State Library Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 84 December 2009


Daniela Kaleva
Treasured Ephemera:
chronicles of the early history of professional chamber music in Melbourne

Concert program cover, 19 July 1927. BMS Concert Programs, State Library of Victoria.

When We Open up the stained sheets of printed ephemeral material, long-forgotten cultural histories speak to us. Events come to life out of encoded information about venues, dates, titles, authors, artists, publishers, printers, organisations, and print design and quality. These stories are important and precious. They bring us closer to discovering who we are, both as individuals and as a society. They inspire and teach us about our cultural heritage, and about how we can continue creating it for our children.
Melbourne is arguably the chamber music capital of Australia. This year, the Elisabeth Murdoch Hall was opened to foster flourishing chamber music creativity. The

Concert program cover Shelley and Debussy, 1 November 1926.
BMS Concert Programs, State Library of Victoria.

early pioneers of this art form would have wondered at the exquisite acoustics and building design of the new recital hall. Yet historians and musicologists are still to reveal the beginnings of professional chamber music in this city. The State Library of Victoria purchased the first Melbourne chamber music library collection from the British Music Society (BMS) of Victoria in 1999.1 This collection documents some of the early development of professional chamber music in Melbourne.
Founded in 1921, the BMS, Victorian Branch was an organisation which fostered professional chamber music-making in Melbourne. The society was led by major figures in Melbourne musical life2 and generously funded by the businessman, Jimmy Dyer. The heart of the organisation was his wife, Louise Dyer (Hanson-Dyer later). Louise was one of those women who revelled in culture, valued talent, and set out to make her contribution. She was well educated, wealthy, and a talented musician in her own right. In 1900, she won the gold medal in piano performance from amongst all pupils in Victoria,3 and was later awarded another gold medal in Britain.4 According to her second husband, Dr. J. B. Hanson, Louise was ‘a musician of professional standard in her training: she was an excellent pianist’.5 When establishing the society, Louise made a point of paying professional fees to artists.6 Her entrepreneurial and people skills ensured that the best talent available was employed.
Hanson-Dyer's career was unusual. As her life's vocation, Louise set it upon herself to use her means and creative potential to enrich culture and educate.7 Her employed methods were those of arts patronage, together with music publishing and recording. By the mid-1930s, Louise was an established music patron and publisher who, in 1934, received the Légion d'Honneur for the first printed edition of Francois Couperin's complete works, copies of which she devotedly donated to the Public Library of Victoria. She used the symbol of the Australian lyrebird for the logo of the press, naming it Editions de L'Oiseau Lyre or Lyrebird Press. L'Oiseau Lyre was a continuous recipient of awards for printed and recorded music in France over the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, setting new standards for music editions, printing and binding, and musical recording. Louise became internationally renowned for her work in music.
That she was a great patron of the arts in Melbourne during the 1920s was not at all surprising. In fact, the rigorous practice of arts patronage and institutional leadership in Melbourne developed her skills, and prepared her for the pioneering career in music revivalism and publishing she pursued in France. These early years shaped and consolidated the interest in the early and new music she later brought to the world. The most significant contribution Louise made to Melbourne's musical life in those years was the founding of a chamber music society along with a suite of resources: a professional string quartet, society rooms in Collins Street, and a library.8
The noted English conductor, composer, organist, and Bach specialist, W. G. Whittaker, was an honoured guest at the Dyers’ Toorak mansion in 1923. In his role as
examiner for the British Associated Board, Whittaker reported to the parent body of the BMS in Britain:
The Victorian Branch centred in Melbourne, owes its existence to the energy and enthusiasm of Mrs. James Dyer, a woman of remarkable personality and wide outlook. She broadmindedly combines the positions of President of the Alliance Française (in connection with which she was recently decorated by the French Government) and Secretary of the British Music Society. Not content with endless organisation and detail work, she frequently throws open her beautiful home for meetings, and provides an ideal setting for music by her original schemes of floral decorations, afterwards entertaining her guests with real Australian hospitality. On two occasions – at one of which I repeated my Sydney talk (which the Branch has honoured me by printing and circulating it widely), and the other a recital of songs, mostly British, by my able fellow examiner Mr. Percival Driver, and myself – nearly 200 guests were present at the house. In addition, Mrs. Dyer is subsidizing a string quartet (there is no permanent organisation of this kind in Melbourne), which is to be known as the British Music Society String Quartet and is to appear several times each season …9
The visit of Whittaker stimulated Louise and boosted her understanding of early music and new British music. Her entrepreneurial fortitude propelled her to seize the opportunity and utilise his expertise to further the activities of the BMS in Melbourne. Louise enabled the collaboration between her protégé, the poet John Shaw Neilson, and Whittaker. One of the songs composed by Whittaker to one of Neilson's poems premiered during the concert Whittaker mentions in the above report.
The cover for both this concert and accompanying public lecture featured a memorable design published by Paterson & Gill. The author of the design, Australian artist Thea Proctor alludes to ideas of musical genius and the transcendental nature of music. The music excerpt on the bottom gives voice to these metaphors. The materials speak of great taste and style, and no expense spared; a relief printed thin card cover, which was hand-coloured in red for the concert program and green for the lecture with matching colour ribbons and smooth medium-weight paper inserts for the program content or lecture text. The BMS name on the title page of the inserts put a stamp on the authorship of the production, propagating the society to Melburnians.
A period of exceptional flowering of chamber music in Melbourne occurred between 1925 and 1927 when Louise operated as the President of the Alliance Française, the Secretary of the BMS, Victorian Branch and as a salon hostess from her beautiful Toorak home, ‘Kinnoull’. This was after the Dyers had come back from a trip to England and the Continent and before they sold out and departed to England for good in 1927. Louise used the trip to gather scores of the latest new music and educational materials. The concert programs from the period 1925–1927 stand out amongst all other concert programs in the collection of the BMS at the State Library of Victoria, which spans to the present time. Both their content and visual realization suggests a focused thematic approach backed up by originality of design and noticeable marketing strategies, which

