Music Directors & Composers [Industry]

Brooke to Middleton……. p.1
Nelson to Whaite ……. p.2

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SYDNEY NELSON

(1800-1862) London-born songwriter, musician, performer, teacher, music publisher.

Sydney Nelson established himself in London as a music theatre composer and publisher between the late-1820s and early 1850s. He and his family then toured through the USA and Canada before coming to Australia in 1852. Initially settling in Melbourne, the Nelson troupe found much popularity with their musical entertainments. Nelson also collaborated with local writers such as W.M. Akhurst, Eliza Postle, Frank Howson, and F.M. Soutten, being credited with songs, burlesques, pantomimes and farces. Among his best known works are Love and Experience (1852), Quiet Colonial (1853), The Rights of Women (1854).

  • For further details see: Eric Irvin. “Nineteenth Century English Dramatists in Australia.” Theatre Notebook 30.1 (1976), 25-26.
  • See also: Nelson Family.

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JACK O’HAGAN

(1898-1987) Composer/lyricist, musician, singer, music director/arranger, radio broadcaster. [Born John Francis O’Hagan]

O'Hagan, Jack [Jo Gilbert]Jack O’Hagan began his five decade-long career as a composer in the mid-1910s, finding initial success during the war years as a lyricist, and later providing music for silent films. He wrote songs for revues, plays (including The Sentimental Bloke, 1922) and musical comedies and was heavily involved in radio from 1924 onwards. Among his many hits songs are “The Road to Gundagai” (1922), “Our Don Bradman” (1930), and “Where the Dog Sits on the Tuckerbox” (1938). In later years O’Hagan established his own publishing company, and for 14 years prior to his retirement in 1967 wrote radio jingles.

  • For further details see: Frank Van Straten. “Jack O’Hagan 1898-1987.” Live Performance Australia [sighted 19/04/2014]
O’Hagan’s wife, Josephine, was the daughter of musician/music director Lou Weichard [see below]
Image source: Jo Gilbert (www.creativebusinesscoach.com.au)

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R.W. OYSTEN

(-1931) Pianist, piano tuner, music director, songwriter, theatrical manager, film showman. [Born: Richard William Oyston at South Melbourne]

Oyston, R. W. [MO 27 Sept. 1906, 14]

R.W. Oyston came to prominence as a musician touring Australasia with Lynch’s Bellringers (1887-88). His earliest known professional performances have been dated, however, to Ballarat in 1884. From 1889 to the mid-1920s Oyston carved out a career as one of Melbourne’s leading music directors and orchestra leaders. He co-founded the London Bioscope Company (1900-02), was music director for the British Biograph Company (1903) and over the remainder of his career alternated between legitimate and popular entertainments (he was also bandmaster at Government House for 18 years). Oyston’s career saw him associated with the J. and N. Tait, Johnson and Gibson (film pioneers), A.T. Richards, Nellie Melba and G.W.L. Marshall-Hall among others.

1: Oyston was briefly reunited with the Lynch’s Bellringers in 1897.
2: He and his wife, Mary Ellen (nee Boan), may have moved to Sydney sometime in the early to mid-1920s to be with family. The couple had at least four children – William, Edith, Florence and Ernest. Oyston died in Sydney on 31 October 1931.
Image source: Punch (Melbourne) 27 Sept. (1906), 14.

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WILL QUINTRELL

Quintrell, Will [Van Straten Tivoli, 36](-1946) Musician, music director, conductor, composer.

Will Quintrell’s father led a brass band in South Australia and later formed his eight children into a concert group. Will eventually studied music formerly and after a period in Broken Hill toured the East for Maurice Bandmann. After returning to Australia he became music director at the Tivoli Theatre, Adelaide (1911-), followed by Melbourne and Sydney. He remained with the circuit until joining J.C. Williamson’s in the 1930s. By the end of the decade he was conducting Hoyts’ Regent Orchestras in Sydney and Brisbane. He also directed 2SM’s “Stage Door Canteen” programme. Quintrell was married to pantomime principal boy Esmee McLennan.

