Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Oatlands, is a town north of Hobart overland to Launceston where the company was persuaded to give a concert in the only available venue; the court house. By the time tickets had been exchanged for use of the facilities, the finding of chairs, provision for lights and the borrowing and carriage of the nearest piano to the court house, the ‘house’ was full, the company performed and no-one made any money. They left to perform in Launceston where Aitken stayed, having found Scot’s men and women much to her liking, and Chisholm and Bailey gave Moonlight concerts in the gardens there. Amelia was now in billing, part of the Chilsholm-Bailey troupe; her first as a principal in a touring concert company which, after having sailed back to Melbourne toured the provinces a little before Smythe suggested a larger project for 1863.
Early in 1863 a magician arrived in Melbouren with a small repertoire and the desire to make a career of himself. His name was John Simmonds, who billed himself as “Washington Frikell.” he was performing at the Mechanics Insititute, having been hired by Louis Laurens Smith, son of the great London entrepreneur Edward Tyrell Smith, in turn the offspring of a famous Royal Navy Admiral. Dr. L.L.Smith had also hired Geraldine Warden, a scot’s singer of some talent and fellow student of Amelia’s under Elsasser.
Simmons could never quite mange his time nor was he familiar with the necessities of getting people to pay money, so Smythe entered the picture, acting as manager and hiring Amelia as the vocal/pretty portion of the evening. Together they toured the countryside and goldfields, Marquis Chisholm having left to go solo in Sydney and surrounds.
In May of that same year the Russian corvette ‘Bogatyr” was in Melbourne on a visit (actually it’s real prupose was a ‘we bad, we big” tour, letting the British and assocaied countries know that they had muscled up after their defeat in Crimea) and the town was excited to see the white dressed Russian sailors in Town, the ladies especially. Amelia as it happened gave a private concert onboard the Bogatyr under the patronage of Admiral Popoff and crew.
In April, she gave a concert with Charles Horsely and Marquis Chisholm at Hocklin’s Hotel, then a popular concert venue opposite St. Francis Church. It was about this time that they may have been to the Otago Goldfields in New Zealand with Aitken.
Here we lose track of Amelia’s actual movement’s for Smythe arrives back in Melbourne having written a communiqué to Chilshom in Sydney and having also finished with the Wizard Mr. Simmonds, he was in Melbourne. Amelia is then next noticed setting sail on a coastal steamer called the Urara, with Mr. Smythe, Mr. Chisholm and Mr. Lynn, all of whom were intent on using Sydney as a jumping off point to sail to Shanghai, where they would, under Smythe’s plan, meet up with Edouard Desirée Boulanger, veteran pianist of the Californian goldrush and Agostino di Robbio, a temperamental pupil of Paganini with almost ten years of touring various Spanish Colonies under his belt. They arrived at the pier on the hour of sail, having stored away their luggage and Chilshom’s new harmonium (which Smythe had paid to be given to him as a ‘gift’) on board the Moneta that morning with the Company’s money (500 pounds) on the ship safe. They missed the ship, after having indulged in a last big lunch and had to pay some sailors to row them out to it for the Commander, a Captain Withers was awaiting a good wind and tide. Simmons stood at the rear fo the rowboat shouting and waving his large white ‘kerchief. The Captain was none too happy but the troupe was safely on it’s way.
Friday, September 18, 2009
September was a new beginning. Whilst Smythe was doing battle with the French in South Australia, the “Great Britain” arrived in Melbourne carrying a new stock of passengers and goods. Amongst the sea-legged populace was James Marquis Chisholm (1835-1872) a pianist of no mean skill, having trained with the pyrotechnic fingers but rigid control of Thalberg and Miss Margaret Edith Aitken who was the only daughter of a Glaswegian Doctor, so she said, but in reality was the daughter of James Aitken, the Scot’s actor, who had settled down to the giving of elocution for want of work and his wife, Mary Smith, a shipboard hostess with P&O oriental in the days when hostess meant a female concierge of a floating Hotel, who disappeared for months on end. Miss Aitken styled herself a elocutionist whose primary granting of entertainment was the reading of poetry and prose, usually of the heavy Scot’s kind. Both of them had formed a kind of ship board duo that entertained the officers and crew and did a good job of it as well.
When Smythe had returned they were struggling along at concert giving when he offerred a contract as manager. Amelia got back into the Philharmonia work which always occupied her in last three months of the year and had done since 1858-9. She performed with Henry Farqhuarson (Smith) and Armes Beaumont, now also a cog in the Philharmonia machine.