Concert program cover La leçon du mustique, 23 July 1926.
BMS Concert Programs, State Library of Victoria.

Concert program cover designed by Thea Proctor.
BMS Concert Programs, State Library of Victoria.

are missing in the rest of the concert programs. Elegance and permanence mark the commercially produced programs. Louise used the well-known art printers, Arbuckle, Waddell Pty Ltd. in 20–22 McKillop Street10 and textured paper of different tints, letterpress printing, and additional detail.

Musical Portraits

At least four concerts in 1925 and 1926 focused on introducing Melbourne audiences to composers of new English and French music, with the approach of devoting entire concerts to single composers. For this purpose, Louise used the idea of the musical portrait. She designed concert programming to present the most characteristic music of the composer in a variety of genres and chamber music ensembles. To achieve the widest dissemination, she arranged for these public concerts to be held at the new Assembly Hall in 156 Collins Street, which seated 900 people.11
Louise considered English folksong revivalism important and ensured that the BMS Library had the English folk anthologies compiled by Cecil J. Sharp. In 1925, Louise set out on a mission to introduce two pioneers of English modern music to Melbourne. British composers, Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughan Williams found inspiration in folksong and early music and incorporated these idioms into their unique compositional styles. They also happened to be life-long friends. Black and white photomechanical prints of their portraits adorned the program covers for the Melbourne public concerts of their works.
On 19 June, 1925, Rosa Pinkerton and Freda Northcote performed vocal music by Holst with William Burrell accompanying. The repertoire included the Vedic Hymns op. 24 for solo voice and piano. Inserted into the program was an advertisement for what was to come in ten days. The premiere of Holst's signature piece The Planets occurred on 29 June, 1925. As Melbourne did not have a permanent professional orchestra at the time, Louise commissioned the arrangement of the work for a piano duet. Australian musicians, Nora Day and Vally Lasker furnished the arrangement. The now well-known William James12 was joined by Harold Elvins and the work was performed in Melbourne only seven years after its public premiere at Queen's Hall, London, on September 29, 1918. Louise was later a noted patron of Holst.
A concert of music for piano, solo voice, violin and piano, and choral music by R. Vaughan Williams was presented on 23 October, 1925. The Oriana Madrigal Society's Choir, conducted by W. C. Frazier, sang English folksongs and the Scottish air Alister McAlpine's Lament arranged by Vaughan Williams. Arthur Jordan (voice) and Thomas Fielden (piano) performed the solo songs. Amongst others, they included the song cycle House of Life and the first performance of On Wenlock Edge, a cycle of six songs. The latter was accompanied by piano and the BMS String Quartet. The instrumental music included the Pianoforte suite and Pastorale and Romance for violin and piano; the
violin played by Margery Gray.
Features on Peter Warlock on 11 September, 1925 and Albert Roussel on 19 April, 1926 also employed this musical portrait idea. As the cover of the program documents, the Peter Warlock concert included a lecture, which Hubert Foss especially wrote for the Victorian Branch of the BMS. The evening featured Warlock's masterpiece The Curlew for tenor voice, flute, English horn, and string quartet. Joseph Foster was accompanied by C. Russel (flute), J. G. Rudall (English horn), and the BMS String Quartet, with Alberto Zelman Jr conducting. The program gives the poems. The work was composed only three years prior to this Melbourne premiere.
