State Library has recently digitised a concert programme from the First World War: Souvenir programme, patriotic concert : Brisbane Liedertafel : Centennial Hall, Tuesday, Sept., 22nd, 1914.
By 1914, the Brisbane Liedertafel was a well-established feature of Queensland’s choral landscape. Formed in 1884, the choir chose its name, which means ‘song table’, to indicate the German custom of men gathering around a table with their beer steins and singing in harmony. As the War progressed and anti-German sentiment increased, this name became a problem, and a decision was made in early 1916 to change the name of the choir to Brisbane Apollo Club.
However in September 1914, the name Brisbane Liedertafel was still intact, and the choir and orchestra, under the baton of Mr. Leonard Francis, presented their concert in aid of the Queensland patriotic fund and the Red Cross Society. Included in the large audience at the Centennial Hall were His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor (Sir Arthur Morgan), and Lady Morgan, and the Mayor of Brisbane (Ald. C. M. Jenkinson), and Mrs. Jenkinson.
An article in The Telegraph the following day described the concert, with somewhat mixed sentiments:
‘It was evident that the framers of the programme designed it with a view to catch the popular taste in patriotic music, but it would not do justice to the society to say that the programme represented the best that it was capable of presenting, to the public. Many numbers of strong patriotic appeal that easily might have been included in the programme, immediately suggest themselves.’
‘The opening number was Elgar’s great march, “Pomp and Circumstance,” with its rousing second part, now happily caught up into the song, “Land of Hope and Glory.” The orchestra played it with much freedom, though there was a want of unanimity in the various parts. Next came the part song, “Bright Sword of Liberty,” sung by the choir…’
The reviewer did however, praise the musical efforts of the soloists:
‘…Miss Lilian Sheehan contributed that ever popular number, “The Minstrel Boy.” Her singing won for her a loud recall, and in response thereto, she added another song. Another Irish song, “Search the Page of History” followed. It was sung by Mr. J. E. Baines, with fine effect, and an encore being demanded, he sang “The Top o’ the Mornin’ to You.” The next number was Thayer’s part song, “Trelawney,” in which the choir again satisfied their patriotic hearers. Then Mr C. J. Bottger, who can always depend upon a rousing reception from Liedertafel audiences, sang “Australia’s Call to Arms”- a recent composition by Mr. E. R. B. Jordan. The words lack poetic grace, and the musical phrases are by no means novel, but Mr. Bottger sang the song with so much spirit that he easily won for it a loud demand for its repetition…’
Another review in the Daily Standard suggested that while the quality of patriotic compositions may not have been great, the performers made as much out of the material as they could.
During the evening, programmes, badges, flags, songs, and sweets were sold by ladies in the auditorium. Notably, Mr. Percy Brier, who eventually directed the choir from 1936-1939, played the accompaniments.
Robyn Hamilton – QANZAC100 Content Curator, State Library of Queensland