The “900-year-old” Anglican sacred-music tradition in Australia

Ralph Locke

In an earlier post, I asked why we music scholars study what we do.

I just noticed on a blog I've referred to previously, "From beyond the Stave," a new post by Suzanne Cole in which she explains how she ended up so fascinated with exploring the revival of the music of Thomas Tallis in nineteenth-century England.

As Cole explains, she was a student at Melbourne University in the early 1980s, and, despite a strong gender bias within the Anglican tradition, became an accepted participant in its musical practices.

"Although I was actually enrolled in a science degree, I also took organ
lessons with Revd. Paul Harvie, an eccentric, infuriating, but
inspiring Anglo-Catholic priest of the very ‘highest’ kind. After a
couple of years, in the absence of suitable male candidates, Paul made
me his assistant organist at the parish of Christ Church, Brunswick, and began, somewhat grudgingly (he was not known for his enlightened
views on women), to initiate me into the mysteries of what he referred
to on recruiting flyers for choir boys as the ‘900 year tradition’.
There is much that could be criticised about Paul’s methods – I was
occasionally allowed to sing with the choir, but never to robe or
process, and was always referred to as an ‘honorary gentlemen’, and he
was famous for flying into a rage if foolish parents allowed their
child to make any noise in church. But his quixotic commitment to
maintaining the English Cathedral tradition in a parish church in a
working-class suburb of Melbourne was both inspiring and intriguing."

Cole gradually learned that the tradition that she had been taught to uphold in 1980s Australia owed more to early 19th-century England than to practices of centuries earlier.  She tells the story in her new book, Thomas Tallis and His Music in Victorian England.

About Phil Ford

Chairman of the Committee for the Memorial to the Victims of Modernism
This entry was posted in Research. Bookmark the permalink.