Albert Roussel was a French composer with a very distinctive style, some of whose works Louise later recorded on 78 rpms. The concert program included his photograph on the cover and indicates a varied repertoire of art song and instrumental music: Deuz poèmes de Ronsard, performed by Muriel Cheek (voice) and Charles Chugg (flute); Sonatine op. 16, played on the piano by Biddy Allen, and the Trio for piano, violin and cello, furnished by Biddy Allen, Gertrude Healy (violin), and Gwen Procter (cello). The educational purpose of the concert was obvious. The verso page of the program's cover informs the audience about Roussel and modern music, with an excerpt by Gabriel Fauré, supplemented by a short statement about the music of Roussel by G. Jean-Aubrey from French Music of To-day.

Celebration of French Music

The promotion of old and new French music was one of Louise's main priorities over 1925. A series of six concerts chronologically presented the best of this national school from the Baroque period to the latest of French contemporary music. The six concerts were arranged according to six lectures written by the respected French music critic of the time, M. D. Calvocoressi, for Louise on the major periods of French music.13 The concert programs carry the signature of a Napoleonic wreath design, with the title of the program in the middle, and the venue and date within the ribbon on the bottom of the wreath. Different coloured pulp wove card paper and letterpress on the cover achieved further visual delineations for each program. The first concert was held in perhaps the most prestigious venue in Melbourne, The Playhouse, while the rest were given at the Assembly Hall. It is obvious that Louise aimed to promote the series from the onset and throughout the six-month period of its duration. The first concert program is more intricate. It features thin green tinted pulp wove card cover with gold letterpress and a gold ribbon. The inside title page establishes the content of the lectures and their author, and the fact that this soirée-lecture was donated by the President of the Alliance Française, Mrs James Dyer. Details of following concerts were given on the back of each program. The musical content of this first concert is even more impressive: orchestral music, ballet, song, and piano. The works embraced early, classical, Romantic and

Cover and back page of the concert program Music of the Court to Romanticism, 12 June 1925.
BMS Concert Programs, State Library of Victoria.

modern French composers, giving an overview of what is to come. The performers included the esteemed English singer, Clive Carey and an orchestra conducted by Alberto Zelman Jr. The programs were written in French, and many of the works were first performances.
After commencing on 1 May, 1925, the series continued with Music of the Court to Romanticism (12 June); The Modern Renaissance (3 July); César Franck to Debussy (4 August), and The After-War Period (30 October), all accompanied by one of Calvocoressi's six lectures. The last program was an ambitious bouquet of new French music mainly from the Les Six group, members of which searched for a different musical language to that of Wagner and the impressionists. This voice and piano recital featured Rita Coonan (voice) and Thomas Fielden (piano); the latter also read the lecture. The repertoire included songs by A. Caplet, the Poèmes juifs, op. 34 by D. Milhaud and Clotilde and L'adieu by A. Honegger, and piano music by G. Auric, L. Durey, A. Honegger, D. Milhaud, F. Poulenc and G. Tailleferre. Additional composers were included. L. E. Koechlin was represented by a piano Sarabande, while É. A. L. Satie was introduced with the third piece from his Embryons desséchés.

