Fremantle Stuff > Early Days: Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Western Australian Historical Society
E. C. Clifton, 'Music and the stage in the early days', (Part 1), Early Days, vol. 1, part 8: 1-18. [Read before the Society, September 26, 1930.]
E. C. Clifton, 'Music and the stage in the early days', Part 2, Early Days, vol. 1, part 9: 16-33. [Read before the Society, June 26, 1931.]
The Swan River Colonists had to make their own amusements. It was many years before any travelling artists came to Western Australia, but throughout her history the Colonv has been blessed with more than a fair share of musical talent among her people. One cannot but be struck with the fact that for a small community Western Australia has a fine record of musical matters, especially towards the end of last century, when the Musical Union and the Amateur Operatic Society flourished, and the Fremantle Orchestral Society came into being. One could spend a profitable and fascinating time recalling the triumphs of these societies. Just to mention their productions and to list the many well-known names among their performers would be a delight, but these do not come within the scope of this paper. I am to confine myself to-night to the early days.
Many of the earliest settlers brought pianos with them, and it has always seemed to me particularly mournful to think of the fate that befell some of these instruments. We have been told they were strewn with other expensive but useless furniture on the beach at Fremantle, to be ruined by exposure. However, on the other hand, it is not difficult to imagine the joy their pianos must have been to those who were able to save them. Doubtless they realised the truth of Addison’s familiar words:
“Music, the greatest good that mortals know,
“And all of heaven we have below,”
As early as May 20, 1830, G. F. Moore writes: “At Fremantle, at the house of Mr. Leake, in company with Mr. and Mrs. McDermott, who have lately arrived, we had some airs sweetly played on the pianoforte by Mrs. McDermott, most of the music from Don Giovanni, which was a treat here.” And again on May 22. “A few hours agreeably at Mr. Leake’s, where Mrs. McDermott again gratified us with some excellent music on the pianoforte, with a flute accompaniment.”
Mr. Moore himself played the flute. He also wrote verses. He wrote a song, “Western Australia for Me,” to the tune “Ballinamona Oro,” and sang it at the Governor’s Ball on September 3, 1831. We hoped to have had this song sung here to-night but we have been unable to trace the tune. Mr. Alfred Hawes Stone, who arrived in 1829, was another flautist, and a Mr. Taylor (who figures prominently in Mr. Stone’s diary, which was read before the Society last year) was another. Mrs. Edward Shenton heard him play when she was a young girl, and she says he played most beautifully. His wife was a very good pianist. The Spanish guitar was also fashionable in the early part of last century. My grandfather brought one out with him, and I have heard his nieces say they used to have jolly impromptu dances at Australind to the music of his guitar. Mrs. Captain Molloy, writing on November 7, 1832, says: “I have sent for a piano from the Cape, and hope to send you some most beautiful and melodious airs from a Mrs. Smith, a Spanish lady, who plays divinely on the guitar.” (By the way, in those days, of course, there were no music shops here, and people used to copy their music most industriously. There are some specimens on exhibition here this evening.) On November 20, 1833, after the Bussells’ fire, Mrs. Molloy mentions “Bessy’s piano, which is placed in my sitting room You may well conceive my gladness at this acquisition, as I have not heard the sound of music for 4 years.”
Nathaniel Ogle in his book (dated 1839), talking of the women of Western Australia, says: “The elegances of life are sedulously cultivated by them, and constitute a distinguished feature of their intercourse. .... The same accomplishments which here (England) add so great a charm to female society are made a part of education there, and music, drawing, etc., are matters of routine.”
Besides the classical music, which belongs to all time, the drawing-room pianists of the early days used to perform innumerable operatic fantasias and themes with variations ever more and more elaborate and high falutin. Part songs, glees, choruses, and ballads were very popular.
On the occasion of Captain Irwin’s departure on leave, a dinner was given (September 27, 1833). The song, “The King, God bless him,” was sung, following Lieutenant-Governor Daniell’s toast, “good crops and good prices.” Sandwiches in between the speeches followed the songs, “The Sea, the Sea, the open Sea,” “Away, Away to the Mountain Glen,” and “Gaily now our moment’s roll.” My authority (the “Perth Gazette”! concludes: “Several other toasts and many excellent songs were sung; a portion of the company having retired about 12 o’clock” [the party assembled at 6 o’clock] “the ranks were closed up and the company continued to enjoy the hilarities of the evening.”
Every now and then a ball and supper took place, but the supper seems to have been considered more important than the music, for the music is mentioned but seldom. To celebrate the First of June (in addition to a regatta and horse-races) there was always a ball. Here is a specimen report from the “Perth Gazette and W.A. Journal” of June 8, 1839: “The ball, too big for Mr. Leeder’s Hotel, was held in the Public offices, fixed upon as affording the best accommodation for so large a party. His Excellency the Governor’s permission for their being so appropriated, under the emergency of the case, was most willingly conceded. . . . Dancing commenced about 10 o’clock and was kept up with spirit until about half past one, when the party retired to the supper room. The display was not so elegant as we have been accustomed to see it, and the viands were not of that select description which needed ‘no bush.’ However, there were smiling faces and gladdened hearts round the board, and all went off most cheerfully. . . . Dancing resumed and kept up until a late hour in the morning, when the party separated, expressing themselves highly delighted with the entertainments of the night.”
In 1845 it was announced: “On Wednesday, May 7,
. . . a selection of Sacred Music in aid of the funds for the purchase of a Church organ, or other suitable instrument, will be performed in St. George’s Church, Perth. Tickets of admission, 3/- each; children under 14 years of age, half-price; may be purchased at the office of the ‘Perth Gazette and Inquirer.’ Also books of the concert, 6d. each. No money taken at the doors. Doors open at half past 6 p.m. Concert to commence at 7 precisely.” A person signing himself “Ada” wrote to the Editor of the “Perth Gazette,” hailing the approaching concert with great pleasure, but pointing out objections (1) to the style of music selected and (2) to the concert being given in the Church. He feared the number of vocalists (6 ladies and 7 gentlemen) too small to give proper effect to sacred music, hastening to add, “Of course, I mean the higher branches of sacred music as contradistinguished to the drone produced by the contact of pokers with tongs to make bees hive, commonly called Psalm-singing. To the individual excellence of our performers I am always willing to pay deep homage, and as an amateur choir they cannot be excelled. . .” He goes on to advise a concert in the Courthouse of music in “that style to which alone they have power sufficient to ensure complete success. English songs and glees I have heard performed in the Colony with an excellence which I have seldom heard surpassed in amateur society. .
Commenting on his remarks, the editor commends him for his “zeal in promoting discussion which we anticipate will lead to the desired end, that of practical knowledge of music, which is gaining ground with us day by dajr. The junior branches of our community evince great latent capabilities in this science, and their proper direction rests entirely upon those of experience, and we are satisfied the choir will not fail in giving a correct perception of the subjects before them, although there may be a deficiency of force to give full development to the majestic choruses proposed to be performed.”
“Ada” was sharply answered by “Cecelia” in the next issue of the “Gazette.” “Cecelia” expressed the hope that “the talented amateurs . . . will give our little public a treat of higher music in the Courthouse, more in the taste of the fastidious ‘Ada', perhaps, if he will condescend to listen to it.”
The concert was a great success. We are told: “The solos, duets, trios, and quartets were executed in a style that could hardly be surpassed by professional singers; in fact, the auditors” [described as “numerous, respectable and decorous”] “one and all seemed highly pleased. ... In noticing the effect produced by the choir we can only say we were delighted as well as surprised to find the choruses so ably sustained by so few voices. . . . The selection of sacred music was well chosen, as the follow-ing programme will show, and will alone be sufficient to convince a musician that much talent was required for the proper execution of the pieces selected.”
