman, Lohengrin (Wagner), Maritana (Wallace), The Bohemian Girl (Balfe), Carmen (Bizet).
32 MPS Minutes, 13 and 23 May 1854 (1853–56). Russell paid £7/13/0 for the full orchestral score of The Creation in 1854. Parts had to be copied from this.
33 Hiring fees are recorded in Annual Reports.
34 MPS Minutes, 19 Nov. 1853 (1853–56).
35 MPS Minutes, 8 Jul. 1854 (1853–56).
36 MPS Minutes, 1 Aug. 1854 (1853–56).
37 MPS GB (1888–1924): No. 1 Catalogue, oratorios, masses and cantatas; No. 2 Catalogue, overtures, symphonies concertos, etc.; No. 3 Catalogue, part songs and miscellaneous.
38 Argus (5 Oct. 1854). Two other issues that were to haunt the Philharmonic were raised in the same article: how to raise standards through invitations to visiting celebrities to appear with the society, and how to improve orchestral playing associated with the society.
39 Carne, , Century of Harmony: 41.Google Scholar A clipping in the MPS GB (1853–87) – apparently from the Herald, 10 Aug. 1859, but incorrectly dated September – notes that this was a hurried event given when news reached the colony that the choral societies of London were preparing commemoration performances. See also MPS AR, 1859, GB (1853–87).
40 Carne, , Century of Harmony: 53.Google Scholar The proceeds of the opening concert, 7 October 1862, were divided between the Melbourne Hospital, Benevolent Asylum, Lying-in-Hospital and the MPS.
41 MPS GB, 65, 72, 80 (1888–1924).
43 29 Oct. 1866. The choir was conducted by Horsley, former conductor of the MPS, although MPS records make no mention of this.
44 Argus (22 Dec. 1867).
45 Argus (10 Aug. 1870). From this date the Melbourne Town Hall became the home of the MPS until 1925 when it burnt down. Much effort was put into these two celebratory concerts in an effort to publicize the MPS itself.
46 MPS GB, concert programme, 6 Nov. 1872 (1853–87).
47 MPS GB, undated clipping from Argus in 1872 context (1853–87); Carne, , Century of Harmony: 80Google Scholar.
48 Carne, , Century of Harmony: 96:Google Scholar Léon Caron conducted an 800-voice choir and an orchestra of 100 players in programmes extending over a seven-month period. See also Bonnie Smart, ‘Leon Caron and the Music Profession in Australia’, MMus diss., University of Melbourne, 2003.
51 Official Record of the Centennial International Exhibition, Melbourne 1888–9 (Melbourne, 1890): 21–6, 259–71.Google Scholar The Philharmonic formed the core of the Exhibition choir of 700 voices which, with an orchestra of 73 players, was conducted by Frederic Hymen Cowen (later Sir) in 244 concerts given over a six-month period.
52 Carne, , Century of Harmony: 131; Age (7 and 8 May 1901);Google Scholar Radic, PhD diss., vol. 2: 560–1, fn. 122.
53 Runaway wife of (Sir) Henry Bishop, the most fashionable English composer of the day. See Davis, Richard, Bishop, Anna: The Adventures of an Intrepid Prima Donna (Sydney, 1997): 43–7, 179–97;Google ScholarCarne, , Century of Harmony: 34–6, 294Google Scholar; Orchard, Arundel, Music in Australia (Melbourne, 1952): 36, 294.Google Scholar
54 Czech-born Gabriella Roubalova-Steffani, known in the theatre as La Boema, first arrived in Melbourne in 1880 with her Italian husband R. Steffani, a violin virtuoso, and settled permanently in 1892. See Stockigt, Jan, ‘Melbourne in Love with Dvořák: 1885–1886 (and Beyond)’, Hudební věda 40 (Prague, 2003): 111–28Google Scholar.
55 Born in Croatia in 1843, di Murska was an internationally acclaimed operatic star who also appeared locally with the Lyster opera company. She appeared only once with the MPS, in The Creation at the Town Hall on 13 September 1875. Peake described her as ‘[p]erhaps the greatest of all singers engaged by the Society’. Peake, Historical Souvenir, quoted in Carne, Century of Harmony: 87.
56 Dame (1925) Emma Albani (1847–1930) appeared twice with the MPS in 1898 and sang with the Williamson opera company. Carne, , Century of Harmony: 294Google Scholar.
