Coronation music

22 May 2023

The recent coronation of King Charles III brings to mind the coronations which took place during the period of this website. Edward VII’s coronation ceremony took place on 9 August 1902 and George V’s on 22 June 1911. Both these events were celebrated through music in New Zealand.

Harry Hiscock’s Coronation March was published in 1902 and contemporary reviews described it as “of truly dignified character, wholly in keeping with the subject,” and a copy was presented to the King. Tyrell Baxter’s Coronation waltz was written on the occasion of the coronation of King George V in 1911. Geraldine-based Baxter employed a somewhat unusual way of distributing his work. Advertisements in the Otago Daily Times and the Evening Post sought canvassers to sell copies at a 50% commission rate. Ernest Empson of Christchurch set the words of Johannes C. Andersen’s Song of Empire: Coronation song and Harry Hiscocks also made a contribution to George V’s coronation with his song Hail celebration morn.

Hawera and Normanby Star, 16 June 1902, p2

Concerts and special services were held at various locations in New Zealand, either on coronation day or nearby. In Wellington, Robert Parker led the music at a special service at St Paul’s Cathedral, during which Handel’s Coronation Music was performed. Joseph Higham in Hawera brought together a choir for the Coronation Ceremony Day in 1902 and they performed Handel’s Messiah. Many of the church services held on the Sunday following the coronation included some of the music from the coronation service. In June 1911 Arthur Lilly of Christchurch delivered an organ concert which included coronation music, the Wellington Garrison Band gave a special Coronation Concert and numerous church choirs performed coronation music in their coronation services.

Coronation songs and music published in Great Britain was also imported, with retailers keen to take advantage of the patriotic spirit. Edward Parker’s Music Warehouse in Blenheim and Lillicrap and Co. of Invercargill advertised that they were stocking Coronation music, and the Auckland Star for 17 May, 1902 reviewed a range of coronation music that had been published. In 1911 the music for the coronation service was published in London by Novello so that choirs around the Empire could sing some of the coronation music on coronation day.



Festival for the Encouragement of New Zealand Music

23 May, 2022

Macmillan Brown Archives, University of Canterbury

In this New Zealand Music Month it seems appropriate to reflect a little on an earlier instance of an activity designed to support and highlight New Zealand music – the 1916 and 1918 Festival for the encouragement of New Zealand Music.

The Christchurch organist and composer Arthur Lilly had studied in England before returning to New Zealand in 1911. Included in the range of music he taught was composition and he felt that there was a lack of opportunities for New Zealand composers to have their works performed before live audiences. He initiated the Society for the Encouragement of New Zealand Music and In September 1916, with a committee of supportive Christchurch musicians and citizens headed by the Mayor, Mr Henry Holland, planning started for a Festival for the Encouragement of New Zealand Music.

The first Festival was held in December 1916 and featured works by Lilly himself, in particular his Life cantata. The Christchurch Orchestral Society provided the orchestra under the baton of Alfred Bunz, although there was a shortage of performers for the orchestra due to men being away on service in the forces during World War 1. The second concert of the Festival included works by Alfred Hill, Alice Forrester, Louis Benzoni, H. M. Johnston and Agnes Shearsby as well as repeats of some Lilly works.

Despite somewhat limited success the Committee decided to hold another Festival of New Zealand Music in 1918. On this occasion a list of possible composers was drawn up and the composers approached to see if they had a work that could be included. In addition, a competition was held for the words of an intercessory hymn, the words of which would then be set by New Zealand composers. In this way the August 6th, 1918 concert included works by Bryant Williams, Charles Willeby, Winifred Hawcridge, Frederick Clutsam, George Clutsam, Katherine Foster, Robert Horne, Frank Hutchens, Mai Burnes-Loughnan, Alice Forrester and J. Sinclair. Settings of Jessie Mackay’s words were by J. C. Bradshaw and a second intercessory hymn with words by G. Miller was set by H. M. Johnston.