In October, Amelia signed up as the vocal dish in the Chisholm-Aitken Company. Smythe knew that Melbourne had a large population of Scot’s as did Tasmania, in particularly Launceston so he concentrated his campaign there. James was to dazzle with his scottish tunes and popular song, Margaret was to rolls her R’s and bash people about the head with thick slabs of Robbie Burns, the oratorical equivalent of haggis, and Amelia was to sweeten the deal with her pretty face and sentimental songs. Aitken was a good ‘actress’ in her readings of parts but she wasn’t pretty by any slap of an artists brush. But, in concert, each of them provided a distinct texture to an evening of entertainment, each catering to what we call nowadays a ‘demographic’.
On the 5th of November on Amelia’s 18th Birthday, still under the chaperonage of Mr. Smythe she concerted a confection of Mr. Chisholms called the “Dead Heroes” which was a moving music tribute (read pastiche) to two explorers who were not well equipped in brain nor limb and payed the ultimate price. But national heroes being hard to come by, Australia claimed them and grieved, and where there is grief there is emotion and emotion means ticket sales, if harnessed. Just whose idea it was is not sure but on that night at the Hobart Theatre Royale, a house draped in black crepe and fully decorated with all the indulgent emotion that such swathes can provide, a tableau vivant was offered, with music by Chisholm, readings by Aitken and spooky vocals from Amelia ( in the basement, keeping time with he man hired by Smythe to beat away the rats). The evening was a total failure; they hired two drunkards from the local police lock up to play the dead explorers, who then got into a fisticuffs, the smoke machine burned too much celluoid and caused the small boy manning the machine to scream for mummy and the prisoners turned thespians embraced in mid-fight, and plummeted over the footlights like Holmes and Moriaty over Richenbach falls. The house broke into laughter and the company cancelled any fantasies about repeating the performance and left town shortly thereafter.
She had just turned 18 and Robert was 29.
Robert Sparrow Smythe was the London born eldest son of robert and Elizabeth Smith of Lambeth. He had been apprenticed to Levey and Robson of 23 Great New Street Fetter Lane as an errand boy, compositor and reader. As part of his apprenticeship was the learning of shorthand by which he could notate and find employment in other areas. By the time he was 21 years old a weak bronchial condition drove him to take the long salt air voyage to the clean aired and sunny climate of Australia. He arrived in 1855 on the ‘Kent’ as plain old Robert Smith and sailed direct to Adelaide where he had and uncle Edward and young cousins, obtaining a post on the South Australian Register as a parliamentary reporter. In 1857 he became head of the Deniliquin and Pastoral Times, negotiating one of the highest wages then for a country paper, before quitting the boredom of country life for the city of Melbourne, where he tired setting up his own paper, but having that fold, worked as an early music critic at the Argus from where he covered, in 1861, the arrival of the operatic couple, the gruff Eliodoro Bianchi, a gruff balloon of a man on thin like legs and his frisky wife Giovanna di Campagana-Casali Bianchi and the French duo of violinist Horace Rémi Poussard and violincellist (Louis) Réné (Paul )Douay.
Poussard and Douay arrived to give a concert at an art exhibition o the 4th of June 1861, and had arranged for a two local singers, Amelia Bailey and a talented amateur, Edward Armes Beaumont, then a clerk at a shipping office. Including and recognizing local talent was a source of pride and pride sells tickets. Smythe was sent along to write up the concert for the Argus and it was at the Art Exhibition he met the young Miss Bailey and Msr. Poussard, all of whom would become important to each other. Catherine Hayes, the Irish prima-donna had been in Australia in 1854 and had provided Horace with letters of introduction and Amelia had claimed in South Africa in 1869 that she had been a pupil of Miss Hayes, who by that time was dead and could not refute it nor claim to not recall. I think the best that can be guessed is that Miss Hayes spoke to one of Allan’s classes on her tour in Melbourne, or said a few words of encouragement to one or two standouts. Amelia would have been twelve at the time so could have been possible...
Amelia spent the rest of 1861 in intermittent concert giving, with Mr. Alexander in June and at the Theatre Royale in late July, stretching her wings and breaking out from under the protective shadows of the Philharmonic. In November she is back on the papers giving a concert with Maggie Liddle, the Yorkshire born singer, whose live was to become a dwindling of expectations and the eventual demise when deserted by her husband, Fred Hilton.
