The individuals presented in this section established careers as music directors, composers, conductors and/or arrangers primarily within the fields of “serious” or classical” music. Most were at some stage associated with the variety industry, however, writing or directing the music for popular culture musical entertainments such as pantomime, burlesque, musical comedies etc.
Allen to Lardelli ……. p1
MacCarthy to Zwar ……. p2
(1822-1897) English-born composer, music director.
George Benjamin Allen immigrated to Australia around 1870-1871 and after collaborating on music theatre works with Grosvenor Bunster and Garnet Walch he became W.S. Lyster’s music director. He is believed to have returned to the United Kingdom in the 1880s before returning to Australia where he settled in Brisbane in the early 1890s. He was engaged as music director for Emma Wangenheim’s comic opera company and collaborated with James Brunton-Stephens on the comic opera Fayette; Or, Bush Revels (1892). A number of Allen’s compositions were also published during his lifetime.
Although best remembered as one of Australia’s radio broadcasting pioneers, Oswald Anderson’s career prior to 1925 saw him regarded as one of the country’s leading composers of popular and concert songs. He was also involved in repertory theatre, co-founded a music college, set up his own publishing company, collaborated with author Conway Drew on the stage adaptation of his novel Jinker the Grafter’s Mate (1916), and had a long association with music publisher and instrument importer W.H. Paling. Anderson’s radio career, which began in 1925, saw him spearhead the formation of the Federal Radio Network and oversee a number of significant Australian radio firsts – initially with Sydney station 2FC and later with 2BL, 2UW and 2UE.
Image Source: Wireless Weekly 5 July (1935), 7.
(1850- 1905) French-born composer, music director, musician.
Leon Caron came to Australia in the late 1870s and soon afterwards took up a position as conductor with W.S. Lyster’s Opera Company. It was as music director for J.C. Williamson’s Royal Comic Opera Company, however, that he is most associated. He joined Williamson in 1889 and maintained a working relationship with the company until his death in 1905. He wrote the music for a number of Williamson’s pantomimes, while also composing his own works – including string quartets, a choral symphony, a violin concerto, and several orchestral works.
(1864-1928) English composer/conductor. [Born: Victor Lonnen]
The brother of music hall star “Teddy” Lonnen, Victor Champion established himself as a conductor in England . He came to Australia in 1907 for Clarke, Meynell and Gunn, overseeing the musical direction for his Cinderella pantomime. His reputation was later cemented through their hit production of Miss Hook of Holland. Champion was associated with Clarke, Meynell and Gunn until the company merged with J.C. Williamson‘s in 1911, and subsequently remained with “the firm” until his death. Champion was a composer of much incidental music for pantomimes and other theatrical productions.
(1825-1881) Musician, music director, composer.
Frederick James Coppin began securing engagements as a music director in England in the early 1840s and likely came to Australia with his older brother George in late 1854. Their names have not been linked until December the following year, however, when Frederick is identified as music director/arranger for William Akhurst‘s Harlequin £.s.d. (Coppin’s Olympic Theatre). Although his career in Australia was mostly associated with George, Frederick was involved in other business partnerships, including one with William Pitt (as co-owners of a panorama). To Melbournians, however, he was best known as the Theatre Royal‘s long-serving music director (1868-late 1870s).
- See also: George Coppin
Pianist/organist, music director and composer.
Reginald D’Arcy Irvine established his reputation in Melbourne musical circles before moving to Perth in 1889 to take up a position on the staff of Professor Francik’s Conservatorium of Music. He was later organist and Choir Director at St George’s Cathedral, a position he held until 1908 As a composer D’Arcy-Irvine wrote the score for the music drama, The Two Worlds (1900), an adaptation of Milton’s epic poems Paradise Lost and Paradise Gained. His other known works include the songs “Arabesque” and “Meditation.”
JOHN M. DUNN
(1865-1936) Organist, conductor, composer [Born John Millard Dunn at North Adelaide]
John M. Dunn was educated at the North Adelaide Grammar School, studied piano and sang in the St Peter’s Cathedral choir (often in solo parts). He worked for several years in a bank then sailed to London in 1888 to further his musical studies. On his return to Adelaide he taught at the Adelaide College of Music (later Elder Conservatorium) and in 1891 was appointed organist to St Peter’s Cathedral. He retained this position for 45 years. He was also conductor for the Adelaide Orpheus Society and president of the Adelaide Society of Organists. In 1896 Dunn and Harry Evans co-wrote the comic opera The Mandarin. It was staged at Adelaide’s Theatre Royal in November that year.