The programme was in 2 parts, comprising 9 items in the first and 10 in the second, and concluding with Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus from “The Messiah.” Part I. opened with one of Beethoven’s Symphonies. Next came a Sanctus by Dr. Carmody, followed by a duet by Beethoven. Then Handel’s recitative, “Comfort ye,” and the air and chorus, “Ev’ry Valley,” and “And the Glory of the Lord,” a duet by Blake, an air from Handel’s “Sanson,” another air and chorus, Moore’s “Sound the loud timbrel o’er Egypt’s dark sea,” a Terzetto by Sard, and a chorus from Handel’s “Coronation Anthem.” In part II. Handel’s Pastoral Symphony was followed by the recitative and chorus, “There were Shepherds abiding in the fields,” from “The Messiah.” Next came “Sound an alarm” from Handel’s “Judas Maccabaeus,” a quartet from Mozart’s Requiem, a chorus from Graun’s Te Deum, a duet from “Judas Maccabaeus,” air and trio by Fitzpatrick (“Father of Mercy”), air and chorus, Luther’s Hymn, another recitative and air from “The Messiah,” and, finally, the Hallelujah Chorus. As usual, the newspaper does not give the performers’ names, but' from Mr. Patrick’s “Short History of St. George’s Cathedral” we learn that the original choir consisted of Messrs. Symrnons, Schoales, Nash, Webb, McFarlane and Habgood, and Mrs. Symmons, Mrs. Wittenoom, Mrs. Luke Leake, Mrs. R. Nash, Mrs. Maycock, Miss Symmons, and Miss Trigg; and the players were Messrs. F. & C. Wittenoom, Miss Torrens, Miss Nairn, and Miss A. Trigg. These probably were the performers of the concert, which was, by request, repeated the following Wednesday, when “the members of the committee being desirous of meeting both the wishes and
the means of the public/' admission was one shilling. Noticing the repetition, the “Gazette" says: “We agree with our contemporary [“The Inquirer"] that much credit is due to the ladies and gentlemen for their obliging attention to afford so rational and pleasing recreation. We feel assured that an earnestry of purpose has effected more than any ostentation (considering many of them were entitled to extreme merit), and entitles them to our highest encomiums."
In September it was announced that a public concert was to be given in the Courthouse. The old Courthouse (now the Arbitration Court) was used, not alone as a Courthouse, but for some time as a Church, and on many occasions for public meetings, theatrical performances, concerts, and lectures, until September, 1856, when it was converted into an immigration depot. In this concert of Wednesday, October 8, 1845, admission to the body of the Courthouse was 3/- and to the gallery 2/-; children under 12 years of age half-price. “Money will be taken at the door,” it was announced. “Entrance to the body of the house through the grand jury door. To the gallery through the great doors. N.B.—No repetition of this concert at reduced prices (as on a former occasion) will be given.” The concert was reported in the “Gazette” of October 11, 1845, as follows:
“The Concert.—This amusement came off with great effect on Wednesday last, this being the first public concert given in Perth. The object of this assemblage was truly laudable, that of obtaining a suitable instrument for St. George’s Church, and we hear with much satisfaction, that at intervals of about two months, several entertainments will be prepared in furtherance of the same object.
“To form an opinion of the success which attended this first effort, it was only necessary to look around you, to look at the joyous faces on either side. The audience was extremely attentive and evinced their good taste in selecting such portions of music for repetition as marked their discernment. The juveniles especially were highly delighted, and took every occasion to evince their approbation and boisterous mirth. But few of these promising youths had ever enjoyed the opportunity of witnessing a concert and ‘right merrily they did him
greet.' 'Thou art welcome,' they one and all responded, and thus commenced the first part.
The Red Cross Knight ...........................Calcott
The Banks of Allan Water..........................Hawes
Duet—Cornet and Piano
The Victories of Old England.....................Reddle
Branksome Tower................................ Clarke
Time has not tbinn’d............................Jackson
Duet—Cornet and Piano
Integer Vitae. (Hor. Ode 22)....................Fleming
Macgregor’s Gathering...........................A. Lee
La Mia Dorabella. (Cost fan tutte)................Mozart
Ah se de' mall mei (Tancredl)......................Arne
The Chough and Crow..............................Bishop
Duet—Cornet and Piano
The Butterfly Duet.................................Sale
The Rose of the Desert...........................Werner
Bid me discourse.................................Bishop
Now is the Month of Maying.......................Mortez [Morley?]
The last wars of Marmion.........................Braham
Blow gentle gales................................Bishop
Lutzow’s wild Hunt................................Weber
Vadasi via di qua .. Martini
God save the Queen
“Such a collection as we have here described is calculated to advance the musical strength of the younger branches in the art of music. It must be within the recollection of many persons, that only a few years back we had a piano at the ready beck and call of those who availed themselves of the offer. Now regard the result. In every house you find a piano and what does this arise from further than a desire to become proficient A musical education is by no means to be despised—the solace it imparts to the mind can alone be estimated by the admirer and lover of true science. That the effect may ultimately prove to be highly beneficial to our rising community, we know to be the most anxious desire of all those who have contributed their aid, and throw every attraction into the balance in the gratification of all.”
The second concert of this series, given on Friday, January 9, 1846, was “very creditably conducted; the programme good, comprising many choice pieces of acknowledged celebrity and the amateurs who kindly again offered their assistance to promote the object were deservedly received with well-merited applause and encored beyond all reasonable consideration for the lungs of the performers.” However, “house not so well filled” and “funds, consequently, but little augmented,” the report added.
The report of the concert on April 17, 1846, was a
little more personal: “Mr. Stone made his flute discourse most elequent music; indeed, the portion allotted to him was the most striking and distinguished in the programme of the evening. To the conductor, Mrs. Symmons, who had a most arduous task imposed upon her, that of accompanying every piece and taking part in each performance, the public are greatly indebted for the trouble and pains she has taken as well as to the gentlemen who lent their assistance."
At the concert of July 15, 1846, was noted an “exhibition of talent which few small committees can boast of. In the execution of the ensemble pieces it was thought a little weariness prevailed over both the performers and the audience."
Of the last but one, on October 8. 1846: “The amateurs seemed to be a little shaken by the paucity of attendance and encouragement given them. The effect was not alone unsatisfactory to themselves but diffused a gloom over the whole assembly."
Of the last concert on January 13, 1847, there was no report but in the issue of January 16 an article begins: “It is with much pleasure that we learn the arrival of an instrument by the Unicorn for the use of St. George’s Church, Perth, and do earnestly trust that the spirited and well-intentioned individual may be speedily reimbursed the outlay to which he has been put, in effecting this laudable object." Then follows a severe dressing-down of the church people who withheld their contributions.
A report of a sacred concert, on Wednesday, February 10, to raise more funds, states: “The instrument was for the first time heard in public and we think but few went away otherwise than delighted with the strength and tone of its sound; with the usual church choir it will be found to be everything that could be wished, although in the chorus pieces of the concert the vocalists often drowned it. . . Two acts, the first of which we thought rather dull, the second was far more effective. Receipts upwards of £24."
In May, 1846, a highly novel concert was given. Dom Salvado, builder of New Norcia, when the need for funds for his beloved work was pressing, hit on the expedient of giving a public piano concert in Perth single-handed.* Of this concert the “Gazette" says: “It was
* See “Journal & Proceedings,” W.A.H.S. Vol. I. Part II. p. 42.
a matter of surprise to us, in which opinion we have reason to believe the public concurred, that any individual should undertake the task of amusing an audience for three hours by his sole exertions. Such an end has seldom or ever been attained but we must pronounce this an unique performance. The piano was made to discourse most eloquent music under the touch of Mr. Salvado—sounds were produced which could not be anticipated out of any instrument. The principal selections were from works of the modern school; as they required action and the vocal addenda, the principal interest was lost. However, to make amends for this, the style of Mr. Salvado's playing, as far as could be effected on a piano, was most distinguished. Our younger branches of the community who have a taste for music, and are in the habit of practising, must have gleaned much intelligence and practical knowledge from this exhibition. It is much to be regretted that Mr. Salvado should resign himself to a bush life, where his eminent talents must be wasted; it is a serious loss to the community and we seriously apprehend that his enthusiasm in the cause he has undertaken will be ill requited. May it be otherwise, and restore to the civilised portion of this territory the talent of so deserving, meritorious, and distinguished an assistant in the cause of harmony whether with the blacks or the whites.”
As regards the reference in the “Gazette” report of October 11, 1845, to finding a “piano in every house,” several further extracts from contemporary newspapers may be of interest. There was an advertisement in the “Gazette” in 1833, as follows:—“Pianofortes tuned at £6/6/- per annum. Charles Gillingham begs to acquaint the Public that he will tune Pianos at the above charge by the year. Perth, September 4, 1833.”
In 1837 it was proposed that English piano makers should be told about “Mahogany” (i.e., jarrah). The editor is sure they “would take payment for pianos half in cash and half in mahogany, and thinks next season a cargo should be sent with our oil and wool.” I have not heard of jarrah being used in piano-making.
