Music Research

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

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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, alongside which was later built an Exchange and Post Office. Reviews from this period are very brief, limited to a short comment on the gentility of the audience or the success of the concerts. One review in 1846 refers to “the progress of the gentlemen”, suggesting that the committee and performers were limited to gentlemen only. Another review comments on “frequent cheering, plaudits and encores,” and that “all the beauty and fashion of Newcastle” was present. The last mention of the society in the newspapers in this decade was in 1846.


Author: helenenglish2013

Senior Lecturer in Music, University of Newcastle, Australia Helen English, AGSM, MPhil, PhD Helen English is a Senior lecturer in music at the University of Newcastle, Australia. Her research interests are Australian music, music and social justice, gender and music and the sociology of music. Her creative work includes the soundscape The New Adventures of Mark Twain: from Coalopolis to Metropolis (New York, 2007) and performed soundscape Forgotten Composers of the Hunter Valley (Newcastle, 2013). Helen English is currently a PHD candidate in History and Sociology, researching music making in 1870s Newcastle, NSW. In 2013 she was invited to present a paper at the inaugural Newcastle/Hunter studies symposium. Recent publications include a book chapter: “Musical Entertainment in Newcastle, NSW, 1875-1877” (2102) and articles “Re-Viewing history through sound – fact or fiction?” (2013), “Newcastle, NSW, in the 1870s: Audience Identity, Power and Cultural Ownership” (2013) and “Music Making in the Colonial City: Benefit Concerts in Newcastle, NSW in the 1870s” (forthcoming, 2014).

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