57 The operatic career of Elise Wiedermann (1851–1922) was notably at the Vienna State Opera. In Melbourne in 1883 she married the honorary consul for Austria-Hungary, Carl Pinschof, and left the stage. In 1895 she became principal teacher of singing at the new University of Melbourne Conservatorium and from 1900 at the Albert Street Conservatorium. Robinson, Suzanne, ‘Wiedermann, Elise’, OCAM: 587Google Scholar.
58 Sara Flower had a distinguished career as a concert singer in London before immigrating to Australia in 1850. Carne, , Century of Harmony: 294Google Scholar; Mackenzie, Barbara and Mackenzie, Findlay, Singers of Australia (Melbourne, 1967): 259Google Scholar; Hall, Humphrey and Cripps, Alfred J., The Romance of the Sydney Stage (Sydney, 1996): 135Google Scholar.
59 English baritone Charles Santley (1834–1922) appeared in Elijah as the Prophet (28 May 1889) at the Town Hall and in three extra concerts with the Victorian Orchestra in 1889 and 1890. Carne, , Century of Harmony: 113, 294Google Scholar.
60 Goddard was a pupil of Kalkbrenner and Thalberg who appeared at an MPS concert on 26 September 1874. See Peake, , Historical Souvenir: 18Google Scholar; Carne, , Century of Harmony: 86Google Scholar; Teniswood, Arabella, ‘The 1870s Australian tours of Madame Arabella Goddard’, MMus diss., University of Melbourne, 2001Google Scholar.
61 Sir Charles Hallé (1819–95) toured Australia in 1891 as both pianist and conductor with his second wife, violinist Wilma Norman-Neruda. Carne, , Century of Harmony: 116Google Scholar.
62 Horace Stevens sang the Youth's part in Elijah to Santley's Prophet in the MPS performance of 23 January 1890. He was to sing the role of Elijah over 500 times and was in demand as a festival singer in Britain and America. Carne, , Century of Harmony, year listings 1890, 1900, 1901Google Scholar; Moresby, Isabelle, Australia Makes Music (London, 1948): 64–6Google Scholar.
67 For discussion of MPS performances of Australian compositions see Jennifer Royle, ‘Musical (Ad)venturers: Colonial Composers and Composition in Melbourne, 1870–1901’ (this issue).
70 ‘According to the first printed list, the orchestra consisted of six first violins, six seconds, and the rest in proportion.’ Peake, , Historical Souvenir: 33Google Scholar.
72 Radic, PhD diss., vol. 1, sec. 1.
73 Radic, Thérèse, ‘The Victorian Orchestra 1889–91: In the Wake of the Centennial Exhibition Orchestra, Melbourne, 1888’, Australasian Music Research 1 (1996): 13–101.Google Scholar Clarke was a theatre conductor with something of a reputation in London.
74 Radic, PhD diss., vol. 1, sec. 2.
75 In 1895 Marshall-Hall established the Conservatorium attached to the University of Melbourne, but his tenure was not renewed in 1900 in the wake of a scandal. In 1900 he established a rival conservatorium. Radic, Thérèse, ‘G.W.L. Marshall-Hall,’ ADB, vol. 10Google Scholar; Radic, Thérèse, Marshall-Hall, G.W.L.: A Biography and Catalogue (Melbourne, 2002)Google Scholar; Radic, PhD diss., vol. 2, sec. 5.
82 London-born G.R.G. Pringle resigned from the MPS position due to ill health. Matthews, , Colonial Organs and Organbuilders: 74–5Google Scholar.
85 Lee (1837–97) was Irish born, but his parents were English. As a boy he trained as a chorister at Armagh Cathedral. He arrived in Melbourne in 1864. O'Neill, Sally and Radic, Thérèse, ‘David Lee’, ADB, vol. 5Google Scholar.
87 Peake is given as conductor of choir rehearsals with Alberto Zelman, and as organist. Official Record of the Centennial International Exhibition: 21.
88 Table Talk (18 Jan. 1889); Argus (30 Jan. 1889 and 6 Feb. 1889); Telegraph (18 Apr. 1889).
92 Stevens, ‘Joseph Summers’.
93 George Peake (1853–1933) arrived in Victoria as a child immigrant in 1859. Gibbney, H.J. and Smith, Ann G., eds, A Biographical Register 1788–1939: Notes from the Name Index of the Australian Dictionary of Biography (Canberra: Australian Dictionary of Biography, 1987): 170Google Scholar.
103 For further information on the Melbourner Deutsche Liedertafel see Kerry Murphy, ‘“Volk von Brüdern”: The German-speaking Liedertafel in Melbourne’ (this issue).