The purpose of the promoters of the Festival was to “discover and develop local talent”. Thus the second night of the 1918 Festival also featured works by Sydney Hoben, Harry Hiscocks, C. Murray-Gibbes, G. A. Kennedy, A. W. Vine and a further hearing of Lilly’s choral work In Paradise. A lack of support by the concert-going public meant that no further festivals in the series were held. However, they did provide an opportunity for some aspiring New Zealand composers to have their pieces played in a concert setting to a wider audience than they may have usually experienced, and introduced to some of those concert-going Christchurch residents that such a thing as a New Zealand composer not only could exist but also already did exist.



Michael Quinn – an Irish Bandmaster in 1860s New Zealand

7 February 2022

Band Master Quinn, 2/18th Reg., circa 1900, by William Francis Gordon. Purchased 1916. Te Papa (O.013473)

When the 2nd Battalion of the 18th Regiment Royal Irish) first arrived in Auckland in 1863 they had the services of Eduard Bergmann as their Bandmaster. The Band performed not only for military functions such as marches and ceremonial events but also provided music for social occasions such as balls, fairs and charity concerts. They also provided instrumentalists to enlarge the orchestral forces accompanying choral and ensemble performances.

When Bergmann returned to Great Britain in 1865 he was replaced by the Irishman Michael Quinn, a Kneller Hall trained musician. First stationed in Whanganui he was also a cornet player and composer. It was common practice for the Regimental Band to perform works written by their Bandmaster and records of Whanganui performances include mention of his pieces Minnie Clyde, and Choice Spirits. He performed his trumpet solo piece Prussian air with variations at a concert in Auckland in 1868.

In 1867 the Band was relocated to Auckland where it continued to provide music for a range of military, government and social occasions. Quinn also accompanied touring artists such as the Caradini family and was a keen cricketer, playing for various military teams.

First performance of a symphony by full orchestra in Auckland, and conducting Prince Albert

One of the accolades given to Quinn was over his involvement in what was heralded as the first performance of a complete symphony by a full orchestra in New Zealand. In April 1869 a Promenade Concert was advertised organised by Joseph Brown and the Auckland Choral Society, the programme of which included Symphony No.1  – Full band by Mozart. Symphony No.1 in E flat was written by Mozart when he was only 8 years old and consists of 3 movements, Molto Allegro, Andante and Presto. The orchestration called for 2 oboes and 2 horns as well as strings, so the additional resources of the band of the 18th Regiment would have been required. The symphony lasted 25 minutes – the concert’s entire programme lasted 3 hours.

Soon afterwards Quinn had the experience of conducting the orchestra of the Choral Society which included Prince Alfred, the Duke of Edinburgh in the first violins. Prince Alfred was a serving naval officer and in command of the H.M.S. Galatea. During his May 1869 visit Prince Albert (who had a keen and active interest in music and was himself a violinist), joined the violinists in a concert by the Auckland Choral Society, where Quinn conducted the orchestral items.  Quinn also joined the orchestra himself on occasions as a cornet player including the August 1869 performance of Elijah.

Quinn’s contribution to the music of Auckland and in particular his work with the Auckland Choral Society was recognised in 1870. He was given a presentation baton, made by the master engraver Anton Teutenberg and in a case by the master cabinetmaker Anton Seuffert, along with an illuminated address. The baton included a specimen of Thames quartz studded with gold and is now held in the collection of the National Army Museum in London.

The Canary Galop

As has already been mentioned, Quinn contributed a number of pieces to the band’s repertoire as well as some solo works. One of the band pieces was the Canary Galop. Performed by the Band in its concert at the Auckland Domain in January 1869 the piece was performed several times including at the ball held for the farewell of the Regiment from New Zealand in February 1870. The dance programme also included his waltz Fannie and dances by his predecessor Bandmaster, Bergmann.  