On July 6, 1839, appeared the following: “To be raffled for on the 18th August. A grand pianoforte lately imported, in twelve shares of 5 guineas each—one of J. H. R. Mott’s new 6-octave improved mahogany
grand pianofortes, French polished, with circular corners. If numbers are not taken up at the amount of £60, the raffle will not take place. Shares will be received by Mr. Shenton, Perth, or Dt Scott, Esq., Fremantle.” Samuel Moore in 1842 advertised for sale (among other things) “an improved cottage cabinet Pianoforte by a first-rate maker, warranted, price eighty guineas.” In 1839 a piano was included in effects sacrificed in a sale by the Sheriff. In 1843 the ship Lady Gray brought out quite a supply of musical things. For instance, J. W. Davey, of Fremantle, advertised, “Ex Lady Gray. A handsome cabinet pianoforte with carved legs, and another with plain legs, also Canterbury stools, tuning hammers, forks, wire and covered strings, and music, &c, &c.” Frederick Crofts, wine and spirit merchant and general dealer, in a list of goods ex Lady Gray, announces “to be sold on the most reasonable terms, carpet bags . . . gentlemen’s white hats, brown Holland, looking glasses. Accordions, loaf cheese. . . . York hams . . . also, wine and spirits.”
In his diary, A. H. Stone mentions 5 pianos come by the Dido. “Geo. Stone’s piano arrived in very good order,” he says. “It cost £25 in London, which is remarkably cheap as it appears to be a very good one indeed, and looks quite new. It is seven octaves. I tuned it.”
The original Town Hall Piano in Perth cost £200. This amount was raised by a group of amateurs called the Minstrels of the West.
* * *
PART II.—THE STAGE
The earliest public entertainments in Perth were native corroborees. The “Perth Gazette” of March 16, 1833, states: “At the solicitation of Yagan, Captain Ellis was induced to allow the Swan River and King George’s men to hold a corroboree in Mr. Purkis' yard on Wednesday evening last, which attracted an overflowing audience. . . . His Honor the Lieutenant-Governor (Captain Irwin) honored the natives with his presence, and we observed nearly the whole of the respectable inhabitants of Perth, including several ladies, all of whom seemed highly entertained. Yagan was master of the ceremonies and acquitted himself with infinite dignity and grace.” The ceremony of preparation for
the performance was “accompanied by a hurdy-gurdy chaunt chorused by the party.” (This Yagan, I might mention, was outlawed about 6 weeks later, and came to an untimely end.)
In the same paper, in the issue of June 15, 1839, was the following announcement:
“Private Theatricals.—A few gentlemen and ladies at Perth are about to introduce this amusement. The first representation, it is expected, will take place in about three weeks from the present time. The friends of the stage are testifying their disposition to encourage the undertaking by liberal subscriptions to defray expenses.”
Then, on July 13, 1839, it was reported: “The first theatrical representation in this Colony took place in Perth on Tuesday evening last before a crowded audience—principally the friends of the gentlemen and ladies who favored us with the amusing novelty. The place selected for the performance was Leeder’s large room, in which a stage of suitable proportions was erected, and the whole of the stage management was acknowledged to be highly creditable to the mechanical skill of the gentlemen under whose superintendence this department was placed. The scenery painted by Mr. Purkis, was extremely effective, and as the scenes were severally displayed to the audience during the progress of the piece, the oroduction of the artist were warmly applauded. The play selected on this occasion was the petit comedy of “Love a la Militaire,” and the plaudits of the company present throughout the representation confirm our opinion that the play was admirably cast. The play itself is trifling and the incidents not particularly new, but a continued interest was kept up by such acting as would have been admired in old experienced performers; indeed, the efforts of the whole corps drama-tique were so eminently successful that they did not require the indulgent allowance of the critic for the novel situation in which the actors were placed. An overture preceded the performance and another, with incidental pieces of music, was played between the first and second acts; several songs and glees were introduced and all were executed in a style which for precision and accuracy, is deserving of the highest commendation. Considerable pains had evidently been taken to insure this effect and the result was truly satisfactory.
The private nature of the performance precludes our giving publicity to the names of the performers who acquitted themselves so ably, but they may rest assured their exertions were favourably received and were fully and flatteringly testified by the universal applause.
“The extravagant delight and astonishment of the youngsters and young misses who had never before seen a play—there were many present under twelve or fourteen years of age—was beyond all bounds and was both amusing and gratifying to those who take a pleasure in receiving enjoyment from the gay artless sportiveness of the youthful mind.
“A native who is residing with Lieutenant Grey as a domestic servant was allowed to attend. It was curious to witness the little impression made upon him as the several characters entered. He displayed but few outward signs of astonishment; it is evident, however, he was engaged in fixing the characters on his mind, for he can imitate several with an exactness particularly striking. The strongest outward semblance of the effect the scene had upon him was exhibited at the close of the piece while the curtain was drawn up and all the corps came forward to sing the national anthem—‘God Save the Queen.’ The audience rose, the band struck up and the anthem was sung in full chorus; this poor fellow was seen to wipe the tears from his eyes. This is a singular fact, and gives us hope that before long scenic representations may be converted to good and beneficial purposes beyond those originally contemplated, when it was proposed to ‘hold the mirror up to nature.’
“How well disposed must that people be who could be entertained with satisfaction by so sober and so polite a mirth. This we may be allowed to apply to the audience on this night, and we can but consider that the cheerful manner in which the first representation has been supported and encouraged is creditable to their good feelings, and indicates their disposition to please and to be pleased, which will tend greatly to cement our little community in bonds of social interest and enjoyment. We must confess we derive much gratification in common with all who attended, from the evening’s amusement, and those to whom we are so greatly indebted for it will, we hope, in the course of a month or two, afford us similar entertainment.
“The prologue—Byron’s, at the opening of a pri-
vate theatrical performance—which we have omitted to notice, was extremely appropriate and well delivered.”
A programme of this performance, printed on satin, was presented to Miss Purkis (afterwards Mrs. Lochee), and is now in the possession of her daughter, Mrs. Edward Shenton, of South Perth. This interesting souvenir, which is dated July 9, 1839, gives the cast of “Love a la Militaire” as follows:
Captain Seaford..........................Mr. Collinson
Cornet Vesey...................................Mr. Webb
Punker, an East Indian.....................Mr. Durlacher
Samuel Grlmmett........................... Mr. Sholl
Landlord...................................Mr. E. Souper
Mary, Punker’s daughter......................Mrs. Turner
Dorothea, Punker’s sister..................Mrs. Watson
Fanny, Lady's maid to Mary.................Miss E. Purkis
The songs were:
"Come fill a mighty measure"...............Opening glee
"Oh! Say not woman's heart Is bought”........Mrs. Turner
"Norah, the pride of Kildare...................Mr. Webb
“Humours or a playhouse”.......................Mr. Sholl
Mrs. Shenton gave me some very interesting information regarding musical life in old Perth, but I could not use it all because my paper was already too long for the evening. Mr. Lochee was very musical, and his home became the musical centre of Perth. Mrs. Shenton states: “Every night it was like a concert,” and as a child she often crept out of bed to listen at the top of the stairs, in the old Western Australian Bank, to the music below.
On September 4, 1839, the players in Leeder’s room performed “Charles II. or the Merry Monarch” (by Mr. Payne) and the laughable farce, “Amateurs and Actors.” “Both pieces were extremly well got up,” the report states, “and our friends who favored us with this amusement acquitted themselves to the infinite gratification of a crowded auditory; indeed several of the characters were sustained with a degree of proficiency which would have been admired in actors of professional repute. We cannot altogether commend the selection of the first piece, which has in itself little intrinsic merit. . . . The principal difficulty as regards dresses and decorations was overcome by a display we were little prepared to expect. . . .” (One suspects Miss Purkis. afterwards Mrs. Lochee, had a good deal to do with this. Her granddaughter, Miss Edward Shenton, informs me she was very good at making and contriving costumes and she was particularlv interested in the Restoration period.) The audience “included several of our friends from the
country and Fremantle. . . . Many families from the country were prevented from participating in this rational entertainment owing to the unfavourable state of the weather. The orchestra was well filled and the several overtures and incidental pieces of music were executed in a style far beyond what might be expected from a band comprised of amateur performers.” It was suggested: “The application of these amusements to a more immediately useful purpose as well as amusement inclines us to the serious recommendation of getting up a performance exclusively for the natives. During the summer it could be easily got up in the open air, with appropriate scenery—the scenes, for instance, in our native land with one or two aboriginal characters introduced, supposed to be conveyed to this scene by Europeans. We throw out this hint, and feel satisfied it may be advantageously improved upon with much beneficial effect.” It seems the hint was not taken.