104 A programme for the first concert under that title, dated 30 October 1905, confirms this. MetL Annual General Meeting Report (hereafter AR), 1891–92 (1874–1903). All archival materials cited here and below are part of the Liedertafel Collection, Grainger Museum, University of Melbourne.
105 Mitglieder Liste der Melbourne [sic] Deutschen Liedertafel. The earliest dated entry is 15 August 1868 and the last is in 1878. There are 111 names without occupations listed and a total, both German and English, of 516 members who joined in this ten-year period. Addresses are usually those of city business places, not home addresses, implying that most of the members worked in the city. A very few could be said to be engaged in manual labour. Many were engaged in trades.
106 MelbL Minutes, 13, 27 Jan. and 28 Feb. 1879 (1878–95).
107 MelbL AR (1880–1904).
108 MelbL Concert programme, 13 May 1889.
109 MelbL Minutes, 29 Sep. 1885 (1878–95).
110 It had received official status by being elected annually and requiring each member to pay yearly fees of 10/6. MelbL AR, 1890–91 (1880–1904).
111 MelbL Minutes, 12 Feb. 1880 (1878–95).
112 MelbL AR, 9 Mar. 1880 (1880–1904).
113 MelbL AR, pamphlet dated 21 Mar. 1882 (1880–1904).
114 MelbL AR, 1882 (1880–1904).
115 Argus (16 Feb. 1886).
116 MelbL AR, 1888–89 (1880–1904).
117 Argus (4 Oct. 1881).
118 MetL AR, 1894–95 (1874–1903).
119 MelbL AR, 1890–91 (1880–1904).
120 This was a benefit for the widow of deceased member, Mr J.M. Nelson. Herald (4 Oct. 1881), MetL Scrapbook (1881–83). For further discussion of smoke nights see Jennifer Hill, ‘“A Source of Enjoyment”: The Social Dimension of the Melbourne Liedertafels in the Late Nineteenth Century’ (this issue).
121 MetL Concert programmes, 1883–96.
122 MetL AR, 1876 with an undated modern clipping, loose (1874–1903).
123 All known programmes have been entered into the Database of Melbourne Concert Life, housed at the Centre for Studies in Australian Music, University of Melbourne. A list of concerts given and assisted at from 1888 to 1902 is given for the Melbourne Liedertafel and the Metropolitan Liedertafel in Radic, PhD diss., vol. 2, 596–600.
124 The choir numbers are recorded in the MetL ARs and in programmes, but the figures given are not consistent.
125 MetL AR, 1875–76 and 1879–80 (1874–1903).
127 MetL AR, 1881–82 and 1883–84 (1874–1903).
128 MelbL AR (1880–1904).
129 For a detailed discussion of programme design and repertoire see Sue Cole ‘“As Much by Force of Circumstances as by Ambition”: The Programming Practices of the Melbourne Liedertafel Societies, 1880–1905’ (this issue).
130 MelbL Minutes, 25 Nov. 1885, possibly wrongly dated as it lies in the 1884 context (1878–95).
131 MelbL Minutes, 8 Mar. 1886 and 24 Apr. 1888 (1878–95).
132 MetL AR, 1888–89 (1874–1903).
133 MelbL Minutes, 1 Apr. 1889 (1878–95).
134 MetL AR, 3 Oct. 1876 and 1883–84 (1874–1903); MetL Concert programmes, 1884.
137 For biographical information see Mackerness, E.D., ‘James Hamilton Clarke’, NG (2001)Google Scholar.
138 Nash, William P., Music in the Cabbage Garden: Pioneers of Music in Victoria (Prahran, 1983): 362.Google Scholar
141 MelbL Minutes, 2 Jul. 1888 (1878–95).
142 MelbL Minutes, 23 Aug. 1888 (1878–95).
143 MelbL AR, 1888–89 (1880–1904). This report also made the extravagant claim that the musical success of all Australia was due to the Liedertafels.
144 MelbL AR, 1888–89 (1880–1904).
145 Daily Telegraph (16 Sep. 1879); Argus (16 Sep. 1879).
146 MelbL Minutes, 23 Dec. 1879 and 23 Nov. 1880 (1878–95).
147 MelbL AR, 1890–91 (1880–1904). Radic, PhD diss., vol. 1, sec. 2.
148 Both sexes were members of this group. MetL AR, 1889–90 (1874–1903).
149 MetL AR, 1883–84 (1874–1903).
150 MelbL Minutes, 9 Sep. 1879 (1878–95).
151 Daily Telegraph (25 Oct. 1881); Age (25 Oct. 1881).
152 MetL AR, 1881–82 (1874–1903). For the programmes played, venues played in and groups played with, see Radic, MMus diss.: 522–3. See also Dowell, Richard M., ‘The Mendelssohn Quintette Club of Boston’, PhD diss., Kent State University, 1999Google Scholar.
