26 November 2020

Patricia Baird - Australian soprano


It all started in 2006 when I bought an LP. It was one of those very early Decca LPs that didn't have an inner sleeve.

On one side was a "vocal selection" from Sir Edward German's 1902 comic opera Merrie England. On the other side were recordings of his two most popular sets of dances drawn from incidental music to Shakespeare's Henry VIII Sir Henry Irving's 1892 production and Edward Rose's 1900 play English Rose. Better known as Nell Gwyn and based on the novel by Anthony Hope.

The New Symphony Orchestra was conducted by Decca's producer Victor Olof (1898 – 1974). But it was the four singers, and one of them in particular, who interested me:

Patricia in 1951

The contralto Marjorie Thomas (1923–2008), tenor Alexander Young (1920–2000) and bass-baritone John Cameron (1918–2002) were all well-known to me. But who was the soprano, Patricia Baird? She was clearly good enough to be chosen to record with Thomas, Young and Cameron, but what happened to her subsequently? And where did she come from? 

A quick Internet search - back in 2006 - revealed very little, but posting to a mailing list produced a response from one of Patricia Baird's cousins in Australia. She was able to tell me that Patricia was still alive and living in Sydney, New South Wales, and that her husband, Fred, was in a nursing home suffering from dementia. 

Pat (as she quickly became) was feeling isolated from anyone who knew about the sort of music she had performed. So, with her cousin acting as a go-between, I established a one-way conversation with Pat, sending her my transfer of the recording and getting (via her cousin) her positive feedback and thanks. 

That was fourteen years ago. Since then both Pat and her husband have died, and online resources for finding out about Pat's early career have become available. Notably the National Library of Australia's Trove, the British Newspaper Archive and the BBC's Genome project. 

Ancestry

Patricia was the daughter of John Nicol Baird (1878-1952) and his second wife Edith Lydia Marguerite (née Crowe). John Nicol Baird, born in Geelong, Victoria, was a farrier and later a commercial traveller. He had been in South Africa for the Boer War, working as a "shoeing-smith" (a farrier). He enlisted because he was deeply patriotic and had heard that the army (heavily dependent on horses) was short of farriers. 

When John returned to Australia he married his first wife, Camellia Barnard, in 1902. They had three children, two died in infancy, but John Maxwell Baird (known as Max) was born in 1904 and died in 1949. 

John remarried on 27th December 1921 at Holy Trinity Church, Dulwich Hill, Sydney. His second wife was Edith Lydia Marguerite Crowe and their wedding was impressive enough to be covered in some detail in the local newspaper. They moved to Melbourne immediately afterwards for work.

Edith, the pianist

Edith had grown up in Goonellabah, an eastern suburb of the city of Lismore in north-eastern New South Wales. In 1913 she entered the Lismore Musical Festival's piano Sight Reading Test and the open Piano Champion Soloist class. This required her to play Rachmaninov's C sharp minor Prelude, Mendelssohn's Andante and Rondo capriccioso (her own choice) and to sight read a piece of "moderate difficulty". 

In March the following year Edith entered the Champion Piano Solo class of the Maclean Musical Festival, and in June she entered the same class in the Casino Eisteddfod. [Eisteddfods (Australian plural) have also been adopted into Australian culture. Much like the Welsh original, eisteddfods are competitions that involve testing individuals in singing, dancing, acting and musicianship.] Finally, in September 1914, she won First Prize in the Champion Piano Solo class of the Lismore Musical Festival with 93 points. 

John supported his wife and children in their musical endeavours. In 1936 he became a committee member of the Wagga Wagga Eisteddfod.

Early years in Lismore

Patricia's elder brother, Keith Nicol Baird, was born ten months after his parents' wedding, on 1st November 1922. 

1926

John and Edith Baird's daughter was born on 8th March 1926, either in Lismore, New South Wales or Ormond, Victoria. Her father registered her birth and named his daughter after her mother - Edith Lillian Baird. Her name was soon changed to Patricia Fairlie Baird. A year later six-year-old Keith broke his leg in a car accident at Brunswick Heads. He spent six weeks in St Vincent's Hospital and then returned home.

Geraldine Spring, 1938

As Edith was a talented pianist it would have been her idea for her children, Keith and Patricia, to have music lessons. Miss Geraldine Spring taught violin to children small and large, and both Keith and Patricia were her pupils. 