Bach Soirées

‘Kinnoull’ stood at the corner of Heyington Place and Torresdale Road in Toorak. In the fashion of the nineteenth-century French salon, this Toorak mansion was the centre of rigorous cultural activity. The extravagant events there impressed Melbourne's socialites, and involved young and upcoming musicians and composers, as well as local and visiting established artists. The variety of repertoire performed there diverted and informed audiences.
Two programs of J. S. Bach concerts held at ‘Kinnoull’ suggest a variation on the musical portrait theme. Similar to the scope of the audience (‘Kinnoull’ seated about 200), here we have smaller concert programs with an illustration entitled La leçon du musique on the cover. Both covers display the same relief print but varied in colour for each separate occasion: black, silver, and green or black, silver, and purple. The inside features an old Baroque font and a captivating musical offering. Instrumental music and vocal music by J. S. Bach alternate. A cantata sinfonia starts the concerts. Arias with obbligato instruments follow, while concertos for piano (4 June) and violin (23 July) complete the sets. The program specified the published editions. Local singers, Annie Caddell and Ella Riddell and musicians, J. F. Rudall (oboe and cor anglais), Lindsey Higgins (continuo), Helen Hammerton (violin solo), Edward Lambert (violin solo), Ada Freeman (piano), Bertha Jorgensen (solo violin) and the BMS Quartet had the rare opportunity to work on Baroque performance. These were some of the first Baroque music performance in Melbourne.

Introducing New British and Australian Composers

A series of two concerts promoted modern Australian and British composers in 1926. Both programs used the same off-white textured paper, with simple titles on the cover. An Australian Composers Night took place at ‘Kinnoull’ on 6 April, 1926. Young local composers who were to make their mark in years to come were given the opportunity to have their works performed, including Linda Phillips, William James, S. St. Leger Burton, Arthur Benjamin, Fritz Hart, Roy Agnew, Percy Grainger, Sydney R. Cole, and Mona McBurney. The recital included instrumental solos for piano and violin, and songs. The most intriguing pieces were Arthur Benjamin's Three Impressions for Voice and String Quartet, sung by Viola Morris; the Seven Songs of William Blake by F. Hart, performed by Lilian Stott and Ida Scott, and the three songs Bardic Ode from Ossian, Vinvela's Song and The Vision for vocal quartet, harp, and piano by Mona McBurney. The three Maori Love Songs by William James were performed by his wife Saffo Arnav. This was not the only occasion of Australian music promotion. Another concert program from 2 April, 1928, documents the performances of works by Louis Lavater and Margaret Sutherland.
The British composers’ concert took place on 18 June, 1926, at the Assembly Hall

Concert program Milton and Gibbons, 26 November 1926.
BMS Concert Programs, State Library of Victoria.

and on a grander scale. Here, the names of the new composers are printed on the cover and some of the lyrics given in the program, while the program features the Cecelia Choir, conducted by Minnie C. Bull. The choir performed the Songs of Innocence by H. Walford Davies, North Country Folk Songs by W. G. Whittaker, the Groups 2 and 3 of Gustav Holst's Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda. Piano solo pieces by Eugene Goossens and Benjamin J. Dale balanced the program, added by Two songs for Voice and Viola by Norman Peterkin and an intriguing vocal quartet cycle of five songs from England's Helicon by Ernest Walker. Well-known local artists included the singers, Lillian Crisp and Rita Taylor and the pianist, Bonnie Rusden.

