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Fremantle Orchestral Society

The Fremantle Orchestral Society was formed in 1887 by Charles Leonard Clifton, a Fremantle banker, and they celebrated their jubilee with a special concert on 23 August 1937 in the Fremantle Town Hall.

Discussion in The West Australian, Friday 10 March 1899:
SIR-In reading the critique of the last
concert of the above society I come to the
conclusion that either we were listening to
a very fine performance or that your
critic is not putting things in quite their
proper light, and as the latter is, to my mind,
the correct view of the situation, may I be
permitted to make a few remarks thereon.
In almost the first paragraph the writer
states that " the class of music played and
the manner in which it was rendered left
little or nothing to be desired." He then
proceeds to confess that in "the best orchestral
number of the evening," in which
the band followed its leader with creditable
fidelity, the tendency of the first violin to
hurry was promptly checked by the piano !
One naturally enquires, where was the
conductor? And then in this "largest and
most complete orchestra which has yet
played in the colony (which, by the way,
is incorrect), why is a piano necessary ? It
certainly does not add to the tone colour-
ing, and can only be there for one purpose,
and that to bolster up the middle
parts. The appearance of a piano in an
alleged almost complete orchestra is ludicrous.
With regard to the class of music
played, I entirely agree with the writer as
to the grotesqueness of scoring a Beethoven
sonata for orchestra, and the
execrable taste in allowing it to appear on
the programme, and the other numbers
were not such as one would expect to find
in the scheme of an orchestral society of
any pretensions. In conclusion, I would
say that these remarks are made in no
spirit of ill-feeling to the society or its
estimable conductor. The true value of
musical criticism is to elevate the art, and
I cannot help saying that the criticism to
which I have referred has, in my opinion,
an opposite tendency. Yours, etc..
Perth, March 7.
[We have received the following note
from our musical critic at Fremantle, to
whom we submitted the above letter for his
comment :-" Your correspondent's letter
has been a source of interest to me. It
has also considerably puzzled me, as, after
the most careful perusal, I have not been
able to find out exactly what the letter
really intended to point out. It will perhaps
be best for me to say in the first instance
that a musical critique should be
judged by the tenour of its whole rather
than by individual sentences robbed of
their context. It is well known that it is
quite possible to excerpt sentences from
any article and make them to appear to
have a diametrically opposite meaning to
that intended by the writer. It is quite
true that in the opening sentences of my
critique I expressed a general approval of
the programme and its execution, but I
immediately proceeded to qualify the
general statement by instancing some
things which certainly did not meet
with my approval. Then again, your
correspondent must be aware that it is far
easier to pull a critique to pieces, than to
write one of an amateur performance, the
performance, too, of a society which has
worked so long and well to amuse and instruct
its members and audiences. I, like
your correspondent, should be only too
pleased to see orchestral concerts given in
which none but the very highest type of
music should be rendered, but it is only
fair to ask 'Music' to remember that our
taste is caviare to the general public, and
perhaps even to the majority of that happy
band which spends its every Thursday
evening under Mr. Clifton's baton. Again,
I may ask ' Music 3 to look through last
Thursday's programme carefully, and
see whether I am not right in saying that,
pith two exceptions, the numbers chosen
could certainly not be deemed trashy.
Thomas' ' Raymond,' and Matt" s suite are
certainly fairly representative music.
Sydney Jones' ' Geisha ' I do not
like personally, but as I said in
my critique the- conductor has other
taste to consider besides the purely
classical ones. Public opinion must, I
think, be gradually educated, not forced and
I maintain, unreservedly, that it would
be futile to push what we believe to be
best down people's throats. As regards
the piano, I have always maintained and
your journal has, for the last five or six
years, maintained in its critiques of the
Orchestral Society's work-that the piano is
most certainly an anomaly, and a serious
one, in an orchestra. But, in a society composed
of many young players apt to get
nervous, it is not certain whether it is not
better to have the piano, evil though it
Certainly is, as a standby, trusting to the
skill of the pianist not to unnecessarily
obtrude his objectionable ' tinkling.' The
pianists that have recently played for the
society (Messrs. Eales and Randle) may
certainly be trusted to know what they
ought to do, and to do it. One is glad
that one's views as to orchestrating
Beethoven's pianoforte works meet with
Music's ' approval although execrable
taste ' is perhaps an unnecessarily strong
term to apply to the marriage of the programme,
the conductor of the society. Let
me finally beg of your correspondent to try
to see with me that a hard-working society
should be fairly and moderately dealt
with, and to join with myself and others,
who, like himself, love good music, in
quietly helping forward all orchestral
societies with quiet advice and support.
Half an ounce of sympathy would do more
good than columns of perhaps needless
criticism of small peccadilloes."

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