About a month afterwards, the newspaper, on 5th October, contained the first instalment of a letter from Mr. H. T.-----, protesting against the journal’s “observations in commendation of dramatic representations as well as on the urbanity of those engaged in such pursuits,” and pointing out “the baneful effects theatricals have on the young and inexperienced mind and the gross immorality of many ‘stars' in the profession.” Three columns in small print—the whole of the last page of a 4-page issue, in fact—were occupied by Mr. T.---, and even then part had to be held over, to be continued in a column of the next issue of the paper, where it was faced on the opposite page by an advertisement announcing that “on Wednesday next, the 16th inst., will be performed the following plays, “Spectre Bridegroom,” “Amateurs and Actors,” and “The Irish Tutor.”
On the occasion of this performance, “several strangers lately arrived in the Colony were present and expressed their opinion of the performance in terms which must have been highly flattering to those who indulged us with this treat.” “The opening of next season is looked forward to with pleasant anticipation,” the paper said. In another column (and a-half) was printed a letter from “Philo-Dramaticus,” giving “a few observations in favour” of the stage, and concluding with the promise (or threat) to resume the subject, if the Editor “insert this and can find space for more.”
Other letters appeared later, one from “X.Y.Z.” and one from “a Weslyan Methodist.” Each of these occupied a column and a-half.
Following up these suggestions of influencing the young and improving the natives, I want to quote here another paragraph from the “Gazette” of. October 17, 1840: “ ‘Music hath charms to sooth the savage breast.’ Fully impressed with the truth of this received axiom the Rev. Mr. Smithies, of the Weslyan persuasion, has adopted this method of instruction, and it is said some of the native youths ‘discourse most eloquent music’... We have no question the application of this soothing system will be productive of much good.”
In 1840, St. Patrick’s Day was marked by “an extremely pleasant party got up on the occasion by the social sons of the Emerald Isle. About 13 gentlemen surrounded by their friends of the sister isle, amounting in all to 30 individuals, sat down to a liberal repast furnished in the new room of the Victoria Hotel, Perth. Mr. Webb sang with good effect ‘St. Patrick was a gentleman and born of dacent people.’ G. F. Moore sang ‘Western Australia for Me,’ an original song written by himself some years back, which has appeared in one of the early works published on this Colony. The conviviality of the evening was kept up with unusual discretion and the amusement prolonged until an early hour in the morning. There were many other toasts this first meeting of the sons of the Emerald Isle in honor of their tutelar Saint ... by no means a party dinner; but a little rubbing of the rust (which must accumulate in the bush) by a union of old countrymen and brother settlers must be advantageous, and even if it should ultimately have a political tendency it may prove beneficial to the body politic.”
In the same issue of the “Gazette” (though entirely unconnected with St. Patrick’s Day) is a report of the Magistrate’s Court on February 27. Before W. H. Mackie and P. Brown, Esquires, James Manson, Esq., appeared to answer the complaint of the Rev. J. B. Wittenoom that at a private party at the residence of W. Samson, Esq., he had received a kick when in the act of placing his base-viol in the corner of the room where the defendant was standing. Evidence was produced to establish the fact. Mr. Manson. in refutation of the charge, stated that when Mr. Wittenoom passed him
with his violoncello he (Mr. Manson) moved a chair to give him room, and the complainant then trod upon his toe, which supposing it to have been wilfully done, the defendant immediately kicked his heel. Defendant was summarily convicted of the assault and battery and “fined £5 to the use of her Majesty, and was adjudged to pay the constable’s fees, amounting to five shillings, to be deducted out of the said fine.”
On Saturday, March 28, 1840, appeared the following: “This week has been a busy one for lovers of amusements and those who are active in public affairs. On Monday evening the friends of a few amateurs were afforded the amusement of a private theatrical performance at Mr. Samson’s, Perth. On Tuesday, the 1st Assembly Ball of the season took place at the Victoria Hotel, Perth. On Wednesday the serious business of the Quarter Sessions came off. On Friday the meeting at Guildford of the Agricultural Society followed by a dinner at which 24 persons, the leading members of the Society, were present. This day, to crown this eventful history, we have a Public Meeting. This forms a list of amusements and business sufficient, we should hope, for the most fastidious.” (The public meeting was to consider the suggestion of electing an Agent for the Colony in England.)
In the account of June Ball of 1840, the “Gazette,” while admitting it “went off with great effect, with infinite gratification and pleasure to all who attended it,” complains that “the foul murder of the National Anthem was, however, a disgrace to the perpetrators—musicians forsooth—and we hope we may never hear the like again.”
The “Inquirer” came into being in 1840, and my next cutting is from that newspaper, which advertised that the first Amateur Theatrical performance for the 1842 season was to “take place at Hodge’s Hotel on 17th August, at 8 o’clock precisely. None but subscribers will be admitted on that night.” However, the performance was postponed, and did not actually take place until Tuesday evening, the 30th, when “Raising the Wind,” “The Queer Subject,” and “Bombastes Furioso” were produced. The “Inquirer” says: “In spite of reduced force and delays and misfortunes . . . the members of the company produced three pieces with a vigour and brilliancy not only surpassing their former exhibitions
but exceeding most amateur performances we have ever seen.” The scenery was “the work of an amateur and certainly no mean artist. The new drop-scene on being first lowered was received with general applause.....” The report makes “most honourable mention of the band; under the skilful leading and careful training of Mr. Stone, the orchestra performed 3 of Rossini's best overtures in a most creditable style.....” The universal wish is expressed “to see the green curtain rise again on such well-conducted and innocent recreations.”
In looking through these old newspaper reports one cannot help wishing the journalists were a little less discreet. The names of the performers were hardly ever mentioned and the reports grow more and more meagre. On this occasion, beyond the mention of Mr. Stone and Mr. Webb (who spoke the prologue), no names are given at all. They were short of actresses, as this quotation from the Prologue shows.
“To-night—in woman’s various garb arrayed
As blushing girl, or amorous old maid—
Some members of the sterner sex must stand
(Forced by Necessity’s supreme command).
To represent in form, in speech, in mind.
The devious phantasies of womankind.
Hard task is theirs! For who can e’er pourtray
The fitful changes of a woman’s way!”
Apparently it was the custom to admit the public to the dress rehearsals. In the advertisement announcing a performance, the date of the dress rehearsal was always given also. In the issue of the “Inquirer” reporting this performance, the following notice appeared: “In consequence of the number of persons excluded from want of room at the dress rehearsal a second performance will take place on Friday next, 2nd September. Tickets, 5/-. Applications for tickets to be made at Hodge’s Hotel on the day previous, and no person will be admitted without a ticket on that night.”
The “Perth Gazette” reported: “Considerable amusement has been afforded to the public by the production of these entertainments during the week. The paucity of means in a young Colony to afford rational recreation in the histrionic art renders an event of this kind doubly interesting when talent and ability have been united to produce a representation which would have been credit-
able and we may almost say distinguished in the regular line of business. The performers were well up in their parts and played them with proper discernment, not outraging all the order of nature but portraying faithfully the characters committed to their charge. . . . [The pieces performed were “Raising the Wind,” “The Queer Subject,” and “Bombastes Furioso.”] . . . The scenic effect was highly creditable to those engaged in the construction and the orchestra was ably conducted, affording one of the principal amusements of the evening.”
Preparation of three new plays commenced immediately, and on November 9, 1842, the company performed “The Ringdoves” and “The Original.” Of these the newspaper (10/11/'42) said: “The dress rehearsal on Monday and the performance on Wednesday evening have closed for the present the labour of the gentlemen who have taken so much trouble and pains to contribute to the amusement of their friends. The last representation went off with great spirit and effect. The only complaint we heard was ‘too short,' a compliment the performers well merited. It is generally understood that the room and scenery have been engaged by the Mechanics of Perth for the purpose of getting up some performance to occupy the interval which it is expected will elapse before another play is performed by the gentlemen who have been the promoters of this amusement.”
In March, 1843, was announced Fritz Ball’s drama, “The Inn-keeper of Abbeville, or the Ostler and the Robber,” to conclude with the laughable farce, “No!” I have found no report of the performance, nor of the next, which was advertised as follows: “On 19th April will be presented the laughable farce in 2 acts, entitled ‘Fortune’s Frolics.’ Tickets to be had off Mr. Hodges at the theatre. Doors open at half-past seven, the performance to commence at 8 o’clock precisely.”
The Western Australian Historical Society
MUSIC AND THE STAGE IN THE EARLY DAYS—No. II.
[By Mr. EDMUND CLIFTON.]
[Read before the Society, June 26, 1931.]
The first paper by Mr. Clifton on this subject appeared in the Journal and Proceedings of the Western Australian Historical Society, Vol. I., Part VIII.