Image source: Frank Van Straten. Tivoli (2003), 36. Music source. Frank Van Straten. Tivoli Echoes (2003)

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BERT RACHE

(-1928) Composer, music director/conductor, pianist, company leader. [Born: Joseph Bernard Rash]

Rache, Bert [STP 25 Apr 1909, 3]Bert Rache grew up in Lismore, New South Wales, and began his career as a musician in the late-1890s. After touring as George Rignold‘s orchestra leader, he was employed as a pianist with Harry Rickards in 1903 (continuing this association for many years). His early career also saw him associated with Perth’s Palace Gardens (1904-06) and King’s Theatre (ca. 1909). Rache was in much demand as a music director/composer and arranger throughout the 1910s and 1920s and toured his own troupes at various times, including the Imperial Orchestra and Th’ Drolls.

Image: Sunday Times (Perth) 25 Apr. (1909), 3.

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T.W. (WALTER) RHODES

aka Prof. Rhodes / T.W.R. Rhodes / Walter R. Rhodes

(- 1918) Pianist, music director.

Described as a “brilliant musician and likable fellow” by Australian Variety (22 Mar. 1918, n.pag.), T.W. Rhodes R.A.M. arrived in Australia in 1885 under contract to Harry Rickards and remained until in the country his death. He worked for Rickards for several lengthy periods during the 1880s and 1890s, and was also associated with the Raynor Brothers (including Rickards-Raynor Combination), Dan Tracey, Alfred Wyburd (Bondi Aquarium), M. L. Raphael (Court Ballad & Variety Co), W.G. Lester (Society Entertainers) and Harry Clay (ca. 1901-1912, including at least five annual Queensland tours).

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BILLY ROMAINE:  See entry in Practitioners [R]

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JOE SOMERS

(-1916) Musician (incl. piano, accordion, cornet), music director, conductor.

Sydney-based pianist Joe Somers was a sought-after accompanist, solo performer and music director for concerts, smoke nights, lectures and other cultural events during the early 1880s. From 1885 onwards, however, he was largely associated with the variety industry, working for Frank Smith, I. Smith, T.H. Rainford, the Cottiers, Rose Clifford, Hiscocks’ Federal Minstrels, Charles and Harry Cogill, Charles Fanning, Hosea Easton (Georgia Minstrels), Walter Bell and Harry Barrington among others. He was music director for Henry’s Dramatic Co in the mid-1890s. Somers’ final engagement was with Perry’s Smart Set Musical Revue Company in 1916.

Not to be confused with Western Australian comedian Joe Somers and organist/pianist/composer Dr Joseph Summers.

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BERT VASCO

aka Sam Vasco

Musician, music director, band leader.

The name Bert Vasco is linked to the Fullers circuit in 1928 as a band leader/music director for revue companies led by George “Hermie” Ward, Eric Masters and Frank O’Brien. While with O’Brien’s London Company in Adelaide in late October, however, he inexplicably changed his first name to Sam. It is with that name that he appears to have made his first Australian performance that year – appearing with his Ten Musical Loonies on 31 March at the Melbourne Tivoli. As Sam Vasco he toured New Zealand with O’Brien (1928/29), performed on Australian radio in 1929 and 1930 (as trombonist) and led the Lyceum Concert Orchestra (Sydney) ca. 1932.

1: A search of Australian newspapers digitised by Trove (National Library of Australia) has so far failed to locate any mention of Sam Vasco between the end of his Melbourne Tivoli engagement and 20 October 1928. All music-related references are to Bert Vasco. In 1933 he was presenting his own Celebrity Vaudeville company at Brisbane’s Theatre Royal. No further details have been located regarding his career after August that year.
2: It is unclear if this Bert Vasco was also the son of Vasco the Mad Musician and who toured with his parents in the early 1900s – performing with his mother in an act billed as Alexandra and Bertie. The family came to Australia in 1906 and 1910. This same Bert Vasco has also been identified as manager of several British theatres (incl. Palace Theatre, Salford, ca. 1921 and the Metropolitan Theatre, London ca. 1950s). See Research Notes for further details.