1929

Patricia Baird, aged three

In September 1929 Miss Spring successfully entered Keith for the Trinity College London "First Steps" violin examination. Patricia must have started violin lessons around this time because in December that year Miss Spring set up a Christmas event for her pupils and their parents but Keith and Patricia did not attend.

1930

Patricia's first public recital took place in the studio of Paling's musical instrument store in Lismore, a few days before her fourth birthday in March 1930.  Miss Spring predicted "a wonderful future for this little prodigy". The family were living at 18 Elton Street, Lismore. Lessons with Miss Spring continued, and so did the routine of taking music exams, entering competitions and playing in concerts:

  • March 1930 - Irish Musical Festival, Lismore - Keith Baird, Violin Solo (under 10 years) - Dare: June Days - 85 marks
  • April 1930 - Australian Music Examinations Board (A.M.E.B) examinations, Lismore - Keith Baird, Violin Grade VI, credit
  • September 1930 - Lismore Musical Festival - Patsy and Keith Baird, Violin (under 8 years)
  • October 1930 - A.M.E.B. examinations, Lismore - Keith Baird, Violin Grade V [Why Keith took Grade V having already taken Grade VI isn't clear. Perhaps this is an error on the part of the newspaper], pass - Pat Baird, Violin Grade VI, credit
  • May 1930 - Newrybar-Bangalow [34km (21 miles) from Lismore] Young People's Guild competitive concert - Master Keith Baird, violin solo (his father also attended and gave a recitation)
  • August 1930 - Masonic Hall, Bangalow - Violin solos, Pat Baird and Keith Baird - recitations, Mr Baird

Keith and Patricia's artistic endeavours weren't just limited to playing the violin. By September 1930 they were also taking dancing lessons from Miss Estelle de Boshier in Lismore and entering fancy dress competitions: 

  • September 1930 - Dancing Time Review, Lismore - Minuet in G danced by Pat and Keith Baird - "Rounds of applause greeted the dance".
  • October 1930 - Lismore Ladies Hospital Committee Linen Tea - "Little Pat and Keith Baird in a duo dance"
  • October 1930 - Richmond Hall, Lismore (in aid of the Methodist Sunday School) - "Keith and Pat Baird danced a minuet"
  • November 1930 - Miss Spring's Concert, Apollo Hall, Lismore (in aid of the Returned Soldiers League) - Violin solo, Pat Baird ("tiny tot") - Violin solo, Keith Baird - "Mr Baird gave his rendition of The Old Woman Who Lived In A Shoe"
  • December 1930 - Babes in the Wood, Federal Hall, Lismore - Keith Baird as one of the two Babes and Pat Baird dancing

1931

  • May 1931 - Fancy Dress Ball, Apollo Hall, Lismore (Parents' and Citizens' Association of the Lismore District Rural School) - Five years and under - "Bride and Bridegroom" - Patty Baird and Stan Dent
  • June 1931 - Juvenile Ball, Apollo Hall, Lismore (in aid of the Memorial Baths) - Best pair ("Rule Britannia" and "John Bull") - Peggy Parkins and Keith Baird
  • June 1931 - Juvenile Ball, Apollo Hall, Lismore (in aid of the establishment of a children's ward in Lismore Hospital) - Bridal costume (Bride), Pat Baird - Early Victorians II, Keith Baird

Growing up in Wagga Wagga

At some point between August 1931 and August 1932 the Baird family moved to Wagga Wagga, a town equidistant between Australia's two largest cities, Melbourne and Sydney. Patricia's father worked as a commercial traveller, and they lived at 30 Best Street.

