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Bush Poetry and Vintage Sheet Music

Posted: Tue Dec 18, 2018 6:22 am
by Gary Harding
An interesting discovery is that many of the poems of the great Bush Poets have been put to music.

Paterson, Dennis, Harrington, Lawson, O'Brien, Eden and several others.

Recently I purchased in one lot the Sheet Music collection of the late Jeff Prentice, a man who was well known for loving everything "bush". Hence the theme of his sheet music collection is Bush, and bush poets are featured. It contains many culturally significant rarities. You simply cannot get them.

Personally, I love vintage sheet music and feel it's something that people always relate to, whether for the social history, the covers, the music or the poetic lyrics. Hence a display of it will hopefully be undertaken.

It is mostly pre-1930 with some going back to 1900.
One has to be a bit selective because there is sheet music dealing with Old Australian Songs which is nice and a bit "folkie" but not especially bush ballad related. It is all likely steadily vanishing for collectors.

Mostly it is written for piano and as I am unable to "tickle the ivories" it has never actually come to life for me as music should, which is a bit sad. Would love to hear how some of it sounds.
When I think of the number of piles of old sheet music I have passed by over the years, one cannot help but wonder what treasures they might have held.
Anyway, they are something worth looking out for if you want to collect, and if you can play a piano... better still... you get pleasure both ways.
Attached example is of a very rare 1904 title "The Breaking Of The Drought"

Words by Bush Poet "Oriel", whose books I have. The front cover is a lovely chromolithographed design. 6pp. The rear cover has an ad for Massey-Harris Machinery Co.

Copies of this issue are recorded only in two Australian Collections. National Library of Australia and State Library of NSW.

Great stuff! now it's time to go open the bubbly and start celebrating Christmas... :) Merry Christmas to all fellow ABPA'ers

Re: Bush Poetry and Vintage Sheet Music

Posted: Mon May 20, 2019 12:34 pm
by Gary Harding
For anyone interested in musically performing poems written by Henry Lawson, the sheet music to many of his poems (132!) was compiled (1989) into a book by the late Chris Kempster.

If you do not play an instrument then if you know the melody, some can be sung unaccompanied like The Bush Girl.

It is softcover and 223 pages. It can be quite difficult to get, at least at a reasonable price anyway.

It is an excellent compilation and a wonderful legacy. Certainly worth at least a mention here I think.

This Obituary written by Keith McKenry (illustrious past member of the Monash Uni Bushwalking Club and aka The Fanged Wombat) describes Chris' life.

Among many things, Chris was a foundation member of the Bush Music Club.
I am pleased to have a signed copy of his book.

Re: Bush Poetry and Vintage Sheet Music

Posted: Thu Jul 11, 2019 6:35 am
by Gary Harding
Two hard-to-get original copies of the sheet music of The Water-Lily (words by Henry Lawson) 1937

The beautiful heavy gold frame was $5 at a garage sale, however buying the glass for it later was expensive. 610mm x 680mm ... about $90 for one piece. It was a new super-clear type.

Framing required a high-precision, lengthy setup. Plus with valuable documents, they cannot touch the glass.. so lots of challenges for myself and Karen my neighbour.

Photos never do such items justice though.

Actually seeing Henry Lawson's sensitive poem "The Water-Lily" magnificiently and respectfully framed like this is a genuinely moving experience.

Re: Bush Poetry and Vintage Sheet Music

Posted: Fri Jul 12, 2019 2:43 pm
by vwalla
Have been following your articles with much interest. Thank you for your efforts. Is your collection on display ? If so where and when ?
Cheers Val Wallace

Re: Bush Poetry and Vintage Sheet Music

Posted: Fri Jul 12, 2019 5:19 pm
by Gary Harding
Hi Val,
I think it unlikely that a suitable permanent venue currently exists that meets all the stringent requirements vis climate control, space and location.

So next week I have an architect friend commencing to draw up a set of preliminary aspects and plans for an ideal high-profile and extensive Cultural Centre, devoted to Australia's wonderful old bush balladry.

It features ALL the good early balladists (and there were lots) and the many related displays. Banjo is just one of many poets in the crowd.
It is about entertainment first, and the educational and historical part is a subtle important by-product. There will be an area for little kids with bush poetry related activities.
Then it is a matter of finding a suitable partner. Ideally an enthusiastic person of very high net worth who has a passion for Lawson, Paterson etc, but overall a deep love of Australia and all things genuinely Australian, and will roll the sleeves up too.

Someone who wants to pioneer Australian Literary Tourism and be very publicly acknowledged and acclaimed for successfully doing that!