Since I had the pleasure of reading my former compilation on “Music and the Stage in the Early Days,” Mr. Bray, of the Chief Secretary’s Office, has pointed out to me the record of a native corroboree on Mount Eliza given by him to the society. As this is an interesting note connected with both music and the stage I shall give it here without apologising for going back to ground already covered. It is taken from the Weekly Journal of the Department Superintending Native Tribes from December 2 to 8, 1833. Apparently natives came daily to the superintendent for meal. “On Thursday, 5th, seventy-six natives attended,” he writes. “Migo informed me that Monang, a native from the Murray, had arrived and wished to see me but was in Perth much fatigued with his march. I therefore accompanied Migo and we brought Monang down here, gave him plenty of bread and meat and showed him our system of regular delivery here, with which he was much pleased. In the evening a corroboree was given in compliment to the visitor. This corroboree was extremely well got up, the spectators being seated in a semi-circle with a number of small fires in front resembling the stage lights of a theatre. It was the first at which I have seen a woman perform. Gibbar’s wife advanced reciting and waving her arms as if to excite the performers, who came forward in a band of eighteen young men with spears poised. They danced forward, formed a circle, then a line, and after a number of manoeuvres, retired out of sight until the next act. During the interval a man sung remarkably well and accompanied himself with a Callee struck against a Meero so as to produce rhe effect of castanets. The same air correct to a note, was answered by the band behind the scenes, first faintly and then increasing as they advanced to the stage or foreground. They have regular airs, as persons
noted as good singers. One of them sung the air I heard at the corroboree and repeated it until I was enabled to write it down.”
Going on now from where my first paper left off last September, I wish to point out that Mr. A. H Stone’s diary, extracts of which were published in Vol. 1. Part VI. of our Journal and Proceedings, gives a pleasant picture of musical life in the early fifties, and his nephew, the late Sir Edward Stone, in his book “Some Old-time Memories” tells us that he (Sir Edward) in the sixties inaugurated “a troupe of Ethiopian serenaders and for long was one of the cornermen. The first boys’ voices to be heard concertedly in Western Australia were trained at my own home. I think this effort was fairly successful, for I presently succeeded in introducing them as choristers in the old Cathedral, which was situated where the Church Offices now are. I was choirmaster at the Cathedral for some time and we really used to have excellent singing. The late Mr. Curtis was our organist. My late uncle, the Registrar of the Supreme Court, was our flautist. Mr. Saw (father of Dr. Saw) and Mr. Pether used to play the bass and Mr. Trigg the violin. The late Miss Oakley, who would doubtless have become a noted soprano had she lived, with Miss Travers and Mr. Curtis, supplied the lighter voices. Mr. Fred Caporn I recollected had a very strong bass voice. I also started the Perth Musical Union which developed into a large popular society. We used to render the various oratorios, the Ex-Chief Justice, Sir Alexander Onslow, being our baritone and the late Mr. Justice Hensman, one of our first violins. Mr. Hensman afterwards became conductor of the society.” (pages 33 and 36).
Mrs. Edward Shenton tells me that the Perth Amateur Choral Society used to meet for practice on Mondays in the Boys’ School room (now part of the Perth Junior Technical School). Mr. Curtis was conductor and played the harmonium. A Glee Club used to meet at the Lochees’, including Mr. and Mrs. Symonds, Mrs. Travers, and Mr. Lochee. Then Mr. Lochee had a second glee party, including Mr. William Clifton, Mr. Dyett. Mr. Lochee and G. Hampton. He also had a double quartette consisting of Mrs. Young (soprano), Mrs. Phillips (Miss Roe), Mr. Hampton, Mr. Clifton, Mr. Lochee,
Mr. Saw, Mr. Tom Halliday and Mrs. Maycock, with Mrs. Barlee as pianist. Other singers were Mr. Compton (tenor), Mr. Charles Howard, Mr. Edward Stone, Mr. Tarleton (bass), Mrs. Curtis (soprano), Miss Emma Stone, Miss Louie Lochee and Mrs. Taylor, wife of the High School master (not the Mrs. Taylor called the “Pocket Venus,” who played the piano and was the wife of the flautist).
Among the most popular of Mr. Lochee’s glees were “Dame Durden kept five sewing maids,” “All among the Barley,” “Sweet, Lovely, Chaste,” “The long grass ripples,” and “And were they not the happy days?” The concerts were generally divided into two parts—first part secular music and the second sacred.
The musicians of those, days seem to have studied a great deal of sacred music. In announcing that Mr. Curtis had started musical classes (September, 1853) the “Independent Journal” stated to “those who are desirous of receiving instruction in Music upon the Principle taught by Mr. Curtis” that “it is intended to arrange the classes so as to have them adapted to those who wish to learn sacred as well as secular music.”
The corner stone of the Mechanics’ Institute was laid in May, 1852, and a luncheon and tea meeting were held in honour of the event. In the evening there was “a very good concert of instrumental music” and some “musical bells were also introduced.”
One often comes across references to tea-meetings in the records of those days. All the religious denominations held tea meetings at different times to raise funds for church purposes, such as the purchase of harmoniums and other musical instruments. In 1853 the Roman Catholics had a meeting at which Bishop Salvado played and delighted everybody.
But for a time music was rather out of fashion. The “Journal” of Sept. 30, 1853, informs us that “table turning has been quite the rage in Perth and Fremantle during the past week, having been successfully performed by many.” The science of table turning was widely discussed and “another most wonderful mystery is the almost instantaneous blossoming of flowers as lately performed in England, a feat we suppose performed in a manner similar to that of the Indian conjurors. Verily, we live in wonderful times!”
But next year amateur theatricals were revived and performances were announced for July, 18 and 19 of “The Queer Subject,” “The Original” and “Cox and Box.” The original Amateur Theatrical Company had come to grief because Mr. Webb insisted on introducing such plays as “Bombastes Furioso” (which was read at the Society’s meeting last September). Mr. Webb was a very good actor but preferred low comedy parts and, I am informed, he was “all for himself.” The ladies considered his plays too vulgar and they refused to act in them. Hence theatricals languished!
The “Independent Journal” begins its report of the. 1854 revival by saying: “Public performances are so rare of occurrence with us that it was not to be wondered at, great pleasure was generally expressed when it was announced that an Amateur Theatrical Company had been formed.” The “Journal” gives the performance high praise but names none of the actors, stating instead: “Of the performers themselves, where all did their best and that best would have been really good acting even by regular wearers of the sock and buskin, it would be invidious to single out any one for particular comment.” However, we are told the Prologue was written by Mr. Birnie and excellently delivered by Mr. Parry. The Prologue was long; but two lines appeal to me as good advice to any audience, so I pass them on to you—
“Our doubts are over, our misgivings eas’d
“If you kind friends, will but try to be pleased.”
The “Journal’s” report concludes: “We must not forget to say that during the second evening’s performance two songs were excellently sung by the representative of Sammy Spectre and Charles Mowbay and on both evenings at the close ‘God Save the Queen* was given by the whole of the characters. His Excellency and Miss Fitzgerald were present both nights and, notwithstanding the boisterous and stormy weather, all parts of the house were well and respectably filled, and from whai we can gather no person came away without being satisfied with every part of the evening’s performance.”
The same journal of July 28, 1854, announces “A Race for a Dinner” and “The Rival Valets.” “The third piece will probably be one of those performed last week.”
the paper says, “and in such case the public would we think prefer ‘The Queer Subject.’ ” But “the Miller and his men” was substituted for “A Race for a Dinner” as the following report from the “Independent Journal,” Sept. 8. 1854, shows: “The amateurs on Monday and Tuesday, again attempted to cater to the amusement of the public and if we may judge by the applause with which they were greeted, with a success equal to that which rewarded their former efforts. The pieces chosen on this occasion were ‘The Miller and his Men,’ ‘The Queer Subject,’ and a two-act farce by Ebsworth entitled ‘The Rival Valets,’ which were performed before crowded audiences.
“Of the former melodrama we can but express our surprise and that of the public at the admirable manner, considering the limited extent of stage room, the absence of stage machinery and other adjustments essential to the due effect of a piece of this description, with which the play was got up and sustained throughout. The scenery was excellent. The mill, forest, and cavern scenes were specially admired. The musical department left nothing to be desired; the opening glee and the drinking chorus were received with unbounded applause, and an encore of the latter was loudly called for on the second evening. The pianoforte accompaniment also elicited much approbation. Of the acting we will, without particularising individuals, simply state that it could not be surpassed by any Amateur Band and it is doubtful whether professional actors could have sustained some of their characters so well as those who appeared upon our humble stage.