Poetry and Music in 1926

Poetry and music was another theme that found its place into the programming of this period. The Shelley and Debussy entertainment at ‘Kinnoull’ on 1 November, 1926 was a flamboyant affair:
Mrs. Dyer succeeded in capturing the atmosphere. Glowing, colourful candles and softly shaded light helped, also the dressing of Miss Hasse who read some of the poet's works. Miss Haase wore trailing white gown with tight bodice. Introducing the evening, Professor Osborne gave a little talk about Shelley. And the extracts were read by Miss Haase, and music by Debussy and Chopin was employed by Mr. Norman Wilks, a notable musician from England. Artist Blamire Young designed Mrs. Dyer's dress, which was cornflower blue in colour and swathed round the figure finishing with a long train. The dress was cut off the shoulders, leaving one arm free of shoulder strap or sleeve.14
Blamire Young's talents were employed also for the cover of the program, which displayed a black-and-white reproduction of one of his paintings. The press reports only whetted the appetite of Melburnians. Louise planned the next concert on this theme in the same month but at a larger venue to ensure its complete success. The concert combining poetry and music took place at the Assembly Hall on 26 November, 1926. Louise paired the epic poetry of John Milton with the instrumental music of Orlando Gibbons in this program. A lecture on Milton's life and works, presented by Professor R. S. Wallace, introduced a program of alternated excerpts by Carrie Haase from Paradise Lost alternating with fantasias by Gibbons, and finishing with a browning15 for strings of The Leaves be Greene by William Byrd. The BMS String Quartet performed the music. Fittingly, the cover of the concert program displays a reproduction of William Blake's Christ as the Redeemer of Man.

Instrumental Concerts

The BMS String Quartet was an ensemble, employed by Louise for the purposes of the society. This secured the availability of professional string players. The core of these musicians, Alberto Zelman Jr, Bertha Jorgensen, Dorothy Roxburgh, and Gwen Prockter were often re-enforced by additional regular string players. The quartet also allowed for an expansion of repertoire. Besides piano trios, string quartets, quintets and combinations between strings, woodwind, and voice, the quartet was Louise's ‘mini orchestra’, often playing arrangements of orchestral pieces.
Instrumental concerts took place along with the other concerts Louise organized for the BMS, Victorian Branch. Their programs were simple yet informative and elegant. That Louise took pleasure in working with paper and printing is evident even here. The Chamber Music Concert on 6 May, 1926, which took place at ‘Kinnoull’, had a concert program printed on pale pink imitation laid paper. The concert comprised of the Sextet in E flat by F. Bridge, an arrangement for quintet of The Leaves be Greene by W. Byrd, and quintets by R. V. Williams. The repertoire was always arranged so that there was a variety of genres and ensembles.

Birthday Celebrations

Birthday and centenary celebrations were an important theme in Louise's dissemination strategies. The BMS collection preserves examples of centenary celebrations organized by Louise, such as the concert program of the 300th anniversary of Moliere on 12 July, 1922. The twelve volumes of the Fr. Couperin edition, which L'Oiseau lyre produced first, was aimed at the bicentenary of the death of the composer. These festive occasions were used strategically by Louise, as they always gave reasons for public propagation of composers’ outputs and their artistic value to educate audiences.
Shakespeare's birthday and death celebration, held on 20 April, 1926, included a
lecture by Professor W. A. Osborne, President of the Melbourne Shakespeare Society and a speech entitled Shakespeare's Birthday given by Miss Helen E. Wallace. The program consisted of songs set to Shakespeare's texts and featured the singers, Viola Morris, Lilian Crisp, and Henry Trompf. The celebrations concluded with an address on the topic Shakespeare and Music by Dr. A. E. Floyd.
The centenary of Beethoven's death on 19 May, 1927, was a stylish concert consisting of a lecture and sonata-focused chamber music program. That same year, Elgar's 70th birthday was celebrated in style and with pomp on 8 July. A lecture by the President of the BMS, Victorian Branch, Thomas Brentnall set the atmosphere. The Melba Conservatorium Ladies’ Choir, conducted by Fritz Hart, performed the part-songs The Snow and Fly, Singing Bird. Jean Hambleton sang the piano arrangement of the song cycle, Sea Pictures op. 37. These vocal numbers were balanced by the Sonata for Violin and Piano, op. 82, played by Gertrude Healy and Mrs. H. E. Spry. Harold Browning finished the concert with songs by Frank Bridge and C. V. Stanford. Additional advertisements in the program announce other events related to Elgar's birthday celebrations.
The wreath design featured in the French music celebration series concert program covers was recycled for birthday and centenary celebrations. Different colours of paper and printing distinguished each separate program. By far the most flamboyant concert program is that from Louise's own birthday celebration on 19 July, 1926. A yellow-cream glassy textured wrapper covers a coloured photomechanical print of two coloured illustrations set in silver-coloured borders, grey tinted printing for the inside, all of this held by a grey ribbon. The concert program was no less exquisite: accompanied by Maude Puddy, English singer Clive Carey delivered Italian arie antiche, songs by G. Fauré, Reynaldo Hahn, Hugo Wolf, Richard Strauss, and the Seven Spanish Songs by Manuel de Falla, finishing with English songs Monkey's Carol by C. V. Stanford, Sweet Suffolk Owl by Ernest Walker, Bellman's Song by Elizabeth Poston, and That's the Way for Billy and Me by Felix White. The program gave translations of the foreign songs.
This was to be her last birthday celebration at ‘Kinnoull’. Louise and Jimmy Dyer sold their art collection and auctioned their house in early 1927. The Dyers settled in Paris in 1928 where Louise went on to fulfil her entrepreneurial potential in the then capital of music and printing. Melbourne did not cease, however, from benefitting from Louise's whole-hearted generosity towards local artists, libraries, arts institutions, and educational organisations. The BMS is still in existence as the Lyrebird Society Inc. And by organising an array of public and salon concerts, which presented wide-ranging programming, predominantly in French and English music, and involving the best local musicians and guests at hand, Louise facilitated a major flowering period of professional chamber music in Melbourne.