153 Ryan, Thomas, ‘Musical Meanders’, Boston Transcript (12 May 1882) (MetL Scrapbook (1881–83)).Google Scholar
154 For example Julius Siede donated his two cantatas The Hymn to Night and Occultation of Orion and an arrangement of Here upon my Vessel's Deck. Alfred Plumpton donated the cantata The Apotheosis of Hercules, words by Edwin Exon. MelbL AR, 1881–82 (1880–1904).
155 As an example, Julius Siede dedicated a waltz, ‘Happy Hours’, to the wife of the patron of the Melbourne Liedertafel, then simply the Hon. W.T. and Mrs Clarke. He presented it at a concert prior to their departure for England. This ensured that it would be played from time to time as a compliment to Mrs Clarke.
156 See Royle, ‘Musical (Ad)venturers’.
157 Love suggests that Link was engaged by W.S. Lyster especially for this production. It was given eight years behind New York but apparently ahead of any other cities in the Americas, the first production in New Orleans being in the following December. The aim was to follow Wagner's intentions as closely as was possible, hence the importation of Link, who was acquainted with the authentic Wagnerian tradition. Orchard, , Music in Australia: 150Google Scholar; Love, , Golden Age: 252–4Google Scholar.
158 MelbL Minutes, 23 Mar. 1886 and 12 Jul. 1888 (1878–95).
159 MetL AR, 1886–87 (1874–1903).
160 MelbL AR, 1886–87 (1880–1904).
161 MelbL Scrapbook, undated clipping in 1889 context (1879–89).
162 MelbL Minutes, 16 Jan. 1883 (1878–95).
163 MetL AR, 1891–92 (1874–1903).
164 MetL Scrapbook, undated clipping, ‘Ladies Column’ (ref 147) in 1883 context (1881–83).
165 Musical World (14 Aug. 1883).
166 MelbL AR, 1889–90 (1880–1904).
167 MelbL Minutes, 3 Apr. 1891 (1878–95).
168 MelbL AR, 1890–91 (1880–1904).
169 MelbL Scrapbook, undated newspaper clipping (1892–93).
170 In 1901 this prince returned as the Prince of Wales to attend the official opening of the first Australian Parliament in the same building. George was the inheriting son of King Edward VII, and grandson of Queen Victoria.
171 Radic, MMus diss., vol. 2: 244–6.
172 Australasian (9 Jul. 1881); MetL Scrapbook, Argus clipping hand dated 20 June 1882 (ref 66), the date however being in doubt (1881–83).
173 MetL AR, 1894–95 (1874–1903).
174 MetL AR, 1881–82 (1874–1903).
175 Argus (27 Sep. 1881).
176 MetL AR, 1890–91 (1874–1903).
177 MetL AR, 1881–82 (1874–1903); Geelong Advertiser (1 Jul. 1882).
178 MetL AR, 1883–84 (1874–1903).
179 MetL AR, 1886–87 (1874–1903).
180 MetL AR, 3 Oct. 1876, 28 Sep. 1880 and 1883–84 (1874–1903).
181 Argus (4 Oct. 1883).
182 Federal Australian (7 Apr. 1881).
183 MelbL Scrapbook, undated clipping from Australasian in 1880–81 context (1879–89).
184 Evening Herald (4 Oct. 1881).
185 Daily Telegraph (17 Nov. 1891).
186 Daily Telegraph (23 Feb. 1892).
187 Argus (17 Mar. 1894).
188 Argus (17 Mar. 1894).
189 Mackerness, ‘James Hamilton Clarke’.
190 Henry Keiley (1831–89) arrived in 1852 and was involved in mining. He was also a choir conductor and musician and music critic for the Argus between 1869 and 1889. Gibbney, and Smith, , Biographical Register: 386Google Scholar.
191 Keiley, Henry, ‘The Tendency of Popular Taste in Music and How to Elevate It’, The Victorian Review (1 Mar. 1880): 823–5.Google Scholar
192 The Hallés had been in Brisbane and Sydney before coming to Melbourne. Argus (4 Aug. 1890).
193 Noel Wilmott notes that there are Liedertafels still in Tanunda and in Adelaide. In Melbourne there was, in 1993, a Liedertafel Arion. All of them appear to be German societies. ‘Liedertafel’, OCAM: 343.