“ ‘The Queer Subject’ was received with even more applause than on former occasions and the representative of the principal character had on Tuesday evening to appear on the stage at the conclusion of the piece and receive the plaudits of the spectators. ‘The Rival Valets’ concluded the evening’s entertainment, and sent the audience laughing to their beds. We must in this instance depart from the rule we have laid down and make special mention of those members of the corps dramatizers (sic) who personated the characters of Sophia Fielding and Dorothy Styles, both of whom acquitted themselves most admirably. The latter could not have been excelled by any actors on any stage. At the termination of this piece on the second evening one
of the Amateurs stepped forward, and in the name ol his fellow actors thanked the audience for the reception they had received, and intimated that another dramatic representation would take place before the termination of the year; an announcement which was received with marked satisfaction.
“We cannot conclude this notice without expressing our entire satisfaction at the orchestral arrangements which reflected equal credit upon the managers and the musicians. The amateur company and the public are also much indebted to Mr. Hillman for his constant exertions to promote the success of the Theatricals: the stage management and scene arrangement entirely devolved upon him and without his unremitting care and attention, the performances would have been materially shorn of their attractions; indeed we doubt whether they would even have been got up were the actors deprived of the services of so valuable an ally. We sincerely trust that other entertainments of a similar nature will be prepared and that before many weeks have expired we shall again welcome the public appearance of those gentlemen who have contributed to enliven our dull town by the introduction of Amateur Theatricals.”
Next we have performances announced for the 18th and 19th and the 25th and 26th of October. On the 18th “The Miller and his Men” and two farces—“The Tiger at Large” and “Shocking Events”—were to be given; on the 19th, “The Rival Valets” and the two farces; and on the 25th and 26th a new farce with “The Tiger at Large” and “Shocking Events.” But on October 6 the “Journal” was “requested to state that the ensiling performance by the Amateur Theatricals will not take place until after the York Fair, so many parties from Perth and Fremantle intending this year to be present at the meeting of the agricultural societies.”
On October 27 another notice of postponement appeared and then, in November, it was promised the performance would take place in about a fortnight. But before the fortnight had passed it was announced on December 1 that the performance must be “put off in consequence of the indisposition of some of its members to 19th, 20th, and 21st December when 3 new farces will be presented.” And then we are left in the air with
the tantalising statement on December 15 that “in consequence of a late domestic occurrence the performances of the Amateur Theatrical Company are put off for the present.”
Amateur theatricals were revived in 1855, 56, 57 and 58, the last-mentioned being given in Fremantle by the non-commissioned officers and men of the Royal Engineers (August 1858). In March of 1858 a subscription was raised among the inhabitants of Perth for the purpose of purchasing musical instruments for a town band “It seems,” says the paper “there is no lack of performers but there is a lack of tools. Upon receipt from England of the instruments a band will be organised and periodical performances will take place in some locality adapted for a promenade, perhaps the jetty, perhaps the public garden” (“Inquirer,” March 17, 1858).
Visiting entertainers now begin to appear. “The Western Australian Almanack and Directory for 1883” states that a moving Panorama was first exhibited in Perth in 1861 and, looking through the “Independent Journal” for some reference to this fore-runner of our modern talkies I came across this advertisement in the issue of November 8, 1861:—
Mr. Samuel Benjamin, assisted by a Lady and Herr Gerber (his first appearance in the Colony).
At Mr. H. L. Cole’s Room, Monday, November 11. and the following night
At Mr. Rammer’s Room, Fremantle.
The entertainment will consist of the following new Local Songs, English Burlesques, Operatic Selections, Dramatic Personations, Descriptive Duets, ImpromptuRhyming, Dancing, etc.
Doors open at half past 7. to commence at 8.
Admission, Boxes 4/-, Stalls 3/-, Pit 2/-. Box tickets at this office.
For programme, see small bills.
In the next issue the performance was noticed as follows: “On Monday and Tuesday evening last Mr. S. Benjamin held his Soiree Musicale in Mr. H. L. Cole’s large room. Mr. Benjamin fully maintained the reputa-
tion he has acquired in the sister colonies, but the attendance on either night, we are sorry to say, could hardly recompense Mr. Benjamin for the trouble and expense he incurred.”
In December, 1861, in the Museum of the Mechanics’ Institute, a concert under the leadership of Mr. A. P. Curtis was held “we believe in honour of Mrs. and the Misses Kennedy, on the eve of their departure; the funds accruing to be appropriated to the formation of a Harmonic Society in purchasing books and a harmonium for the use of the Society, concerts, etc.” (“Independent Journal,” Dec. 27, 1861). “The concert . . . was well and respectably attended. The performance seemed to afford much satisfaction, as indicated by the frequent applause of the audience. Considering the short time there had been of practising together, the choruses were given remarkably well. The concert is said to be the commencement of a series which are to be got up by subscription, and at which both sacred and secular music will in turns be given. On Monday evening about ten pounds were collected, which will all be given without any deduction towards purchasing some kind of instrument for the purpose of the Mechanics’ Institute.”
In May, 1862, a Working Men’s Association was formed in Fremantle, its object being “to afford rational amusement combined with information for the working classes during their leisure hours.” Their first evening was held on Thursday, June 5, in the Boys’ School Room, Fremantle. “The meeting numbered no less than 400 persons, including the Lord Bishop of Perth, the clergy of the various denominations and a fair sprinkling of the leading families, while numbers for want of accommodation had to be refused admittance. The entertainment consisted of delineated (sic) portions of Shakespeare’s Tragedy of ‘Macbeth,’ readings from Charles Dickens, concluding with ‘Fortune’s Frolic,’ the whole of which was given in a most effective manner by Mr. D. Hancock and received a well-merited applause. The Choral Society belonging to the Association, with the Volunteer Band, assisted in giving eclat to the evening’s amusement. The net proceeds amounted to £5. The next entertainment will be held on the evening of the 26th. The number of members up to the present date amounts to 220.”
And now comes what I may call the first picture show. In the “Independent Journal” of June 27, 1862, appeared this advertisement:—
“The committee of the Swan River Mechanics’ Institute.
“GRAND EXHIBITION OF A NEW AND SPLENDID ASSORTMENT OF DISSOLVING VIEWS
“Just arrived from England, to be shown with the “OXYCALCIUM LIGHT ! ! !
“The committee of the Swan River Mechanics’ Institute .... have the honour to announce that Mr. G. Cooper who has just arrived from England per Norwood has kindly consented to exhibit [the above] on Friday, 4th July next, at 8 p.m. These views will consist of Ancient Cities, Scenes in Egypt, Thebes, etc., Public Buildings in England, the ship at sea, in a storm, on Fire, etc., to conclude with several humourous subjects and the ‘Chromotrope.’
“During the Exhibition Mr. Cooper will give a descriptive and historical account of the various views that will be exhibited.”
But it was reported (11/7/62): “The apparatus was not in good working order and a very large audience was much disappointed at the partial failure which attended many of the views. Another exhibition is in course of preparation, when we have no doubt the result will be more satisfactory.”
I have not found a further report but there is an advertisement by the Working Men’s Association announcing an Exhibition of Mr. Cooper’s views at Fremantle.
The Panorama announcement was as follows:—
“AMUSEMENT ! ! !
“MECHANICS’ HALL, PERTH.
“GRAND MOVING PANORAMA.
“2000 feet of canvas covered with highly effective paintings of views of places in various parts of the world, possessing historical importance and present interest, will he exhibited on Wednesday and Thursday evenings the 10th and 11th September, 1862. The views will he fully illustrated and the Band of the Perth Volunteers will he in attendance. Admission, Reserved seats 2/-, body of the hall 1/-, children under 12 half-price. Doors open at seven o’clock, to commence at half-past.”
However, the Exhibition, the paper states, was "not well attended owing to the very inclement state of the
weather. We understand that the paintings were of a very superior description and that the manner in which Mr. Beresford illustrated the various scenes that were shown to the audience gave general satisfaction.”
In the same, issue of the journal (September 5, 1862) appeared the following:—
“MR. R. N. BULLEN
“Begs to announce that the committee of the Mechanics’ Institute having kindly placed the Hall of the Museum at his disposal he purposes giving a Musical Entertainment therein THIS Evening (Friday) on which occasion he will make a few remarks on the Tonic Sol-Fa Method of Singing.
“1500 Sheets of Music will be distributed among the audience.
“Admission to adults 1/-, children 6d.
“Doors open at halfpast 7 p.m.
“Perth, Sept. 2, 1862.”