It is not quite philanthropy. It is a working partnership where one party owns the "stock" and the other party owns the real estate. All to a common noble purpose. So it is an investment in Australia's true literary culture and in bringing it to the people. The financial downside is in reality minimal, but still definite.

Where? in a place that gives very high exposure and is close to the "market."
When..? I would guess 18 months after a suitable partner is found.

Val, it is nice to know that you find it interesting. It looks far better in real life though .. and I am working on that part :)
cross fingers for me in my search.

Many thanks, Gary

Re: Bush Poetry and Vintage Sheet Music

Posted: Mon Aug 19, 2019 1:40 pm
by Gary Harding
Two sheet music booklets of some of Edward Harrington's poems were issued. One with a plain cover of which I have one copy and this other rare beauty in good condition with its better illustrated cover.
I am thinking of expanding this cover into a large wall-board because of its visual impact.

Things are progressing with concept drawings of the Cultural Centre. It is something that all the nation will benefit from for many generations to come. Those wonderful old balladists, greater and lesser, will have their work preserved and showcased. So much important, skilled and entertaining literary material there.

It is all very well to call something a Cultural Centre (to give this proposed facility a part of its actual full name) but what does one mean by "culture" and what has Australia got that is uniquely "Australian Culture"... other than bush balladry and bush bands of course.

It is a bit like the old discussion "OK so you are a bush poet.. what do you mean by bush?"
..."OK so you are a Cultural Centre.. what do you mean by Culture"

What is truly and uniquely Australian culture??

I just had an hour discussion on the subject examining every aspect ...which got nowhere. Many aspects touched on.

e.g Cuisine! The pavlova is Australian!! well, not so it seems. No Australian recipes unless one gets a turn of the century cookbook and sees some politically incorrect ways to serve native wildlife with the preparation described with great insensitivity.

So the conclusion was ... Culture is what anyone says it is.

Which is why I have termed it a Cultural Centre and not a Bush Poetry Centre (heaven forbid!) thus giving free reign to most things... including historical by-paths.

So if anyone has any thoughts on what is truly Australian culture (and not thongs or fish-fingers!) I would like to know please... just in case I am asked.

Re: Bush Poetry and Vintage Sheet Music

Posted: Fri Aug 23, 2019 11:38 am
by Shelley
Following your endeavours with interest, Gary.

As for Aussie culture - as you say, its variants are as diverse as its devotees! Regionalisation plays its part too - what is Aussie culture to a Queenslander may be totally out of the orbit of a Melbournian!!


Re: Bush Poetry and Vintage Sheet Music

Posted: Sun Aug 25, 2019 8:00 am
by Gary Harding
Shelley, I have concluded that the word culture is another one of those warm-and-fuzzy amorphous buzz-words (like the ever-popular "community"). It is very fashionable at present with a certain.. shall we say.. snob-appeal? It is when it is used by people with an evil agenda to mask other more insidious things .. anyway.. I am happy to capitalise at present on its positive public perception. After all, Bush Poetry may not be everyone's cup of tea, but Culture certainly is. Are we not all... culture-vultures?

This is a scarce old book of sheet music issued by Associated Music North Ryde NSW.

It has ten of Henry Lawson's poems set to music by Ade Monsborough and the print is large.

Then there is an associated entertaining 45rpm pack issued (1972) containing three verses from this sheet music book sung by Shirley Jacobs PLUS "a fascinating game based on his stories". Fascinating no less!!

It was generously and patriotically prepared by The Australian and Golden Fleece Petroleum.
These three song-recordings were taken from an LP of Shirley Jacobs entitled "A Voice From The Bush". (1972)
Some may remember Shirley (who died in 2015) in her performing years. A folksinger, guitarist, composer.

It is all nearly 50 years ago. And then Henry died 50 years before that.

So there is a lot of interesting stuff centred around Bush Poetry sheet music.

I have not played the supplied game but it certainly sounds... fascinating!

Re: Bush Poetry and Vintage Sheet Music

Posted: Sat Aug 31, 2019 3:17 pm
by Shelley
Amazing! The things you manage to unearth ...

Re: Bush Poetry and Vintage Sheet Music

Posted: Sat Aug 31, 2019 3:41 pm
by Gary Harding
No worries Shelley.

The only thing I cannot unearth is Henry himself. Not for want of doing it... just that it may well be regarded by some as being in bad taste, not to mention illegal.

Have just completed for the Owner, the accurate and complete transcription of a 3-page original letter(!!) written by Banjo Paterson during the Boer War that has come to light. Many words were difficult to decipher so it was quite an achievement getting it totally correct. You have to go away and come back.. and literally look at the difficult words from different angles to get that Ah-Ha! moment. Very satisfying.

I am glad you like these bush poetry stories... cheers, Gary