The Sounds of Music

The Sounds of Music

Music - As I Remember

When my sister Eila and I were kids, almost everyone had a Piano, so music teachers were in demand. Our Parents, Maggie (Power) and Ted Donohue were very fond of music, so brought us in to Ultima each week for lessons. We both learned singing with Mrs Win Draper, a fine singer herself, and pianist. I also had piano lessons, while Mr Bob Gundlach taught Eila, violin. He was the proprietor of the barber shop and billiard  room. 

He sang in concerts, which Mrs Draper trained lots of children for. Her daughter, Doreen, and son Raymond, were also in them. Doreen was a very good singer. After Drapers left, Miss Hazel Oliver came to teach piano in 1936, followed by Miss Ellen Pryor, from Gowanford in 1937. Len Barlow, an employee of the Railways, came to Ultima at this time, and while courting Ellen, sang at many concerts. They married in Swan Hill, left the district in the late 1930's and in retirement moved to Daylesford.

In 1939 we had our music lessons from Mr Norrie McPherson, a well known Bendigo teacher, who had moved to Swan Hill.

Kathay Fleming, a daughter of Mr & Mrs Tom Fleming, also started there. Kathay had a glorious soprano voice, and had been singing at local concerts for a few years, accompanied at the piano by her mother. Locals did well at the Swan Hill Music Competitions - Kathay winning the Championship in 1940. Other winning prizes were "Peter" Punch (playing 'cello); Pat Punch, both violin and piano; Eila and I singing and piano.

We spent 1941 at St. Mary's, Bendigo and returned to our music with Mr McPherson in 1942.

Ultima was lucky with artists, who were able to contribute to entertainment.Jack Baldwin's wife, Florence, and John Ford's wife Doris, were both talented Ballarat singers, and pleased the audience at many functions for many years. The local concerts were great - Bill Perris always sang a good comedy song, played the drums and appeared in many a comedy sketch; Pat Punch and Molly Jackson sang Duet, to win a Talent Quest in the 40's and who could forget young Geoff Balsarini singing and 'Jiving" his way through "Paper Doll," with sister Dot Dunn at the piano; Cyril Johnson (trumpet) and sister Glenis, also appeared in some concerts; as well as George Ferguson.

During the war, there were about 6 Old Time Balls during each winter - sometimes a shortage of male partners - but not when an Air Force truck brought a load ofmen over from the Catalina Base at Lake Boga. Four local girls later married Airmen they met at this time - Bernice Nind and Roy Meek (Sydney); Pat Punch and Bill Costigan (Mudgee, N.S.W); Marj Johnson and Darcy Petty (N.S.W) "Peter" Punch and Ted Beringer (Montana, USA). All lived in the district after the war, except "Peter," who moved to Montana with her baby daughter Marilyn to join Ted. At the time of writing, Mick Punch and wife Eila are visiting the U.S for "Peter's" 70th birthday, and to see their family.

The "Blind Concerts" always filled the Hall to capacity "everyone and their dog" attended these. They  began in 1929, but went into recess for the war years, then later were revived in 1945. Alf Broadway was  in the early ones, and then joined by his family - his wife; daughter Shirley; and son Johnny were great entertainers. Information was received from John Newman of "Tikki & John's Music Theatre & Restaurant," in Melbourne, that he toured with the show for a while, and that the "other" famous member was Barry Crocker!! Barry sang the theme song in T.V's "Neighbours". Due to running costs, the show was taken off
the road in the late 50's. The remaining Broadways lived in retirement on the Gold Coast.

In the years to follow, there were always occasions for musical items - concerts, weddings, and social afternoons in the Hall. In 1943, Eila Donahue won the local Championship at Swan Hill, which Kathay Fleming had won in 1940. She was aged 17 at the time - the youngest person to have won it. Kathay sang at Eila and Mick Punch's wedding in 1947, and Pat Costigan played the organ. 

The "Girls' Friendly Society," under the guidance of Mrs Allie Evans, put on some very enjoyable concerts, with pianist Mrs Wilson.

Florence Baldwin was founder and conductress of the C.W.A. Choir, from the late 1950's until her death in 1976 - she did a wonderful job.

Today "Carols By Candlelight" are held in the Lions' Park, but for many years, the lovely garden setting at Mrs Ada Malone's home was the venue.

Apart from this, about the only playing I do now is at. St. Joseph's on Sunday - organ playing is now my "Favourite Thing!!"

I first played the organ at a wedding - the occasion being the marriage of Vera Bombardieri and Harry Power. I was nearly 14, and also played for my sister Eila to sing "Ave Maria" (a popular choice at the time), while the register was being signed. This was the beginning of many years and dozens of weddings of cousins and friends, which we obliged for. We enjoyed doing it, and hope we gave pleasure to them, and their guests.