In April, 1863, a new party of amateurs gave a performance in aid of the Lancashire Operatives Relief Fund. This was the Perth Amateur Dramatic Company and they presented the farces “Slowtop’s Engagements,” “A Rough Diamond” and “John Smith.” Again the performers were not named in the newspaper report, but from this advertisement I gather that R. Sholl was the manager, H. B. A. Middleton, stage manager, and George Phillips, secretary. The Prologue was by Mr. Landor and the entertainment is said to have “altogether surpassed anything of the kind witnessed in this Colony.”
The “West Australian Almanack” gives many interesting items of information—pointers to possible treasure in the newspapers of the day, but I have not time to follow them up. It is difficult too to resist the temptation of meandering down the delectable by-paths continually opening in the old newspapers. I must now jump to the seventies, when the Town Hall was opened and a grand concert given of vocal and instrumental music. Then the Minstrels of the West came into being. First, however, I want to read from the “Fremantle Herald” of August 3, 1867, the following reference to
Mr. and Mrs. George Case: “This talented lady and gentleman have given two of their clever entertainments in the Oddfellows’ Hall, which on each occasion was crowded to the doors. Both Mr. Case and Mrs. Case (Miss Grace Egerton) are accomplished performers. Mr. Case as a musician, and Mrs. Case as an actress, a danseuse and a singer. They have made themselves a worldwide reputation, and the notice they may receive from the Press of this little Colony will in no way affect their reputation in another country. It will, however, be grateful to them to know that their talents even here can be understood and appreciated, and though their trip here may not be so successful in a pecuniary way as many others they have made, yet we question whether they ever received a warmer reception than on Monday evening last at Fremantle. Nothing equal to these entertainments has ever been given in the Colony, and in all probability many years will elapse before we shall have anything presented to us in any measure approaching the merits of these performances. By critical audiences of London they were received with approbation, and the London papers reviewed them favourably. In the English provinces and in the Colonies they have everywhere been welcomed with enthusiasm. Mrs. Case’s powers of adaption are really marvellous, and she surprises all by the rapidity and accuracy with which she assumes characters, of the widest possible distinction. Possessing great command of voice, she is enabled to imitate without effort, the tones of an Irish country girl, an old man, a swell, a country bumpkin, or a lady. She possesses further, extraordinary control of features, and successfully assumes the vacant silly face of a country lad, the hard features of a model landlady, and, the loving happy face of a charrhing young wife. From Lady Teagle to John Brettles is a great stretch, and each character demands peculiar powers of delineation: Mrs. Case is, however, equal to it, and the dissimilar characters are given with a fidelity to nature, that is as agreeable as it is surprising.
“Her personation of Sims Reeves was extremely good, and those of the audience who may have had the pleasure of listening to the great English tenor, must have been delighted with the accuracy of the make-up, manner and style. It is the most faithful representation of one person by another we ever recollect to have seen.
On each performance she was encored in the character. Among the numerous characters she represents, the best liked by the audience (to judge by the applause) were Katty Mooney in the ‘Drawing Room to Let’ and Miss Scroggins in ‘The Lost Party.’ In the character of ‘Mrs. Siddons’ she sang in a charming and piquant manner, a pretty romance, ‘Mamma may respond to your call.’ And as ‘Romeo Guffin,’ a poor actor, she gave in an inimitable manner the popular song ‘The German Band,’ which brought down the house.
“Mr. Case throughout, lends invaluable assistance to his accomplished wite by his admirable performances on the concertina and violin, and also by the character he takes in the entertainment. There is a victimised air (if we may use such an expression) about him that is intensely amusing, and proves an excellent foil for Mrs. Case’s characters. His performance on the concertina must have astonished those who only knew the instrument by the wretched notes squeezed out of it by some urchin attempting ‘The Girl I left behind me.’ In the hands of Mr. Case it is an instrument of wonderful power and sweetness capable of great expression, and possessing extreme purity of tone; played behind the scenes, many persons thought it was a harmonium. We have heard Mr. Case in London, but never heard him in greater perfection than on Monday night last. His violin playing was a great treat, and displayed the vast capabilities of that instrument and his own command over it. We wish them a successful tour through the country, and can assure them of a hearty reception when they return to this town.”
Some years later Mrs. Case was in Bunbury and all who were able went to hear her. One of my father’s sisters wrote from Australind as follows: “13th May, 1874: Mr. King very kindly took Louie and myself to see Mrs. Case, Fanny was ill and could not go. We drove down so fast, as were afraid of being late, and when we got there, we found our seats taken. Mr. King was in such a way as he had engaged our seats in the front row, and it certainly was a great shame. I thought there would have been a row about it, we begged Mr. King not to make a fuss. [Mr. King stuttered.] The Lovegroves who came in just after us also had their seats
taken. Tom was vexed. I am glad we were able to go, as I was anxious to see Mrs. Case once. Some parts were very amusing, and I enjoyed the music. Mrs. Case must be very clever, but I do not care much for acting; there is a good deal that I do not approve of. Was it not strange, the last time Tom and Mr. Lovegrove saw Mrs. Case was twelve years ago, when she was Grace Egerton; they little thought then that they would see her next in W. Australia. It was late when we got home but Fanny had not gone to bed. She had a kettle boiling to make us some tea.”
I have here a copy of the programme of the Perth Town Hall concert of August 29, 1870, with marginal comments by Mr. W. R. Fauntleroy. The programme is now the property of Mrs. Leonard Clifton, whose father, George Spencer Compton was probably the conductor at the concert. The net proceeds of the concert were to be handed to the Perth City Council to assist in fitting up the internal arrangements of the Town Hall, more especially the erection of a convenient orchestra. Of Part the First of the programme—a selection of secular music, Mr. Fauntleroy says that the overture, “Massinello,” by all the instruments, was “very well played indeed.” Then “Come where my love lies dreaming” was “exquisitely sung by Miss Stone. Chorus also very good.” A quartette followed—“Farewell,” by Mrs. E. A. Stone, Mrs. Maycock, T. Halliday and E. A. Stone, very “good and very nicely sung.” He says of “Voice of my heart,” that it was sung by Miss Jewell, “who has a very good voice, but it is not sufficiently cultivated.” (Mr. Jewell was the clerk of the works when the Town Hall was built.) There was a cornet solo and harmonium accompaniment, the number being selections from “Lucrezia Borgia.” “Mr. Dean played the cornet part well,” but was “spoilt by Mr. Law’s “harmonium accompaniment.” Mr. Compton sang Beethoven’s “Adelaida” “better than I thought he would and I was pleased.” The next item was “Fare-thee-well Kitty Jean.” Mr. Fauntleroy comments; “Mr. W. G. Johnson sang this very well and he has a very good voice and plays the harmonium very nicely, the best there—the chorus in this was also very good.” A men's quartette followed, “Banish, O Maiden” and Law, Compton, C. Howard and Lochee “sang this very well.” “Summer
Cloud Waltzes” by the band and piano ended the first part and Mr. Fauntleroy comments: “A complete muddle from beginning to end.”
Dealing with Part the Second—a selection of sacred music—he says that Miss Stone and Mr. Compton sang a soprano and tenor duet from Mendelssohn’s “Hymn of Praise” very well indeed. Choruses from Mozart’s 12th Mass were “very good, better than I expected. The trebles by far the best—and this applies to all the choruses.” Mr. Taylor “very effectively performed” the flute solo “Adeste Fideles,” with variations. The last item on the programme was the “Hallelujah” chorus from “The Messiah,” which, he says, “was better sung than I believed they were able. 1st verse beautifully sung by Miss Stone. 2nd verse nicely sung by Halliday. 3rd well sung by Mr. W. J. Johnson. Chorus very fine.—So endeth the best performance I have seen or heard in W.A.”
My father came up from Australind to live in Perth in December, 1873, but his diary does not start till July 1, 1874, when he was already quite in the heart of the musical life of Perth. Reading the rather scanty entries in his diary one gets many glimpses of the musical life of the day. He mentions the Misses Howard and Shenton practising in the Town Hall: Miss Victor also. Indeed there are many references to Town Hall practices; and musical evenings at the Lochees’, Barlees’, Hockings’, Gulls’ and the Miss Cowans’. He tells of buying and selling violins, mending violins for Mr. Knight and Prinsep and Robby Kerr, learning the harmonium at 25/- per quarter and then giving lessons in violin and harmonium playing. There are frequent references to copying music, for Minstrels of the West, or for friends, or arranging variations and accompaniments, practising for concerts, tuning pianos, studying harmony and singing. In 1874 he was living with his cousin Frank Johnston at Barndon Hill, across the Causeway, near the present Burswood station, over 2 miles from his office, and he used to walk in every day, unless he was offered a lift by anyone driving. For instance, on Wednesday, August 19, he writes: “Walked to office .... walked home and then walked into Perth again to hear the mock trial, Bardwell v. Pickwick, and got home late.” Then on August 29: “Walked in early, had harmonium practise. Went to office. Then to
Mechanics’ Institute for an hour, then tuned Miss' Howard's piano, walked with her to Miss Victor’s and then to the Hamersleys’, had tea at Clifton’s, practise in Town Hall, then to Hamersleys’, took Miss H. home and walked out with Frank.”
