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Promoting high culture: The evolution of the Brisbane Musical Union, 1872–98

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 June 2020

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Abstract

This article analyses the musical work of the Brisbane Musical Union (BMU) between its founding in 1872 and the consolidation of its position by 1898. During this period, the BMU benefited from the dedicated leadership of its main conductor, R. T. Jefferies, who drew upon his high standing as a violinist, ensemble player and conductor in Brisbane to present regular choral concerts, mainly comprising oratorios, with an amateur choir. Despite financial challenges, difficulties over rehearsal and concert venues, periodic problems concerning the choice of repertoire, an insufficient number of available professional musicians and competition from rival local musical societies, Jefferies’ work with the BMU promoted an important aspect of high musical culture to the public and laid the foundations for further development of classical musical performance in Brisbane.

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© The Author(s) 2020

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References

Notes

1 Richard Waterhouse, Private pleasures, public leisure: A history of Australian popular culture since 1788 (Melbourne: Longman, 1995), pp. 132–3. The suggestions made by the reviewers for the Queensland Review have helped shape the publication of this paper.

2 A brief retrospect of the Brisbane Musical Union, from the date of its foundation, 29 September 1872, to its entry on its tenth season, 1 January 1882, together with various reference lists (Brisbane: Brisbane Musical Union, 1882); Robert Dalley-Scarlett, ‘Music in Brisbane’, Journal of the Royal Historical Society of Queensland (hereafter JRHSQ), 5(3) (1954), 1088.

3 See the research articles on choral and concert life in late nineteenth-century Melbourne in Nineteenth Century Music Review, 2(2) (2005).

4 Raymond Evans, A history of Queensland (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), p. 90; Ross Fitzgerald, Lyndon Megarrity and David Symons, Made in Queensland: A new history (Queensland: University of Queensland Press, 2009), pp. 62, 64; F. J. Erickson, ‘Brisbane music in the 1880s’, in Warren A. Bebbington (ed.), Sound and reason: Music and essays in honour of Gordon D. Spearritt (Brisbane: University of Queensland Press, 1992), 12; Helen Penridge, ‘Echoes of home: Park music culture in colonial Brisbane’, Queensland History Journal, 22(6) (2014), 468–79.

5 Peter Roennfeldt, ‘Music by the few for the many: Chamber music in colonial Queensland’, Queensland Review, 19(2) (2012), 178–81; Ronald Lawson, Brisbane in the 1890s: A study of an Australian urban society (Brisbane: University of Queensland Press, 1973), pp. 193, 222, 225; Jenny Dawson, ‘Voices of gold – constitutions of steel: Opera singers visiting Brisbane in the 1870s and 1880s’, in Bebbington, Sound and reason, 10.

6 Warren Bebbington, ‘Music in 19th-century Brisbane: The German impact’, in Manfred Jurgensen and Alan Corkhill (eds), The German presence in Queensland over the last 150 years (Brisbane: Department of German, University of Queensland, 1988), 267.

7 Lawson, Brisbane in the 1890s, p. 222. The first Liedertafels, a male society practising vocal music in four parts, were formed in Berlin in 1808: see Frederick J. Erickson, ‘The bands and orchestras of colonial Brisbane’, PhD thesis (Brisbane: University of Queensland, 1987), 235, www.textqueensland.com.au.

8 Pugh’s Queensland Almanac, Law Calendar, Directory, Coast Guide and Gazetteer for 1884 (Brisbane: T. P. Pugh, 1884), 83–4.

9 Peter Roennfeldt, ‘Concert music in early Brisbane’, in Dorottya Fabian and John Napier (eds), Diversity in Australia’s music: Themes past, present, and for the future (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2018), 56.

10 Waterhouse, Private pleasures, public leisure, p. 137; W. Arundel Orchard, Music in Australia: More than 150 years of development (Melbourne: Georgian House, 1952), p. 35.

11 Peter Roennfeldt, Northern lyrebird: the contribution to Queensland’s music by its conservatorium, 1957-2007 (Brisbane: Australian Academic Press, 2012).