1932

The round of competitive festivals, examinations and concerts continued:

  • August 1932 - Oxford Theatre, Wagga Wagga - Gurwood Street School Ball - Prize for fancy costume, boys - Keith Baird as a page
  • August 1932 - Oxford Theatre, Wagga Wagga - Gurwood Street School Ball - Prize for fancy costume, girls - Patsy Baird as a Victorian

1933

  • June 1933 - London College of Music examinations, Wagga Wagga - Elocution, primary first class pass - Patsy Baird
  • September 1933 - Wagga Wagga Eisteddfod -  Under-12s Violin - L'Extase by Lardelli [Guglielmo Lardelli (1850-1908), published in Sydney in 1912 in an arrangement by Cyril Monk. A score is online on Trove]. Keith came second; Patricia came third, with 82 points
  • September 1933 - Wagga Wagga Eisteddfod - Recitation - Vespers by A.A. Milne - Patsy Baird, third with 79 points
  • September 1933 - Wagga Wagga Eisteddfod - Vocal solo, boys or girls, under 10 years - Little Bo Peep by Felix White - Patsy Baird, joint second with 82 points
  • November 1933 - Gurwood Street Public School, Wagga Wagga - "Patsy Baird then sang Little Bo Peep...The next number was a violin solo by Patsy 

1934

  • September 1934 - Wagga Wagga Eisteddfod - Violin solo, under 12 years - Minuet in G by Bach - Keith Baird, second with 80 points - Patsy Baird, 77 points
  • September 1934 - Wagga Wagga Eisteddfod - Solo, boys or girls under 10 years - The Good Little Jackass - Patsy Baird, 75 points
  • September 1934 - Wagga Wagga Eisteddfod - Recitation, boys or girls under 12 - The Beggar Maid - Patsy Baird, 77 points
  • December 1934 - Wonderland Theatre, Wagga Wagga - Beauty And The Beast - Patsy Baird
  • December 1934 - St John's Hall, Wagga Wagga - "Patsy Baird gave the recitation Where's Mum?" - The Mill Wheel and Neapolitan were played as a violin duo number by Patsy and Keith Baird
  • December 1934 - St John's Hall, Wagga Wagga - Distribution of Sunday School Prizes - Keith Baird, violin solo, Londonderry Air - Patsy and Keith Baird, violin duet, La Serenata and Minuet in G

1935

  • March 1935 - Wonderland Theatre, Wagga Wagga (in aid of the Wagga Citizens' Band) - "Keith Baird played a violin solo, Ave Maria, in a manner which was greatly appreciated by the audience."
  • May 1935 - St John's Café, Wagga Wagga - Wagga Red Cross Society Presentation of Medals - "Miss Patsy Baird, who sang"
  • June 1935 - St John's Hall, Wagga Wagga - Mothers' Union Café - "The dainty and well-served afternoon teas were greatly enjoyed, as also were the nicely-executed musical items contributed by Keith and Patsy Baird."
  • June 1935 - Wonderland Theatre, Wagga Wagga - Combined Schools Concert - "The violin solos rendered by Keith Baird were very well executed"
  • August 1935 - Church of England Tea Tent, Wagga Show - "Musical items will be contributed by Patsy Baird and Keith Baird"
  • September 1935 -  Wagga Wagga Eisteddfod - Solo, boys or girls, under 10 - All On A Monday Morning - Patsy Baird, 82 points - Violin solo, under 19 years - Souvenir - Keith Baird, 73 points
  • September 1935 -  Wagga Wagga Eisteddfod - Violin solo, under 19 years - Souvenir - Keith Baird, 73 points
  • September 1935 -  Wagga Wagga Eisteddfod - Violin solo, under 12 years - Waltz by Alfred Hill - Patsy Baird, joint first with 82 points
  • September 1935 -  Wagga Wagga Eisteddfod - Recitation, boy or girl, under 12 - A Fancy from Fontanelle by Ernest Dobson - Patsy Baird, 84 points
  • September 1935 -  Wagga Wagga Eisteddfod - Duet in character - Dresden China - Patsy Baird and H. Tolhurst, joint second prize with 83 points
  • September 1935 -  Wagga Wagga Eisteddfod - Waltz-Clog, under 12 - Patsy Baird, 80 points
  • November 1935 -  A.M.E.B. Violin Grade V with Honours - Patricia Baird