After a Minstrels of the West concert he complains of “great trouble in getting black off after the nigger part of concert.” On the next day (Sept. 29) he writes: “Walked home early in afternoon after having cleaned my violin and got it ready for to-morrow night when the concert is to be repeated.” The following day he writes: “Election day—lots of people about. Concert repeated in evening—not many people there. All went well.”
On another day he writes: “Went and saw Mr. F. du Boulay and heard him play his concertina which was beautiful.” A few days later: “Saw Mr. du Boulay and got him to play dulcimer and concertina.” On January 2, 1875. he writes: “Got paid my salary, paid Letch monthly payment for harmonium and bought a little instrument from him, like a bazook, but with glass instead of wooden notes: it is very sweet music, but I think I can improve it. I am going to try.” Then on January 5: “Made a new pair of hammers for the glass dulcimer I bought the other day. After tea had a violin practice and spent the rest of the evening rearranging and copying out the anthem I composed some months ago, as Mr. Trotter wants to try it in church.”
In the seventies Mrs. Gull inaugurated popular Saturday night concerts in Guildford, with the idea of encouraging people away from the public houses. My father thus refers to one: “8th May, 1875. (He was then living at Mrs. Halliday’s in Perth): After office walked out to Frank’s to dinner and went to Guildford with him. When we got to the Gull’s we found that there was going to be a musical entertainment in the Mechanics’ Institute and they wanted me to play something and as I had not brought my violin Miss Slade borrowed one from a neighbour close by and I actually appeared in public and played two pieces of music I had never seen till that evening.” The following week he “walked to Guildford in the afternoon with Leonard, carrying my violin to play at the entertainment which came off in the evening at the Institute. Had dinner at
the Gull’s and after the performance went back there and slept. Leonard returned with the Sholls, who were also up.”
Visiting artists about this time were the Kyoto Troupe of Japanese artists at the end of 1874 and Mr. and Mrs. George Cotterell in June, 1875. Referring to the latter my father writes: “Had intended going to Guildford but it rained so I could not go, spent the afternoon at home copying music, etc.; went to the Cotterell’s entertainment in the Town Hall after tea—on my way there I had a tremendous fall over a drunken woman, who was sitting down on a very muddy part of the footpath and I got in a fearful mess from mud—I was pleased with the entertainment especially with Mrs. Cotterell’s singing, which far surpassed anything I have heard before. Home soon after ten.”
In conclusion, I want to read from the programme of the Tenth Concert of the Minstrels of the West, at the end of which was printed a short history of the company :—
TENTH AMATEUR CONCERT
MINSTRELS OF THE WEST
(Kindly assisted by several ladies and gentlemen)
TOWN HALL, PERTH on
TUESDAY, 13th NOVEMBER, 1877.
Under the Patronage of His Excellency Sir Harry St. George Ord, K.C.M.G.. C.B., and Lady Ord, the Hon. the Commandant and Mrs. Harvest.
The Pianoforte purchased for the Town Hall will be handed over
to the Council.
Printed at the “W.A. Times’* Office. Perth, 1877.
Mello Waltz............................ Instrumental
Hark! Apollo strikes the lyre. Glee (Sir H. Bishop)
Oh, how delightful........................ Miss Saw
Pianoforte duet..........Mrs. Gull and Mrs. James
The Sailor’s Grave (song) .........Mr. G. S. Compton
O, ye tears! (quartette), 8 voices
Selections from Der Freischutz
Violin and Piano .. Mr. R. C. Clifton and Mrs. James
Qualunque sia l’evento
Cavatina from Lucrezia Borgia .... Mr. P. A. Gugeri
A Spring Song..................................Chorus
Interval of 10 minutes.
Blow, blow, thou winter wind .. ..................Chorus
I love my love (song:)...............Miss Katie Compton
Larboard Watch (duet).................Mr. G. S. Compton and Mr. B. C. Wood
Selections from Lucrezia Borgia—
Pianoforte duet ..... Mrs. Forrest and Miss Williams
Little “Sunshine” (Song- and chorus) .... Mr. W. Start
The Moon is beaming: o’er the lake—
Duet .. ...........Miss Thompson and Miss Leeder
Let her apply to me (song:)........................Mr. E. Sendy
O, what pleasure (from Maritana)..........................Chorus
God Save the Queen!!!
REPORT OF PROCEEDINGS.
As the Company of the Minstrels of the West has now accomplished the principal object of its formation—the purchase of a Pianoforte for the Town Hall—the following account of its operations may not prove uninteresting.
The Company was formed on the 5th June, 1872; the original members being:—E. Ashton, J. S. Brooking, G. S. Compton, E. C. Dean, E. W. Howard, C. S. Howard, John Halliday, Thos Halliday. R. Pether,. J. S. Porter, W. A. Stone. T. Sherwood, R. A. Sholl, W. Timperley and Frank Wittenoom; who, with the following, since joined, form the present strength of the company: H. Ashton, H. Birch, P. S. Brady, R. C. Clifton. C. L. Clifton. A. P. Curtis. C. T. Dean, P. A. Gugeri, Alex. Halliday, S. Hymus, G. C. Knight, C. Pether, E. Sendey, and C. Woodhouse.
Ten Concerts have been given:—the first on 5th Aug.. 1872, the 2nd on 2nd Oct., 1872; the 3rd on the 18th Feb., 1S73; the 4th on 11th June, 1873; the 5th on the 10th Nov., 1873; the 6th on the 10th April, 1874; the 8th on the 29th Oct., 1875; the 9th on the 2nd April, 1877; the 10th this evening.
The following are the receipts and disbursements of the Company up to date, (not including the present concert):—
Total receipts from Concerts, Loan of Piano, &c. £379 6 0
On account of Piano 200 14 0
Printing and Advertising 56 6 2
Refreshments 33 10 9
Tuning Piano 12 19 0
Gratuities for labour, &c. .. Miscellaneous, consisting of Music, Instruments, 17 0 0
Stage properties, &c 50 8 6
Balance, Cr. .. .. .. ,, ., . . . .... 8 14 7
£379 6 0
The long intervals between some of the Concerts were caused by the decrease or removal from Perth of members of the Company and of others who assisted them—together with many inconveniences attending Musical Societies in small communities.
The Company has been nobly aided in its efforts by a large proportion of the musical talent in the city; and much of the success has resulted from the cordial assistance thus rendered. Where so many personally exerted themselves it may seem invidious to mention names, but special thanks are due to Mrs. E. S. James* for her continuous and valuable assistance; and the services of Mr. G. S. Compton and Mr. E. C. Dean as conductors of
* Afterwards Mrs. George Randell.
the vocal and instrumental portion respectively, also of Messrs. Timperley. C. L. Howard and C. L. Clifton, as Secretaries at different periods, call for special acknowledgment.
The Chairman, Councillors, and Officers of the City Council have liberally assisted the Company by every means in their power: and the Minstrels congratulate themselves that it was mainly owing to their representatives that the substantial platform now used in the Hall was erected.
The public has generously accorded its patronage to the undertaking, and, while supporting the efforts of the Minstrels, has borne with their failings.
The music at the majority of our entertainments has been, of necessity, of a light character; but while endeavouring to amuse, we have not failed to attempt to instruct, by culling from the work of Haydn, Mozart, and other eminent composers.
The pleasure and benefits which have attended their past exertions have induced the Minstrels to seek to extend their operations by merging the Company into a Philharmonic Society; and with that view they communicated with the City Council, requesting that certain privileges now held by the company should be continued to its members as a new Society—to which the Council acceded; and when the preliminary arrangements are completed the members propose to invite the co-operation of their fellow citizen.4 to form a Philharmonic Society; to which any balance remaining to the credit of the Minstrels will be handed over.
Although the time occupied in accomplishing their object has extended over a long period, from causes before alluded to. the Minstrels are much gratified that they have been successful in providing for the City a fine-toned and handsome instrument, the constant use of which serves to prove its necessity, and likewise its appreciation by those frequenting the Town Hall.
Garry Gillard | New: 7 October, 2020 | Now: 7 October, 2020