12 Geoffrey Bolton, The muses in quest of a patron (Perth: School of Music, University of Western Australia, 1996).

13 Erickson, ‘The bands and orchestras of colonial Brisbane’, 66, 74–5, 78–9, 119.

14 ‘Philharmonic Society’s concert’, Brisbane Courier (hereafter BC), 23 August 1862, 3.

15 Erickson, ‘Bands and orchestras’, 74–6.

16 Lawson, Brisbane in the 1890s, p. 226; ‘The Musical Union and “Elijah”’, BC, 31 October 1873, 3; ‘Music’, The Queenslander (Brisbane), 28 September 1872, 3.

17 A retrospect and resumé of the work done by the Brisbane Musical Union 1872–1906 (Brisbane: Hodgson Press, 1906), p. 7. The John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland (hereafter cited as JOL) has a copy of this rare printed pamphlet.

18 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, The Week (Brisbane), 20 April 1878, 14.

19 ‘Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D’, BC, 16 December 1872, 3. For another reference to ‘high-class music,’ see ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, BC, 4 November 1873, 3.

20 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, BC, 14 January 1875, 3.

21 Roennfeldt, ‘Music by the few for the many’, 179–80.

22 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, The Telegraph (Brisbane), 11 January 1892, 6. The records kept by the BMU before 1893 were swept away in the flood of that year: see JOL, OM 65-14, box 8559, large printed sheet on the BMU’s history, published c. 1906.

23 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, The Queenslander (Brisbane), 16 January 1875, 2.

24 ‘Weekly epitome’, The Telegraph (Brisbane), 23 December 1872, 3; ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, The Telegraph (Brisbane), 18 October 1906, 4.

25 A retrospect and resumé, p. 8.

26 A retrospect and resumé, p. 9.

27 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, BC, 8 August 1884, 5. For another reference to a BMU concert attracting a fashionable audience, see ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, The Week (Brisbane), 27 December 1884, 4. The first Albert Hall was later renamed the Gaiety Theatre and even later demolished, as opposed to the next one of that name built in 1901.

28 ‘Queensland’, Evening Journal (Adelaide), 8 August 1884, 3.

29 ‘Musical echoes’, The Queenslander (Brisbane), 16 August 1884, 260.

30 Robert K. Boughen, ‘Jefferies, Richard Thomas (1841–1920)’, in Bede Nairn and Geoffrey Serle (eds), Australian Dictionary of Biography (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1983), 9, 472–3; Ann K. Wentzel, ‘The first hundred years of music in Australia, 1788–1888’, MA thesis (Sydney: University of Sydney, 1963), 111–19; ‘St John’s, Brisbane’, BC, 3 September 1873, 3.

31 Roennfeldt, ‘Music by the few for the many’, 180-1. See also Peter Roennfeldt, ‘The power of persistence: Musical advocates north of the Tweed’, Queensland Review 18(1) (2011), 43–4.

32 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, The Week (Brisbane), 20 January 1877, 18.

33 ‘The Brisbane Courier’, BC, 26 August 1875, 2.

34 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, The Telegraph (Brisbane), 4 November 1873, 3.

35 Boughen, ‘Jefferies, Richard Thomas’, 3.

36 A retrospect and resumé, pp. 14–17.

37 A retrospect and resumé, pp. 15–17.

38 Roennfeldt, ‘Music by the few for the many’, 182.

39 ‘Music’, BC, 14 January 1880, 2.

40 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, BC, 16 January 1885, 5.

41 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, The Week (Brisbane), 11 December 1886, 8.

42 ‘Musical echoes’, BC, 20 December 1886, 3.

43 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, BC, 13 January 1887, 5.

44 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, BC, 19 October 1894, 6; ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, The Telegraph (Brisbane), 1 May 1896, 5.

45 Erickson, ‘Bands and orchestras’, 293; C. G. Austin, ‘Early history of music in Queensland’, JRHSQ, 1(4) (1961–62), 1055; Barbara J. Hebden, ‘The life and influence of Mr Richard Thomas Jefferies’, M.Mus. thesis (Brisbane: University of Queensland, 1980), 31–46; ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, BC, 21 October 1898, 7.

