Choirs in the Valley

Choral Societies were founded in the Hunter Valley from the 1860s. Prior to these formal bodies, there is evidence of choirs in Maitland and Newcastle associated with churches, chapels and temperance groups. In 1861 a Temperance choir opened proceedings at a Temperance soiree in Borehole and in the same year the Welsh choir at the Junction chapel was praised in the Newcastle Chronicle (10/4/1861). The newspapers reported on the founding of choral societies (also referred to as choral unions) from 1865 when the Lambton Choral Society was formed under director John Williams. The original meeting to form the Lambton Choral … Continue reading Choirs in the Valley

Recent recordings of music for the ‘forgotten composers’ of the 1860s are available on SoundCloud

Listen to the Myrtle Villa Polka by Franz Becker, 1840-1897 The work was advertised in the Newcastle Chronicle in 1876: “We have received a very charming polka, bearing the above euphonious title, dedicated to our esteemed townsman W. K. Lochhead, Esq., and composed by the popular Maestro, Herr Franz Becker. Our fair readers will find the composition remarkably pleasing, being in an easy key, and without any of those sudden transitions which at times render polka music rather difficult of rendition. We heartily commend Myrtle Villa polka to the notice of our music-loving friends. Mater and Co. of Pitt-street, Sydney, … Continue reading Recent recordings of music for the ‘forgotten composers’ of the 1860s are available on SoundCloud

Forgotten Composers of the Hunter Valley

Forgotten Composers and their music   In the 1870s Newcastle was rapidly expanding and mining townships such as Lambton and Wallsend, founded in the early 1860s, were developing lively cultural scenes. Through the lens of the local newspapers we learn of music and drama societies, brass bands, choral unions, benefit concerts, Caledonian games and eisteddfods, to name just some cultural activities. Outdoor events such as picnics, demonstrations, parades and horse races were not complete without the sound and repertoire of the brass bands. Dancing was very popular and it was not unusual for community dances to run right through the … Continue reading Forgotten Composers of the Hunter Valley

Brass Bands and Minstrelsy

Newcastle Amateurs’ Musical Association On Wednesday 7 August 1861 the Newcastle Amateurs’ Musical Association held its first concert at the Courthouse in Newcastle, New South Wales. The concert was to raise funds for a Volunteer band associated with the Newcastle Artillery corps. The concert was sold out in advance so two performances were planned for Wednesday and Thursday nights. The musical association appears to have been initiated by Edward Faning (1819-1870). Faning was something of an all-round musician, playing several instruments, forming and leading various ensembles, including string bands and minstrel troupes. He was a member and supporter of the … Continue reading Brass Bands and Minstrelsy

Newcastle’s first theatre

The first theatre known of in Newcastle was opened by James Croft, owner of the Commercial Hotel. The Commercial hotel stood on the corner of Watt and Hunter streets and Croft there converted a vacant wooden building into a small theatre. In Historical Records of Newcastle, 1797-1897, J. Windross, a journalist with the Newcastle Morning Herald, quotes the recollections of first impressions from an unnamed resident who arrived in Newcastle in 1857: I stopped at Mr Croft’s hotel, which stood on a site now occupied by the A.J.S. Bank at the corner of Watt and Hunter-streets. At the back of … Continue reading Newcastle’s first theatre

Music Making in Newcastle, NSW, and its townships from early settlement

Musical activities were evident in Newcastle and the Hunter from early days, although sources are very limited until the first local newspaper, the Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser was established in 1843. With the publishing of this newspaper, we find evidence for musical activity reflected in advertisements for the “Philharmonic Society, Newcastle”. It appears that the society was active from 1845. Since there were as yet no purpose-built venues, their concerts were held in the Courthouse. This was most likely the building on the corner of Bolton and Hunter streets, listed as erected in 1839 by John Bingle, … Continue reading Music Making in Newcastle, NSW, and its townships from early settlement