1936

  • April 1936 - Tumut Eisteddfod - "Mr J. N.Baird, a member of the Wagga Eisteddfod Council, in reply, thanked Mr Hill for his welcome."
  • April 1936 - Tumut Eisteddfod - Violin solo, under 14 years - Keith Baird (only competitor), 81 points
  • May 1936 - Wonderland Theatre, Wagga Wagga - Combined School Concert - "The violin solo, Toselli's Serenata, was nicely rendered by Keith Baird, a promising boy who produced a nice tone with sympathetic touches"
  • August 1936 - St John's Hall, Wagga Wagga - Roses of Joy ("Spectacular operetta) - "Patsy Baird, the fairy queen, portrayed her part with royal dignity and sang very sweetly....with violin obligatos by Keith Baird"
  • September 1936 - Rutherglen Eisteddfod - Violin duet, under 18 - Harry Snowden and Keith Baird, first with 90 points
  • September 1936 - Rutherglen Eisteddfod - Violin solo under 14 - Harry Snowden and Keith Baird, joint second with 84 points
  • September 1936 -  Wagga Wagga Eisteddfod - Violin solo, under 19 years accompanied by pianist of the same age - Keith Baird and Eileen Hardiman, 78 points - Patsy Baird and Eileen Kavanagh, 77 points - "These were both quite pleasing performances"
  • September 1936 -  Wagga Wagga Eisteddfod - Violin solo, 12 years and under 15 years - Keith Baird, 83 points, Harry Snowden, 82 points - "Keith Baird offered to share his prize with Harry, but after commending his action, Mr Evans said he did not think it would be fair to do so."
  • September 1936 -  Wagga Wagga Eisteddfod - Vocal solo, girls 10 years and under 12 years - Loo-La-Bye by Winifred Burley - Patsy Baird, first prize with 81 point - "the winner gave a pleasant performance. The song was sung smoothly and the singer had a sweet voice."
  • September 1936 -  Wagga Wagga Eisteddfod - Recitation, boys or girls under 12 - Nod by Walter de la Mare - Patsy Baird, 84 points
  • September 1936 -  Wagga Wagga Eisteddfod Children's Concert - "Patsy Baird, who has a most easy and pleasant style, gave a violin solo...Particularly pleasing was a violin duet by Patsy and Keith Baird"
  • November 1936 - Wagga Wagga Eisteddfod Annual Meeting - John Nicol Baird elected as a committee member
  • December 1936 - St Eugene's High School, Mount Erin, Wagga Wagga - Annual Concert -  Mazurka by Henry  - Patsy Baird, violin
  • December 1936 - St Eugene's High School, Mount Erin, Wagga Wagga - Prizegiving - Violin Grade IV - Patsy Baird

1937

  • May 1937 - St Andrew's Hall, Wagga Wagga - St Andrew's Competition - Violin solo, 16 and under - Keith Baird, 84 points
  • May 1937 - St Andrew's Hall, Wagga Wagga - St Andrew's Competition - Champion violin solo (open) - Keith Baird, second, with 85 points
  • May 1937 - St Andrew's Hall, Wagga Wagga - St Andrew's Competition Final Concert - Violin duet, Harry Snowden and Keith Baird
  • May 1937 - A.M.E.B Violin Grade IV examination with Honours - Patsy Baird
  • September 1937 -  Wagga Wagga Eisteddfod - Violin solo, under 19 years accompanied by pianist of the same age - Keith Baird, second, with 75 points
  • September 1937 -  Wagga Wagga Eisteddfod - Violin solo, 12 years and under 15 years - Keith Baird, first, with 86 points
  • October 1937 - A.M.E.B Violin Grade II examination with Credit - Keith Baird
  • December 1937 - St Eugene's High School, Mount Erin, Wagga Wagga - Prizegiving - Special Prize for Violin - Patsy Baird
  • December 1937 - St Eugene's High School, Mount Erin, Wagga Wagga - Prizegiving - Theory of Music, Grade V - Keith Baird (credit)
  • December 1937 - St John's Hall, Wagga Wagga - St John's Sunday School Concert - "Schubert's Ave Maria is not the easiest of solos for young violinists, but Keith Baird made light of its difficulties, his Interpretation being marked by accurate fingering and nice clear sweeping bow that resulted in a good quality of tone."
  • December 1937 - St Eugene's Hall, Mount Erin, Wagga Wagga - St Mary's School Concert -"Violin accompaniments were provided to some of the items by Harry Snowden and Keith Baird, these being 'particularly effective in the case of the tableau,"

19382

  • January 1938 St Eugene's School, Wagga Wagga - Sacred Heart Presentation Concert - Pantomime by Moyatt - Patricia Baird
  • April 1938 - St Andrew's Presbyterian Girls' Club Eisteddfod, Wagga Wagga - Champion violin solo, 18 years and under - Patsy Baird, second

July 1937 brought a loss to the family when Edith's mother died in Sydney after she and her husband had recently celebrated their Golden Wedding. "Mrs. J. N. Baird of Brookong Avenue, Wagga...left for Sydney by the express train early on Friday morning." 