46 Musical Times of Queensland, 1 November 1890. The only surviving copy of this publication is deposited at JOL.

47 ‘Musical Union’, The Telegraph (Brisbane), 15 January 1892, 3.

48 ‘The Brisbane Musical Union’, BC, 15 January 1889, 6.

49 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, BC, 8 August 1884, 5.

50 ‘The Musical Union’, The Week (Brisbane), 12 January 1878, 16.

51 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, BC, 4 November 1873, 3.

52 ‘Concert recollections’, BC, 24 May 1932, 5.

53 ‘Musical echoes’, BC, 20 December 1886, 3.

54 A chronological list of the BMU’s concerts, repertoire and venues, 1872–1900 is available in Erickson, ‘Bands and orchestras’, 474–88.

55 Lawson, Brisbane in the 1890s, p. 223; A retrospect and resumé, p. 12; ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, BC, 12 January 1878, 6; ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, BC, 13 January 1888, 6. For a description of some of these venues, see Erickson, ‘Bands and orchestras’, 190–3.

56 ‘The Monday popular concerts’, BC, 16 September 1873, 3.

57 ‘The Brisbane Musical Union’, BC, 26 October 1889, 5.

58 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, The Queenslander (Brisbane), 16 January 1875, 2.

59 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, The Telegraph (Brisbane), 13 January 1888, 2.

60 Erickson, ‘Brisbane Music in the 1880s’, 12.

61 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, BC, 3 September 1873, 5; ‘The complimentary concert to Mr R. T. Jefferies’, BC, 26 November 1873, 2.

62 Erickson, ‘Bands and orchestras’, 134, 207.

63 ‘Current news’, The Queenslander, 27 December 1873, 2; ‘Haydn’s “Creation”’, BC, 1 August 1874, 5; ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, BC, 1 November 1876, 2; ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, The Week (Brisbane), 20 January 1877, 18; ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, The Telegraph (Brisbane), 8 August 1884, 5.

64 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, The Queenslander (Brisbane), 27 December 1884, 1031.

65 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, BC, 1 May 1896, 6; A retrospect and resumé, p. 15.

66 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, BC, 11 June 1898, 6; ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, The Telegraph (Brisbane), 21 October 1889, 3; ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, The Week (Brisbane), 27 December 1884, 4; ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, BC, 29 June 1888, 6; ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, BC, 28 October 1892, 6; ‘Musical Union Concert’, BC, 7 July 1896, 6.

67 ‘Jubilee Musical Festival’, BC, 24 June 1887, 5.

68 The other was a piece of the same name by Alan Walters: see Bebbington, ‘Music in 19th-century Brisbane’, 273.

69 ‘Music and drama’, Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 1 August 1891, 9.

70 A retrospect and resumé, p. 10.

71 ‘The Brisbane Courier’, BC, 24 June 1889, 4.

72 ‘The Brisbane Musical Union’, The Queenslander (Brisbane), 7 July 1877, 15.

73 ‘The Musical Union Concert’, The Telegraph (Brisbane), 13 July 1877, 3.

74 ‘Musical Union Concert’, BC, 18 April 1874, 4.

75 Erickson, ‘Bands and orchestras’, 140.

76 ‘The Musical Union’, The Week (Brisbane), 9 June 1877, 21.

77 A retrospect and resumé, p. 15.

78 Erickson, ‘Bands and orchestras’, 131, 140, 224, 226, 245–8; ‘South Brisbane Musical Union’, The Week (Brisbane), 23 December 1882, 4; ‘South Brisbane Musical Society’, The Telegraph (Brisbane), 2 May 1883, 2; ‘South Brisbane Musical Society’, The Telegraph (Brisbane), 13 February 1884, 2.

79 ‘Brisbane Orchestral Society’, The Week (Brisbane), 14 July 1883, 8.

80 Erickson, ‘Brisbane music in the 1880s’, 13.

81 ‘The Brisbane Musical Union’, BC, 15 January 1889, 6; Erickson, ‘Bands and orchestras’, 234.

82 ‘Musical notes’, The Week (Brisbane), 14 June 1890, 3.

83 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, BC, 21 August 1891, 4.

84 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, BC, 15 January 1892, 6.

85 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, BC, 20 January 1893, 6.