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CHARLES VON DER MEHDEN

aka Herr Von Der Mehden

Von Der Mehden, Charles [B 28 Mar 1884, 1](1852-1919) German-born music director/bandmaster, cornettist, composer.

Regarded as one of best cornettists to tour the Australasia, Charles Henry Von Der Mehden first came to the region in 1883 with Chiarini’s Circus. The year after his marriage to Louisa Faust in 1884, he became a permanent member of the Faust Family of Acrobats, performing cornet solos and directing the musical aspects of the show. Von Der Mehden left the Fausts in 1893 to become bandmaster of the Fitzgerald Brothers Circus. He held this position with great distinction until May 1905, at which time he moved to the USA.

Image source: Bulletin 28 Mar. (1994), 1.

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W. HAMILTON WEBBER

Composer, music director, conductor. [Born in Tasmania]

Webber, W. Hamilton [NLAW. Hamilton Webber won a University of Melbourne scholarship that allowed him to complete a Bachelor of Music degree. His early career saw him compose original incidental music and songs for various Fullers productions during the 1910s and 1920. These included pantomimes and revusical companies (notably Nat Phillips’ Stiffy and Mo Company). Between 1929 and 1940 he conduced the orchestras at the State theatres in Melbourne and Sydney, broadcast regularly on radio, and contributed the scores to a number of local films, including On Our Selection (1932), Strike Me Lucky (1934), Thoroughbred (1936), The Broken Melody (1938) and Dad and Dave Come to Town (1938). In 1940 he was enticed by Greater Union to return to Melbourne to take charge of a fully augmented orchestra at the State Theatre.

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LOU WEICHARD

Music director/conductor, entrepreneur.

Louis Edward Weichard Jnr initially established himself in Melbourne music circles in the 1880s before moving to Western Australia in the late-1890s to take up opportunities as a music director/conductor and concert promoter. By 1909 he was back in Melbourne conducting a military orchestra at various events and moving picture houses. He later worked as music director for William Anderson and Allan Wilkie (1920), and from 1919 was active as both entrepreneur (including Weichard’s International Vaudeville Stars) and music director. Connected largely with St Kilda in his later career he directed the music for such companies as the New Follies (1919), Pierrot Frolics of 1922, and Colin Crane’s Topics of 1925, as well as for the Williamstown Operatic Society (1920s).

1: Weichard has been linked to Perth as early as 1898 (as music director of Fremantle’s Ye Olde Englysh Fayre). He returned to Melbourne in 1899 following the death of his father and remained there until sometime after his mother remarried in 1901.
2: Josephine Weichard (his daughter) married songwriter Jack O’Hagan [above] in Melbourne in 1924.
3: Weichard’s only known radio broadcast was from 3LO (Melbourne) on 21 November 1925. He performed with the Sonora Trio, with the other members being Myra Draper (violin) and Reg Weichard (flute).

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FRED WHAITE

Whaite, Fred - 15 [NLA](1887-1964) Composer, librettist, music director, musician.

During his early career Fred Whaite (son of scenic artist Harry Whaite) was employed by Edward Branscombe (1915-16), John N. McCallum (1919-1922) and Fullers’ Theatres (1917-18, 1923-29). Whaite began his career in radio in 1929 with the Australian Broadcasting Company, and transferred to the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) when it was founded in 1932. He eventually retired in 1962. During those thirty years Whaite was engaged in various positions including music director/arranger, novelty pianist and composer. His larger musical works include at least three comic operas, two pantomimes, three musical comedies and a variety of radio productions, ranging from dramas to musical comedies. Many of his songs were also published.

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Image citation details for entries without expanded biographies are noted at the bottom of the overview. All other image details are provided in the expanded PDF biographies.
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Published on December 15, 2011 at 1:31 am  Comments Off on Music Directors & Composers [Industry]