Auckland Library. Sir George Grey Collections, OCM Ephemera 5b
Auckland Library. Sir George Grey Collections, OCM Ephemera 5a

The instrumental parts or a score for the piece must have stayed in Auckland after the Regiment left as the work was further performed by the Auckland Volunteer Rifles band in 1870/71 and as late as 1876. Of particular interest is that it was also coped by hand by Colonel Arthur Morrow who lived in Epsom, Auckland . Morrow was a gifted amateur artist and it is fascinating to see that he added a coloured front cover the to the piece. The image is without doubt copied from the popular Canary Bird Quadrilles by Ricardo Linter, many arrangements of which were available for sale in Auckland. This manuscript copy of Quinn’s  Canary Galop is the only remaining copy of the score.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is lintner_canary-bird_s.jpg
Linter. Canary Birds Quadrille
Quinn. Canary Galop. Howick Historical Village

The 18th Regiment spent 6 months in Sydney prior to their return to Great Britain. The Band continued its programme of public concerts which included his Canary Galop. While in Sydney he wrote to a friend in Auckland expressing a desire to return to Auckland when his service with the band ended i.e. in late 1872. He returned with the Regiment to Ireland but took ill in early 1876 and died on 31 March, 1876.


Milner & Thompson’s Tokens

13 July 2021

In the competitive area of music selling, many music sellers tried adventurous ways of promoting their business. A shortage of small currency in New Zealand from the 1860s to the 1880s led to some businesses striking their own tokens which became recognised as ordinary currency, not only with the issuing firm but with all other traders. Several Christchurch businesses had their own tokens, including music dealers, Milner & Thompson. Milner & Thompson’s ten tokens were struck for them by the Melbourne firm of Stokes and Martin and first circulated at the first Canterbury Society of the Arts Exhibition in 1881. Milner & Thompson were the last issuers of tokens in New Zealand.

Six of the tokens feature musical instruments; the other four a landscape or bust of a Māori chief. As a means of promoting not just their business, but the instruments they were selling one design has “Sole Agents for John Brinsmead & Sons Pianos” on one face and another “Milner & Thompson’s Canterbury Music Depot & Pianoforte Warehouse”.


24 January 2021

Alice Cornwell
Source: Early New Zealand photographers and their successors website.

In 1888 the novelist Fergus Hume’s novel Madame Midas was published. Its central figure was based on Alice Cornwell, Australia’s Princess Midas so named after her success in the Ballarat goldfields, in particular the discovery of gold at the Midas mines owned by her father. Alice Cornwell later owned the newspaper the Sunday Times before later leaving the mining industry and settling in England with her second husband. She was also responsible for the establishment of the Ladies Kennel Club.

So what did Alice Cornwell have to do with New Zealand music?

Cornwell was born in England but moved at the age of nine to Dunedin in 1861 when her father moved the family to explore new business opportunities. While in Dunedin she attended Mrs May’s Manor Lodge School, at which she almost certainly learned piano and singing from Mrs May’s husband, James T. May. She remained in Dunedin until she was 17, and Dunedin retained a place in her affections.

The family moved from Dunedin to Melbourne, with her father exploring the opportunities of the Ballarat minefields. In 1873 she married John Whiteman, a man 34 years her senior, in what proved to be an unsuccessful marriage. She moved to London, reportedly to study music at the Royal Academy of Music. Accounts record her winning a number of gold medals and composing a number of short pieces. A recent enquiry to the Royal Academy of Music has been unable to provide further evidence of her study, but there certainly remain evidence of her compositions.

In 1873 her song Weary, oh so weary was printed by Troedel’s in Melbourne and published under the name Alice Cornwell. It was dedicated “To my New Zealand friends”.  This was followed in 1874 by her Maori March, a song, Music, heavenly, music, and her Marie Edinboorskoi waltz for the piano . Newspaper comments were kind, noting some positive characteristics although also commenting on the lack of originality and need for further musical training. Unfortunately no copies of her Maori March have been able to be located.

A decade later, she published under the name Alice Whiteman a waltz, The Dulce Domum waltz, dedicated to Prince Louis of Battenberg. The work had been written a few years earlier, and a presentation copy given to Prince Louis in 1881.

Music was only one very small aspect of the eventful life of Alice Cornwell, but at one stage clearly provided an outlet for her. Her initial musical training in Dunedin seems to have provided a basis for her on-going pleasure in music, and her affectionate memories of her time in Dunedin are reflected in one dedication and title.  So although only touching somewhat tangentially on the stories of notable New Zealand musicians, Alice Cornwell’s connection with colonial New Zealand music deserves to be noted.