The year 1938 saw the Baird family moving from inland Wagga Wagga to the town of Kempsey, fifteen kilometres (nine miles) inland from the coast of New South Wales. This was a journey of nearly 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) which today would take over fourteen hours by train. It probably took longer then. 

John Nicol Baird had become the District Representative for Alfa-Laval milking machines and milk separators. Before they left Wagga Wagga an event was organised for the evening of Thursday 28th July 1938 so that the town could say goodbye to them. This was centred on Mr and Mrs Baird's work with the Church of England. John Nicol Baird had been churchwarden, a member of the church council, president of the Church of England Men's Society (he was given life membership), and superintendent of the Sunday School. He was presented with a "handsome mantel clock". Edith was presented with a handbag. Patsy was given a crystal vase on behalf of fellow scholars and teachers. Keith was given a fountain pen and pencil. 

Life in Kempsey

Mr Baird started work in Kempsey in August 1938 and immediately started advertising heavily in local newspapers. Patricia joined the Kempsey Convent, and in December 1938 appeared in a school concert and prize-giving. She was soprano soloist in The Elfin Call, followed by a demonstration of her skills as a violinist, leading a string quartet in La Serenata

Her third appearance in the concert was again as a violinist, this time accompanied on the piano by her mother. Her name changed from "Patsy" to "Pattie". Was this the conscious effort of a fifteen-year-old to adopt a more "adult" name for herself? 

1939

Mrs Baird, meanwhile, rejoined the Country Women's Association (CWA) in Kempsey and in March 1939 organised and accompanied a community singing session at the branch's tenth anniversary meeting. "Patty Baird also sang, making a great hit with her items." 

St Patrick's Day was marked by a concert at the Catholic Hall, West Kempsey. Patricia played the violin in both the orchestra and a quartet. 

Australia entered the Second World War on 3rd September 1939. Patricia was aged thirteen, Keith was aged seventeen. The days of examinations and competitive festivals seem to have come to an abrupt halt when the family moved to Kempsey. 

1940

In September 1940 the family underwent another shock. Keith was living in Peak Hill, New South Wales, some 700km (435 miles) from Kempsey, fell into a pit at Orange and so serious were his injuries that he was transferred to Lewisham Hospital in Sydney. X-rays revealed serious spinal injuries and a fractured pelvis. His mother rushed to be with him and his father soon followed. 

1941

Although John Nicol Baird's Kempsey-based advertisements for Alfa-Laval continued for some time, the last appeared in September 1941. By 1941, the family had moved much nearer to Sydney and were living at 4 Jarvie Street, Petersham, when Keith enlisted in the Australian Army on 16th January. 

1942

More sadness followed September 1942 when Edith's father, William Charles Crowe, died in Petersham, Sydney. 

1943

 In November 1943, Patricia and her mother returned to Lismore to spend a holiday with friends there. 

War service

1944

Pat enlisted in the Australian Women's Army Service (AWAS) at Paddington, New South Wales, on 7th March 1944, one day short of her eighteenth birthday. She enlisted using the name her father had registered her with - Edith Lillian Baird. 

She was posted to a section where the Education Officer was Richard Gordon Thew [Born in Ashfield, New South Wales, Australia on 13th July 1900. On 8 June 1968 he became an Ordinary  Member of the Civil Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) for his services to music. He died on 7th December 1972 in New South Wales, Australia.] who happened to be a singing teacher. One night he heard Patricia singing and told her she should make it her career. 

Patricia's time in the AWAS is something of a mystery. Did she have lessons from Richard Thew? When did she drop the violin? A newspaper report does confirm that during her years in the AWAS she spent time in concert parties. 

1945

January 1945 brought happy news to the family when Keith got engaged: 

BAIRD-ARTIS.-The Engagement is announced of Marie, eldest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. W. A. Artis, of Summer Hill, to Trooper Keith Baird, A.I.F., son of Mr. and Mrs. J. N. Baird, Petersham.