- For further details see: “John Millard Dunn.” Wikipedia • “Death of Mr J.M. Dunn.” Advertiser (Adelaide) 4 Mar. (1936), 18 • “Art in Adelaide: Chats with Musicians – No 7 John Millard Dunn.” Daily Herald (Adelaide) 28 Dec. (1912), 1.
Image Source: Advertiser (Adelaide) 4 Jan. (1936), 20.
(1882-1972) Choirmaster, conductor, music director, radio manager/programme director [Born: George Phillip John Engisch]
Born and raised in Sydney, George English started out as a concert tenor. After moving to Melbourne in the early 1920s he became choir master for the Victorian Choir, and later worked as a conductor and music director. He also oversaw the first Australian production of George Clutsam‘s opera Young England (1928), and collaborated with Hugh Huxham on the radio pantomime, Little Bo-Peep (1929). In the early 1930s English became programme director at 3UZ, and in 1936 was appointed conductor of the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s National Choir. After moving to Brisbane in the early 1940s English directed the Queensland State and Municipal Choir and established the Brisbane Opera Guild.
- For further details see: Rhoderick McNeill. The Australian Symphony from Federation to 1960. London: Routledge (2014), 72-74.
- See also: George English Jnr [below]
1: His two symphonies, Opus 4 (A major) and Opus 5 (D minor) were first performed in Melbourne during the 1934 Centenary of Victoria celebrations. English conducted on both occasions. His oratorio, Armageddon was presented to the public at an ABC-sponsored concert in Sydney in 1941.
2: Rhoderick McNeill writes that the “two George English symphonies, especially the Symphony in A, are equally as worthy of attention as many of the [Alfred] Hill symphonies of the 1950s, and show that Hill [below] was not alone in representing the late-Romantic style in symphonic music in Australia” (74).
GEORGE ENGLISH JNR
aka George Selwyn English
The son of George Philip John English (1882-1972), George Selwyn English was educated at Malvern Church of England Grammar and Melbourne High schools, and in 1934 collaborated with John Cazabon on the musical comedy Good Catch. While living in Britain between 1935 and 1939, he worked as a music critic and established and edited the British Motorist magazine, and after returning to Australia he was employed by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd in Sydney for some three years. He later worked as a critic for Sydney newspapers, became chief editor for the music publishers, W.H. Paling, and did a great deal of freelance composing and arranging, especially for theatre, radio and films, and wrote numerous songs. English was a ‘writer member’ of the board of the Australasian Performing Right Association (1961-68) , editor of its journal (1969-78) , and founding president of the Fellowship of Australian Composers in 1960.
- See also: George English [above]
1 In 1961 English began to campaign for a musical counterpart of the Commonwealth Literary Fund. Eventually, in 1965, he led a delegation to meet Prime Minister Harold Holt; the Commonwealth Assistance to Australian Composers Advisory Board was established in 1967.
2: Although English enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force in 1942 he only lasted six months before being discharged on 23 December on medical grounds.
Image source: Sun (Sydney) 4 Mar (1934), 27.
aka Henry Towle, W.H. Harrison)
(1848-1899) Music director, conductor, composer, singer. [Born: Henry Francis Towle, in Geelong (Victoria)]
Described by Peter Downes as “the man with three identities,” H.T. Harrison specialised in musical comedies, pantomimes and comic operas, securing engagements with J.C. Williamson (1882-88) and Tom Pollard (1894-99) among other firms. He also wrote several original works, including Bulbo (1892) and dabbled in variety entertainment, notably with Lydia Howarde’s Burlesque Co, the Great Chicago Minstrels and F.E. Hiscocks. He started out in the 1870s as Henry Towle, church organist and variety tenor, becoming W.H. Harrison in 1882 and H.T. Harrison in 1894. He died in Dunedin on 2 June 1899 after a short illness.