As a footnote, Fergus Hume also had New Zealand music connections. Educated in Dunedin, his uncle was Marcus Hume, who set Bracken’s poem Tramp of the fire brigade to music, and which was published in two editions.  


Music agencies

To increase their share of the market and obtain more sales, many music businesses in the cities and larger towns appointed agents in smaller towns and rural areas to sell their goods, in particular pianos and sheet music.   The pianos were commonly sold on hire purchase.     

The two biggest music businesses, Begg’s and the Dresden, had the most agents.  In their entries in the Otago volume of the Cyclopedia of New Zealand (1905) the Dresden boasted it had 50 agencies and Begg’s claimed it had agents in all the leading towns.  It appears the only qualification an agent needed was a readiness to sell big-ticket items, chiefly pianos and harmoniums on commission, although many, if not most, of them sold music as well. Some businesses seem a better fit as an agent than others; booksellers and stationers probably sold music anyway, furniture sellers would often include pianos in their stock and piano tuners and music teachers had useful musical connections.  As well as these there were cycle shops, chemists, funeral directors, jewellers, land agents and commission agents.  

Morrison and Bissett bookshop, agent for The Dresden, Feilding, c1911. Feilding Library

Agencies often changed between the two major companies; doubtless an agent was expected to perform, which meant making sales, and failure to do this was a factor in many agency changes.  Some agents only seem to have held an agency for a year or two while others had them for many years.  

 Many of the smaller music businesses also operated agencies and some companies had agents themselves as well as being agents.  Being the agent for one of the larger music firms was an enticement to customers and enhanced a business’ profile; many businesses only appear to have advertised when they held an agency.      

Agencies were important in bringing music into small towns that may not have had any other music seller.  A photograph of Bow Street, Raglan in 1910 shows a street of houses with one general store with a sign reading “Agent for London & Berlin Co” propped up against it.  For the inhabitants of Raglan at the time this was probably the only place to buy pianos and sheet music. 

Gilmour Brothers, Bow Street, Raglan, 1910.ATL, Ref: 1/2-00318-G.


New Zealand themes in British songs and dances before 1850

10 May 2020

While the notables being profiled in this site are based in New Zealand, there are at least three examples of English musicians featuring New Zealand in music published before 1850. While there had been a number of instances of attempts at transcription of fragments of Maori music these examples are from the popular music repertoire.

The New Zealanders Dance, 1821. John Aloys Moralt was a musician working in London in the 1820s. A viola player, he also composed a number of pieces in popular dance forms. The New Zealanders Dance references the haka in its strong rhythmic patterns and Moralt may well have seen a haka being performed by Hongi Hika and Waikato during their trip to England with Thomas Kendall in 1820-1821.

National Library of Australia

Taranaki Waltzes, Plymouth, 1841. In 1841 a ball, was held in Plymouth on December 25th, 1841 with an objective of supplying the poorer emigrants with clothing and to celebrate the first anniversary of settlers leaving for New Plymouth. Local music seller and music teacher Peter Rowe composed and published a worked titled Taranaki Waltzes which was performed at the ball. According to the report in the New Zealand Journal the cover included a lithographic illustration of Maori “in enjoyment of the dance”. No known copies have yet been located of this work.

New Zealand maid’s lament: a New Zealand song. London, 184-? The words to this song were written by the famous Pākehā-Māori Barnet Burns whose eventful life is described in Te Ara, and the music by a less famous music teacher and harpist from Hull named Charles Alexander Murray.

National Library of New Zealand

If any readers are aware of any other New Zealand-themed music published in England or elsewhere prior to the 1850s we would be delighted to hear about it, or of any copies of Taranaki Waltzes.


The Enigmatic Seaton Rivers

22 February 2020

Who was Seaton Rivers, the composer of six piano solos published in New Zealand between 1904 and 1908? Seemingly a non-de-plume, no evidence of the composer’s true identity has been unearthed by the two curators of this website despite deep and far-reaching research.