In May 1945 Patricia was in Wagga Wagga once more (presumably she was based there with the AWAS) and competed in the Wagga Talent Quest at the Trades Hall. Sixteen contestants took part and Patricia won with 100 votes, singing One Kiss.

In July Patricia was still in Wagga Wagga and took part in a concert as part of the Red Cross Annual Meeting. 

The end of the Second World War happened the following month when Japan surrendered on 15th August. A new future beckoned to Patricia in the post-war period. 

Post-war concerts and competitions

1946

Pat was demobbed in August 1946 but her whereabouts and activities for the next year are vague.

There are hints in newspapers that she became a typist and had lessons from Richard Thew. It seems likely that she was still living with her parents in Petersham during this period. Whatever she was up to, she emerged a year later as a fully-fledged soprano soloist ready to undertake concert work and more competitions. 

1947

 In August 1947 Patricia was in Sydney, performing for the Wagga Residents' Association with her mother accompanying. A low-key concert much like those she had given in the past. 

Her first formal public concert as a soprano soloist took place on 18th November 1947 at the Presbyterian Hall, Wollongong, New South Wales, with the newly-formed Illawarra Singers. Richard Thew was the accompanist, so probably suggested Patricia for the performance: 

Patricia Baird used her flexible voice with excellent judgment and understanding and in her second group she showed dainty musical colour and fine restraint.

Her first concert outside New South Wales was a Tasmanian performance with the Hobart Philharmonic Society of Handel's Messiah on 9th December 1947. Excerpts were broadcast on station 7ER [Now known as ABC Radio Hobart]. The tenor soloist was Ronald Dowd, another pupil of Richard Thew, who went on to have a successful career with Sadler's Wells Opera before returning to Australia: 

Patricia Baird, Melbourne soprano, in recitatives and arias, revealed vocal artistry both tonally beautiful and flexible. In diminished volume, constriction marred the natural fluency proclaimed in more open passages of song.

The Hobart Mercury remarked: 

Her first trip to Tasmania and her first trip by air anywhere was the experience this week of Patricia Baird, the young Sydney soloist who is here by invitation of the Hobart Philharmonic Society. She made a charming little speech at a reception at the Hobart Town Hall on Tuesday morning, held in honour of the three visiting singers - herself, Ronald Dowd, and Robert Payne. About 30 members of Hobart's musical circles were there and enjoyed the "cuppa" provided by the Lord Mayor (Air Osborne) and the Lady Mayoress (Mrs Rust). The floral decorations in the reception room, which included some of the finest Iceland poppies I have ever seen, brought much comment.

After the excitement of her trip to Hobart, Patricia's concerts assumed their more low-key nature. Articles mention her radio appearances but these seem not to be recorded in the pages of the newspapers. 

  • 12th December 1947 - Hurstville Presbyterians' Christmas Concert, with Richard Thew
  • 1st January 1948 - Grand Scottish Concert, Sydney Town Hall (part of the Highland Gathering), with Ronald Dowd

1948

  • 28th March 1948 (Easter Sunday) - St Stephen's Presbyterian Church, Macquirie Street, Sydney
  • 8th August 1948 - Epping Congregational Church, Sydney - The Creation by Joseph Haydn
  • 21st November 1948 - Pitt Street Congregational Church, Sydney - Sons of Jubal - special music
  • 15th December 1948 - Parramatta Rotary Club Christmas Party and Ladies' Night

1949

On 17th May 1949 Patricia and some friends appeared the Western Monarch Theatre, Gilgandra. This was the first of several concerts given by her concert party to raise funds for the "Far West Scheme" to benefit hospital services for young people. It was well received:
A well known concert stage soprano, Miss Baird spent five years in the services, and was included in concert parties since her discharge she has become very popular in Sydney as a concert artist... Concert and Radio Personality... To a music-starved audience, the full rich soprano voice of Miss Baird was a delight, and her songs, familiar though they might be, were presented with such clarity and colour that they retained all the charm of novelty. Even the old favourite, Because, became a new song.
The concert was repeated on 27th May 1949 at Guyra: 
Patricia Baird's bracket of songs captivated the audience. The finely presented sketch, High Finance, with artists Patricia Baird, Lawrence Haines and Sid Coleman had the crowd in fits of laughter.
On 28th August 1949 Patricia returned to the Pitt Street Congregational Church, Sydney to perform in The Creation by Joseph Haydn.

