Thursday, September 17, 2009

Amelia Bailey -Part Two

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.

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