In April of 1862 a theatrical ad for a play called “Sea of Ice” advertised it’s coming run with a ‘Miss Amelia’ in a small part. She was never heard from again and I wodner if our Amelia had tried her had at acting to supplement the income, for she really had none of her own.
In 1862, Smythe who had just passed some profitable months in South Australia with the Bianchi’s and was back in Melbourne to take over the editorship of the Illustrated Melbourne Post, the May issue of which featured etchings of Poussard and Douay, and no doubt it was about this time that the Messrs. arranged an extended plan of tour of South Australia, with Miss Bailey as the pretty face and vocal component.
Poussard and Douay were not disciplined in the actual business of managing advertising, sales and money taking and management thereof. Smythe had a little experience of it when he had left the Argus to pilot the Bianchi’s tour of South Australia, which he knew well. He knew negotiating, a little of contract law and had a good head on his shoulders.
Late April, the Poussard-Douay Concert Party arrived in South Australia and from the time they got off the coastal ship, Smythe cracked the whip via a punishing timetable; his time the Bianchi’s had demonstrated most clearly that hotel rooms had to be payed for between concerts and that expense ate heartily into any profit made. The best was to keep expenses down was to sing daily for one’s supper.
Arriving sometime in late May 1862, by the 24th Poussard, Douay and Bailey (along with Smyteh) were at a private party in Adelaide, then a very large newspaper ‘broadside in column’ appeared for a concert at teh Adelaide Assembly Rooms. It was a capital city overture before their June Cavalry charge; Port Adelaide, Glenelg, Adelaide again, Norwood Town Hall and Kensington South. July: Kopke’s Commercial Hotel, Tanunda, Kapunda, Burra Burra, Clare, Waterdale, Kapunda again, Angaston, Tanunda encore, Gawler, Salisbury, Auburn.
August was going to be no less punitive but fate had other plans. Whether by planned revolt or just sheer fatigue or lack of enjoyment that travel affords in favour of saving the coffers, the wheels came of the carriage. Literally. Late in June, in a hurry to make it to the next town, the group set out in the late evening, in a full rain storm, with howling strong winds and and eager horseman plioting four horses, that crossed the Hutt River at full speed, breaking down. It put the brakes on the tour. the gallant Mr. Douay carried Miss Bailey to the bank and the entire party was soaked and had to return to the town they had left, hanging out clothes, instruments, underwear and sheet music all over the Hotel.
After a concert on he 12th at Wallaroo, Smythe, as usual went ahead to book a venue, arrange ads or broadsides, town criers, ticket takers, book hotel rooms and try to find a piano or organ for the concert at whatever town at which they might be advertised. Poussard however, for whatever reason decided to ignore the plan, such as it was and accepted an invitation to stay at Kadina. Smythe, having scouted ahead and having laid out monies, sued Poussard for not having turned up. Neither man a stranger to law courts the case was won by Smythe on the 30th and he and Amelia returned to Melbourne, straight into the arms of another pair of entertainers, though somewhat more odd, Chisholm and Aitken. Both Scots and wacky as a tartan rug.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
While in Australia and after his gold-fever had broken he settled down to teaching music and replaced the Liverpuddlian organist at the Collins Street Independent Church, John Russell as head of the Philharmonic Society in Melbourne which had grown from it’s amateur roots in 1840 to a respectable practised, reined and strapped stable of voices.
Amelia’s first professional concert was on the evening of the 25th of March 1858, in aid of the Indian Relief Fund, in which Mr. Allan had brought together three singing groups from St. Paul’s School, Collingwood Singing Class and the North Melbourne Choral Society. Amelia, who hailed from St. James School was billed along with Minnie A. Griffiths as soloists making their début, and the Herald reviewed it thus:
“This notice was impertinent; no debutantes ever needed less consideration; every song which these young ladies sang was encored; and it was really astonishing to think that the younger of them, a girl of thirteen or fourteen, with a dress several inches above her ankles, could induce so much feeling into George Linley’s ballad of ‘Constance’. Almost equally successful was her taller and slightly elder companion in Abt’s beautiful song of ‘When the swallows homeward fly’, a German song overflowing with love and tenderness.”
The older girl was of course Amelia and the accompanist on the occasion was Elsasser, her singing teacher. Amelia was sixteen, the same age as when she was appointed as a soprano with the Melbourne Philharmonic. A post to which she had likely been groomed by Elsasser who was it’s conductor at the time.