See Daniela Kaleva, ‘Gustav Holst and British Music Society of Victoria Collections at the State Library of Victoria’, Fontes Artis Musicae, vol. 55, no. 1, January – March (2008), pp. 170–179.


The President of the British Music Society, Victorian Branch was Thomas Brentnall, also Vice-President of the Melbourne Music Club and Melbourne Representative of the Associate Board of the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal College of Music. The Treasurer was Jimmy Dyer, and the Vice-Presidents, Fritz Hart (Albert Street Conservatorium), Professor Laver (University Conservatorium) and Alberto Zelman, Jr. Melba was patron of the society. Jim Davidson, Lyrebird Rising: Louise Hanson-Dyer of Oiseau-Lyre 1884–1962, Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press, 1994, p. 92.


Jim Davidson, ‘Dyer, Louise Berta Mosson Hanson (1884–1962)’, ADB.


‘Note bibliographique sur Louise Hanson-Dyer’, MS 10770. Louise Berta Mosson Dyer, (1891–1962). Papers, 1926–1971, Australian Manuscripts Collection, State Library of Victoria.


See Kevin McBeath's interview with Dr Hanson, ‘The Lyrebird in Paris’, Record Society Monthly Review, vol. 5 no. 1 (July 1964), p. 1.


Davidson, Lyrebird Rising, p. 92.


See Eileen Chanin and Daniela Kaleva, ‘Louise Hanson-Dyer: leading by example’, Music Forum Magazine, vol. 15, no. 3 (2009), pp. 27–29.


In 2006 the Hanson-Dyer estate left a large bequest to the University of Melbourne and as a consequence the University's music library was renamed the Louise Hanson-Dyer Music Library. See


W. G. Whittaker, ‘The B.M.S. in Australia’, Music Bulletin, vol. 6 no. 1, (January 1924), p. 18. In MS 10770. Louise Berta Mosson Dyer, (1891–1962) Papers, 1926–1971


See Don Hauser, Printers of the Streets and Lanes of Melbourne (1837–1975), Melbourne: Nondescript Press, 2006, p. 36.


‘The Assembly Hall’, Victorian Heritage Database,;9658, accessed 26 August 2009.


See David Tunley, William James and the Beginnings of Modern Musical Australia, Grosvenor Place, NSW.: Australian Music Centre, 2004.


Davidson, ‘Dyer, Louise Berta Mosson Hanson (1884–1962)’, ADB.


Press cuttings in MS 10770. Louise Berta Mosson Dyer, (1891–1962). Papers, 1926–1971.


‘The name most commonly applied by contemporary scribes to instrumental settings of an English 16th-century popular tune’, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, vol. 4, p. 451.