Dancing Union Jack bunting leads you to the little green house, venue for Farewell Zealandia, Forgotten Kiwi Songs of WW1. The Union Jacks are appropriate for this was Britain’s war and New Zealand’s participation was a rally to the call of Empire.
It’s believed a staggering 500 or so songs were composed in New Zealand during WW1 but most of these have not survived. Farewell Zealandia throws the spotlight on 20 of them, now part of the collection of the archive at Musical Heritage New Zealand.
One hundred years on, the songs appear jingoistic and sentimental revealing a naivety strange to jaundiced 21st century ears. But the lyrics are so heartfelt and trusting it’s hard not to feel moved as you walk through the exhibition.
The little house, reflecting those in which many New Zealanders lived at the time, is the perfect backdrop for the songs and careful thought has been put into the setting for each. “Camp Stew” is simmering in the kitchen and an old wheel chair sits beneath “The Red-Cross Nurse”.
Each exhibit includes background information on the composer and lyricist and photographs relating to the lyrics, all contributing to a better appreciation of New Zealand’s war. The collection of songs – so few out of the hundreds composed during the four years of war – reflects the importance of popular music at the time when there was a piano in most homes and new publications were eagerly awaited.
By each exhibit there is a hearing trumpet. The songs were recorded recently by Radio New Zealand and a link is on their website. http://www.radionz.co.nz/collections/farewell-zealandia. A CD of the songs is planned.
The exhibition is a collaboration between Te Manawa Museum of Art, Science and History and Musical Heritage New Zealand. Touring options are being worked on but if you’re able to, I recommend strolling beneath the Union Jacks to the green house in Palmerston North before Farewell Zealandia closes on 30 August 2015.
I often get given items relating to research I undertook on a music retail and publishing company, Charles Begg & Co Ltd. I think I’m seen as the unofficial archivist for the business and have gathered quite a collection of different things since I published the history of the company.
Recently I was given a small catalogue of sheet music published by the Australian publisher, Albert’s, sometime after 1910 and prior to World War One.
The reason I was given it is the business I am interested in, which is a New Zealand one, has its name printed on the cover of the catalogue – along with branches it had open at that time. This little catalogue (9.5cm x 15.5cm) would have been given to customers to promote Begg’s as well as Albert’s.
Inside are samples of pieces published by Albert’s, with a cover illustration and the first few bars of the piece, all designed to whet the customer’s appetite for the latest tunes of the day. I’m confident in dating this catalogue prior to 1914 as there are no war themed pieces, hundreds of which were published during the First World War. The closest is Colonel Bogey’s Popular Marches seen in the catalogue,
and in a later edition (after 1926) of the sheet music form here. I love the colours of the cover.
It’s possible to glean a lot about popular musical taste from a booklet like this. The book includes marches, fox trots, waltzes, novelettes and caprices – echoes of a different world. At the back there is a list of other publications of Albert’s including such intriguing titles as “Can You Tame Wild Cairo Wimmen?”, I’ve Lost My Heart in Maoriland”, Good Gravy Rag” and “Umbrellas to Mend”.
Funnily enough, given the thousands and thousands of pieces of music published at this time, I have one of the pieces advertised in the catalogue, “Black & White Rag”(1908) but unfortunately I can’t tell if the customer purchased it from Begg’s or not as there’s no retailer’s stamp. I like to think Begg’s did sell this copy – it just completes the picture somehow.
Queen Victoria became the outward symbol of Empire in a way that none of her predecessors or successors were. This was due to a combination of the length of her reign (1837 – 1901) – she is still the longest serving British monarch, although it’s likely Queen Elizabeth will surpass her (as of 9 September this year) – and the huge expansion the British Empire undertook during this period. Streets, towns, cities, provinces and states were named after her and numerous statues of the Queen were erected.
Nearly one hundred statues of her were commissioned to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of her reign in 1897, or as memorials after her death in 1901. This is in addition to those which were commissioned earlier in her reign.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’ve recently begun to collect historical postcards and now collect cards showing these statues, some of which no longer exist. When I was in Malta a month ago I visited Republic Square in Valletta and admired the statue of Queen Victoria outside the National Library. It was carved in white marble by Giueseppe Valenti in 1891 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee (1897). The square is a popular meeting place with shops and cafes so I enjoyed some Maltese pastizzi (cheese pastries) and coffee while admiring the statue.
Although lots of the statues of the good Queen are very similar, or even identical, the Maltese one is rather special because the Queen is wearing a beautiful Maltese lace shawl. Sometime before Queen Victoria had placed an order for “eight dozen pairs long and eight dozen pairs short mitts beside a scarf” of Maltese lace to encourage the revival of the old art of lace making in Malta. The statue reflects her interest in the local industry, and was no doubt a good advertisement for it.
The statue was restored and cleaned in 2011 so the detail in the lace shawl is easy to see. The only postcard I’ve managed to find so far is not particularly clear but gives a general view of the statue and its location outside the library. The card was probably produced at the beginning of the 20th century. The small garden around the statue is no longer there but it looks as though the square has always had a cafe.
In 1901 when Queen Victoria died, the Maltese people laid wreaths around the statute.
Photo credit: “The Times of Malta” newspaper
I’ll keep looking for other postcards of this statue as they’re a fascinating way of tracing the history of a place and the Empire.