Again on the 21st of October the girls made their second concert solo, this time in an exhbition Building benefit concert. Miss Bailey’s voice was described as “full, rich and forecasting a high position amongst the colonial vocalists” Minnie’s “bewitching eyes” were noted by the St. Kilda Chronicle, a newspaper which, Amelia future husband, R.S.Smythe (1833-1917) founded and operated in partnership with Albert Richard Goulding, and for which he was likely the music and theatre columnist as he’d be later for the Argus.
In September she was, at the age of 15 nominated as principal soprano in the Philharmonic after having served in it’s which must have been quite a thing since her obituary in 1932 did not fail to mention it.
The philharmonic was where she came under the wings of contralto and colonial concert veteran, the Londoner, Frances Octavia Scrivenor know in musical circles as ‘Octavia Hamilton’ (1826-) the wife of Augustus Graham Moon. She was the first prima-donna Amelia at the make-up table and behind closed doors and was the secret keeper of the ‘captivating’ side of stagecraft, free, outside the order of the minor planets and as close to a libertine as one dare get.
“...but there is no record of her musical career, if indeed it ever bloomed.”
So penned, in regard of Miss Bailey, Peter Game, author of “The Music Sellers” who had never tracked her career, which was in point of fact twenty years long and if measured by distance travelled and continents covered would have her eclipse the most famous of vocal names.
Amelia Elizabeth Bailey was born in Soho, London, the daughter of George Bailey (c.1805-1885), saddler and his wife Amelia Howell (1807-1889), both of whom were living in London at the time of the 1841 Census, in London. George was the son of Robert and Louis Bailey and Amelia Howell, the daughter of William Howell (a tailor by profession) and Louisa. George and Amelia had married on the 17th of May 1838 at St. Anne’s in Soho. The first child was born in London, a girl named Sarah Amelia Louisa Bailey, of whom we have no record save her passing with her brother George Howell Bailey (born and died in St. Olave’s London) who died during the July-September quarter of 1842. Amelia was next and arrived and survived on the 5th of November 1843. There followed sometime later a brother named George Robert Bailey, born 14th February 1845.
Amelia’s soul had hardly four years purchase on English soil when she was carried away on a ship on the emigration route to the colony of New South Wales, Australia in 1846. When she arrived, it was 5 years before the discovery of gold in Victoria and 7 years before the 1849 bonanza of California, so gold was not on George’s mind when he left London. A better life perhaps, far from the scythe wielding smog and the industrially corrupted air of a Dickensian London which had claimed two of their children already, might have been the motivating force. It was a well made gamble. George moved to Melbourne in 1851 when the gold fever struck and found work in the colony of Victoria as a saddler where two more children were born, Mary [Louisa?] Jane, and Sarah Jane Ellen, born 1853 in Melbourne were born in Victoria but died in infancy. Mrs. Bailey had lost three children and had just two left.
The colony of Melbourne was a bubbling copperpot of desperation and excitement containing such disparate groups who needed to stand together or disintegrate along their own lines. Melbourne had neither the population nor funds to build separate schools for every denomination of different shade and tint. Many schools, though rendered in a particular hue of religious belief accepted students of theological kin.
The gold rush of 1851 brought fortune hunters, as gold rush’s tend to do but it also attracted the enterpreneurs both small and large who were the suppliers, outfitters, purveyors and nabobs of all sorts of goods from beer, to ladies hats, from picks, to shoes, and what wasn’t imported, was manufactured on the spot from what was available. In happy addition, it brought men of talent and skill who, having turned their hand to teasing gold from a claim, soon realized that a better and more constant living could be made in being a school teacher, shop owner, clerk or subsequent variation on whatever trade or inclination they left behind in England, Scotland, Ireland or Europe.
George Leavis Allan (1826-1934) was one such adventurer who turned from the gold-pan to music education and eventually to sheet music and a Melbourne emporium icon. It is of note that his mother was an Ann Bailey, who’s family had lived in St Olaves, where lived also George Robert Bailey and wife Amelia. I wonder if Amelia was a cousin of some sort?
In 1853 George Leavis Allan started public teaching of Ladies and Gentlemen and later that same year started to teach as part of the school system and ended by being appointed the singing teacher for various schools and had in the course of his charge of teaching the children of Melbourne how to sing, discovered Amelia’s voice and recommened her for further training with a seasoned and professional musician, the Germanic gentleman, Herr Carl Gotfried Elsasser, who was scholarly, disciplined but an odd creature for his day in the handling of teaching.