What do we know about him, or her? All six pieces were published by Charles Begg & Co, but not all by their Dunedin Head Office. At least two have London (where Begg’s had an office) as the place of publication. The different locations may or may not indicate something about the composer. Was he or she living in New Zealand? There was a Seaton Rivers who was conductor in the UK in 1929 but it seems unlikely this is the same person as there is no record of him (or her) coming to New Zealand, nor of any compositions by Seaton Rivers published by a British publisher.

It has been suggested that Seaton Rivers was a piano teacher who for reasons unknown to him/herself decided to keep their identity a secret. However, it seems unlikely that a teacher would not want to promote their reputation by claiming the music as their own.

Which raises the question why have a non-de-plume? Presumably it was to conceal the composer’s
identity. Was the composer well known in another sphere? Publishing music under another name? Was he or she a “serious musician” who felt these morceaux de salon pieces were amusing to write (and perhaps financially worthwhile) but not merit worthy enough to claim ownership of? Research has been undertaken into copyright records in New Zealand and England but no information has come to light.

Although several copies of Seaton Rivers’ pieces survive in private and public collections, there are only four advertisements in newspapers of the time; two for Willows and two for The Red Carnation. This at a time when music was heavily advertised, particularly if a composer had had success before. One only has to compare Adrian Hope who was composing at the same time, was also published by Begg’s and whose work was heavily advertised, to see how little publicity Seaton Rivers received.

And so we ask who was Seaton Rivers? Perhaps you can help. We’d love to know.


Whitwell-Butler, Thomas

14 October 2019

Touring musicians, and those who came to New Zealand to visit relatives of for a relatively short residence were both common in the nineteenth century. One such example was Thomas Whitwell Butler, who, using the name Thomas O’Brien Butler, would later become known for writing the first Irish language opera, and being killed in the sinking of the Lusitania.

Thomas Butler was born the youngest of 11 children in Caherciveen, Ireland, in 1861.  He was educated at St. Colman’s College, Fermoy, County Cork and on completion of his education, was employed as a church organist in Youghal, County Cork, and Parsonstown (now known as Birr), County Offaly.  During this time he also began composing musical arrangements, and he was known for his singing voice.

The name Whitwell, which he added to his name, was a common family name and had also been the name of one of his brothers who had died in 1873. In August 1892 he arrived in Dunedin where one of his sisters had settled. He immediately set up offering to teach Singing, Pianoforte and Harmony, using the hyphenated form of his surname he was to use for the period of his New Zealand residency.

 Whitwell-Butler soon became involved with the local community, was a member of the St Joseph’s cathedral choir and held in the formation of the Dunedin Leiderkranz. His original song “Fate’s decree” was performed by the visiting Royal Italian Opera Company soprano Felicina Cuttica. His credentials increased to include mention of his supposed training and high society individuals he had taught:

Otago Daily Times, 13 April, 1893, p3

He also maintained his connections with what was happening in Ireland and put on a fund-raising concert to support the efforts of the linen industry in the south of Ireland.

After two years in Dunedin he decided to relocate to Greymouth, a town with a population of not quite 4000 compared with Dunedin’s 22,000. Here, as well as continuing his teaching, he was instrumental in establishing a Choral Society which performed works such as Handel’s Messiah. However, in less than a year, he decided to move on from New Zealand to India in September 1895.

From India he moved to Italy, and then to London where he enrolled at the Royal College of Music in 1897. From 1898 he divided his time between London and Ireland and in 1903, his Irish language opera “Muirgheis” was performed in the Theatre Royal, Dublin, Ireland. By this stage he had also changed his name to Thomas O’Brien Butler and worked to promote a further production of his opera and other musical works. He boarded the Lusitania from New York in 1915 and was among the 1195 people killed after the ship was torpedoed.

Butler’s time in New Zealand was relatively short and relatively early in his career. Only two works appear to remain from this period, Fate’s Decree and a benediction service for St Joseph’s Cathedral, Dunedin. The trip may have been little more than a chance to visit his sister and experience living in another country but he does seem to have emerged from it determined to continue his future as a composer, celebrating his Irish heritage.