Settlers continue tradition of music playing
Every church had a choir, every town a brass band and performances were held
MUSIC has always played a large part in the everyday lives of people on the North Coast.
Great efforts were made by early settlers to bring musical instruments with them so their traditions could continue through future generations.
Some reports say that William Wilson of Lismore Station rafted a piano up the 90 miles from Ballina.
Pianos were very popular and at one time there were several firms or agents in Lismore competing with each other in this lucrative market.
Teachers flocked to the area to attend to the wants of enthusiastic amateurs.
Palings, Nicholsons and later Marcus Clark and Carl Small are names to remember as piano dealers.
These pianos were made overseas, often in Germany and France, and shipped out in great crates.
One family at Lennox Head had a large Lipp upright piano which had won many prizes in German competitions.
The gilt medals were attached just inside the lid of the big piano.
It is good to remember that our society was multicultural. Italians, the French and Germans in particular mixed with the British.
There were also many Irish settlers. Each group brought something of its own culture and traditions to the area and was eager to join in and make music.
Without radio, television and picture-theatres, most of the entertainment had to be home-grown.
A family sing-song around the piano was a regular event in many homes. Visitors joined in and in this way group singing and ensemble playing began to flourish.
All the daughters were taught to play the piano; some also played the violin or cello.
There were many outstanding performers.
One of these was Lemuel Snow, an American, who was in the timber trade and arrived in Lismore in the 1860s.
He possessed a fine bass voice and brought with him a large quantity of music, including scores for instrumental works and oratorios.
He also had a fine collection of books chiefly on music.
He was one of the first to share his musical talents and to teach others.
Music brought people together socially and several marriages developed from this.
Two of these were when sopranos Mary Davidson and Eliza Wotherspoon married tenors Edward Saville and James P.F. Walker.
Choirs and orchestras were soon established in the towns.
Every church had a choir, every town a brass band. Competitions and public performances were encouraged.
When the Lismore Musical Festival was established in 1908, it was a great success and thousands of people flocked to Lismore to hear contestants appearing in a huge tent on the recreation grounds.
The results of the festival were printed in Sydney papers, including the prestigious Town and Country Journal, with photographs of the contestants and, in some cases, the full text of adjudication comments.
Competitors came from all over New South Wales and southern Queensland and rivalry was intense though friendly.
A local operatic company was established as well as a philharmonic society in Lismore.
It was not only music that flourished, however – drama and dancing performances were also held.
People from places like Casino and Ballina joined in the fun.
And the audiences loved them all!
CONTACT: Prepared by c Geoff and Margaret Henderson for Richmond River Historical Society, 02 6621 9993. firstname.lastname@example.org. Museum at 165 Molesworth St, Lismore is open 10am–4pm Monday–Friday; Research room open 10am–4pm Monday and Wednesday.
of Have something historic interest? to hear We would live from you, email tracey.hordern@ northernstar.com.au