86 Lawson, Brisbane in the 1890s, p. 25.

87 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, BC, 2 February 1897, 2.

88 Lawson, Brisbane in the 1890s, p. 226.

89 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, BC, 26 January 1894, 6.

90 ‘Brisbane Musical Union and the Liedertafel’, BC, 3 December 1890, 3.

91 ‘Music’, The Queenslander (Brisbane), 4 January 1890, 23.

92 ‘The Complimentary Concert to Mr R. T. Jefferies’, The Telegraph (Brisbane), 26 November 1873, 2; ‘Current events’, The Telegraph (Brisbane), 25 October 1873, 2.

93 ‘Music notes’, The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser, 5 December 1874, 727.

94 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, BC, 13 January 1877, 5; ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, The Week (Brisbane), 20 January 1877, 18 (quotation).

95 Boughen, ‘Jefferies’, 472–3.

96 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, BC, 11 January 1889, 6.

97 ‘Musical Union’, BC, 31 January 1896, 6.

98 Erickson, ‘Bands and orchestras of colonial Brisbane’, 132.

99 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, BC, 13 November 1883, 5.

100 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, BC, 13 November 1883, 5.

101 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, The Telegraph (Brisbane), 10 April 1891.

102 Bebbington, ‘Music in 19th-century Brisbane,’ 268–9.

103 JOL, Henrietta Willmore Biography, c. 1940, OM 80-54. For a biography of the pianist, see Peter Roennfeldt, Madame Mallalieu: An inspiring musician and her legacy for Queensland (Brisbane: Copyright, 2015).

104 A retrospect and resumé, p. 9.

105 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, BC, 12 January 1883, 5.

106 ‘The Brisbane Musical Union’, BC, 26 October 1889, 5.

107 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, BC, 3 December 1886, 5. For a similar comment about the deficiency of soloists, see ‘Musical Union concert’, The Queenslander, 23 April 1887, 646.

108 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, The Telegraph (Brisbane), 12 August 1892, 2.

109 ‘The Brisbane Musical Union’, BC, 13 January 1888, 6.

110 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, The Telegraph (Brisbane), 16 January 1885, 5.

111 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, The Week (Brisbane), 27 December 1884, 4.

112 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, The Week (Brisbane), 24 January 1885, 8.

113 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, The Telegraph (Brisbane), 12 August 1892, 2.

114 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, BC, 15 October 1894, 4.

115 ‘Musical Union Concert’, BC, 27 April 1894, 6.

116 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, BC, 11 January 1889, 6.

117 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, BC, 15 January 1889, 6.

118 ‘Musical echoes’, BC, 11 August 1888, 4.

119 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, BC, 16 January 1891, 6.

120 ‘Brisbane Musical Union,’ BC, 29 January 1897, 6.

121 A retrospect and resumé, p. 13.

122 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, BC, 13 January 1888, 6.

123 ‘Brisbane Musical Union,’ BC, 8 February 1897, 2.

124 ‘Brisbane Musical Union,’ The Telegraph (Brisbane), 21 December 1894, 7.

125 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, BC, 12 December 1894, 6.

126 A retrospect and resumé, p. 10.

127 Erickson, ‘Bands and orchestras,’ 300, 317.

128 ‘Haydn’s “Creation”’, The Queenslander, 8 August 1874, 2.

129 ‘The Brisbane Musical Union’, The Week (Brisbane), 20 April 1878, 14.

130 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, BC, 29 August 1894, 6.

131 A retrospect and resumé, p. 13.

132 ‘Musical Union prospects’, BC, 27 February 1886, 5.

133 ‘The Brisbane Courier’, BC, 30 March 1880, 2.

134 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, BC, 12 December 1894, 6.

135 Waterhouse, Private pleasures, public leisure, p. 138.

136 ‘Music notes’, The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser, 5 December 1874, 727.

137 The Musical Times of Queensland, 1(2), 1 November 1890.

138 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, The Telegraph (Brisbane), 12 August 1892, 2.

139 ‘Brisbane Musical Union’, BC, 16 November 1897, 2.

140 Erickson, ‘Bands and orchestras’, 133.