Among the other companies Harrison worked for were Montague-Turner and Henry Bracey opera companies (1890), Macmahon Bros (1891), George Musgrove (1890-91), Williamson and Musgrove (1891-92).
Image source: Irene Cox Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library
Fritz Hart came to Australia in 1909 as music director for J.C. Williamson. During the 27 years he resided in the country he wrote numerous music theatre works, including 17 opera. His first Australian work was the musical farce A Knight for a Day (1910). He taught at G.W.L. Marshall-Hall’s Melbourne Conservatorium in 1912. and with Alfred Hill founded the Sydney Amateur Orchestral Society and Melbourne Conservatorium of Music. In 1915 he established his own conservatorium. In his later career Hart was conductor of the Melbourne Symphony (1927) and Honolulu Symphony (1936) orchestras.
Composer, musician, librettist.
Moritz Heuzenroeder immigrated to Australia in 1872. He was associated with the South Australian German Club and founder of the Adelaide Harmonie Society. He also wrote and produced several operettas in Adelaide in the 1880s including Singvogelchen and Onkel Beckers Geschichte (1882) and Faust and Grechen (1883). Heuzenroeder completed The Windmill comic opera in 1891 and collaborated with Harry Congreve Evans on the opera, Immomeena (1893). He moved to Barossa Valley town of Tanunda in early 1897 but died unexpectedly later the same year.
Composer, musician, conductor, teacher.
The composer of more than 500 works, including 12 symphonies, Alfred Hill was born in Melbourne but raised in New Zealand. After studying in Germany he returned to New Zealand, setting up a teaching academy and conducting the Wellington Orchestra. He collaborated with Arthur H. Adams in the early 1890s and wrote more than a dozen music theatre works, including pantomimes, musical comedies and comic operas, and several film scores. Hill became Professor of Theory and Composition at the New South Wales Conservatorium of Music in 1916, and the State Symphony Orchestra’s conductor in 1922.
Charles Horsley was employed in England as an organist, composer and teacher before travelling to Australia in 1861, where he served as organist to several Melbourne churches and conducted the Orpheus Union. He later collaborated with R.H. Horne on The South Seas Sisters (1866), composed a number of cantatas, and acted as conductor for the Melbourne Philharmonic Society. Horsley returned to England in 1871 after four years in Sydney (1867-70). His last composition to be staged while he resided in Australia was the cantata, Euterpe (1870).
AUGUSTUS W. JUNCKER
(1855-1942) British composer, music director, conductor [Born William August Juncker]
Born in Liverpool, England, August Juncker’s early career was with the Imperial Ottoman Bank in Cairo. He later studied music in Naples before coming to Australia in the early 1880s as conductor of the Dunning London Comic Opera Co. He toured throughout the Antipodes frequently with firms such as the Montague-Turner Co and J.C. Williamson and in the USA briefly conducted for Klaw and Erlanger. The composer of two light operas and more than 70 songs, Juncker was for many years the Newcastle Musical Union’s conductor and an examiner for the London College of Music. He died in Sydney.
- For further details see Peter Meyer. “Sydney Organist Topped the Pops.” First published in The Sydney Organ Journal 44.4 (Spring 2013).
Image: Sydney Mail 30 Sept. (1908), 15 (courtesy of Peter Meyer).
The son of Maurizio Giovanni Lardelli, a music professor from Brighton University, Guglielmo Enrico Lardelli (F.R.C.O.) first came to Australia in 1875 as an eighteen year old. During the course of his long and productive association with the country he composed hundreds of songs and pianoforte pieces, wrote the music for several theatrical monologues, and collaborated on at least one comic opera (Katherine, 1895). Although he returned to England several times (1876-1881 and 1896-1900), Lardelli’s career was mostly undertaken in Australia – notably in Maitland, Sydney and Perth. He also spent time in Grafton, Bathurst, Adelaide and Townsville. At various times he held positions as church organist, choirmaster, conductor, teacher and administrator.
- For further details see: Richard Ward. “Lardelli: The Changing Fortunes of a Wandering Signor.” First published in The Sydney Organ Journal 45.4 (Spring) 2014.
This entry was initially compiled with assistance of Sean McGowan, Guglielmo Lardelli’s great-great-great grandson. Image: Sydney organ Journal 24.5 (2014), 23. (courtesy of Richard Ward).
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