September 1949 brought the City of Sydney Eisteddfod. Patricia entered and won the lyric soprano championship, the Dame Nellie Melba Memorial Trophy (Champion of Champions) and the British Art Song Silver Shield. 

Her ambition is to sing and study overseas, and she has already sung as soloist with the Hobart and Launceston Philharmonic Societies in the Messiah, and is well known to radio audiences in Sydney.

On 5th October 1949 she performed at the Rockdale Town Hall for the St George Music Club's musicale. This was a concert of prizewinners from the recent Sydney Eisteddfod and it brought her into contact with the winner of the winner of the open piano championship, and the Women's Weekly piano scholarship - a young Richard Bonynge. 

December 1949 saw another outing for the Far West Scheme Concert Party, this time to Mudgee. They raised £190.

At some time in 1949 Patricia was examined for the Licentiate in Music, Australia, diploma of the Australian Music Examinations Board, a highly prestigious award, with the national pass rate being around 10% of candidates. She was successful, and thereafter was able to use the post-nominal letters "L.Mus.A.". 

1950

In February 1950 Patricia made a return visit to Pitt Street Congregational Church in Sydney were she sang for the 11.50am Communion service on Sunday 5th. Although the newspaper reports make it look as if her appearances at the church were irregular, it's possible that this was actually a regular job every Sunday. 

Early April brought another visit to Wollongong for the 58th Musicale at the Methodist Hall. Pat shared the stage with the pianist Dorothy White. The concert was divided into five sections with Miss White performing alone in sections one, three and five, and accompanying Pat in sections two and four. The newspaper review gives us an idea of the sort of programme that Patricia was putting together: 

Patricia Baird had a particularly beautiful natural voice which would, perhaps, have been shown to better advantage under different circumstances; Her strong sense of the dramatic was shown in the operatic numbers, 'Mimi's Farewell' by Puccini, and 'Daughter of the Regiment,' by Donizetti. Miss Baird's second bracket consisted of Michael Head's 'Gaiete and Orion', 'Summer' by Martin Shaw and 'Do not go my love' by Hageman.

The following day (Palm Sunday) she was back in Sydney for a performance of Dvorak's Stabat Mater at the Rockdale Congregational Church. 

In the second half of the month Patricia made her way to Goulburn, 120 miles (95 km) from home, for the 1950 Eisteddfod. The First Prize for the Operatic Aria was worth £100 and sponsored jointly by Pacific Chenille-Craft Pty., Ltd., and the Goulburn City Council. Patricia won the Lyric Soprano Solo on 19th April ("a very finished singer with a beautiful voice"), and went on to win both the £100 Chenille Aria, and the Champion of Champions: 

Miss Patricia Baird who crowned her long list of successes at the Goulburn Elsteddfod by winning the Pacific Chenille aria contest from twenty six other competitors hails from Sydney, and has studied with Mr. Richard Thew. Her previous wins at the Eisteddfod were the lyric soprano solo, sacred solo. oratorio, and the 2GN radio section. Miss Baird will sing at the Eisteddfod concert this evening and this is a rare opportunity for the people of Goulburn to hear an artist who is destined to become an outstanding singer throughout Australia and overseas. Her first singing experience was in the A.W.A.S. during the war where she met Mr. Thew, who immediately became interested in the possibilities of her voice, and on demobilisation, Miss Baird commenced her studies, with him. Miss Baird's previous successes include the 2SM Radio Contest, 1949; Melba Trophy (champion of champions) city of Sydney Eisteddfod 1949, and the Trophy for British Art Song at the same Eisteddfod. A committee has been formed to send Miss Baird to England to continue her studies early in 1951, and she will worthily represent her country and continue the long line of outstanding artists, who have preceded her.

The Mobil Quest for 1950 was one of three big competitions in which Patricia competed that year. This was only the second year that the competition had been run - fourth place in 1949 had gone to Joan Sutherland. The First Prize was worth £1,000, Second Prize £300 and Third Prize £150.  Winning the competition would help substantially with the costs of Patricia travelling to Europe to continue her studies. This was a nationwide competition which used radio as its medium. 

There were eighteen heats, all broadcast on a Friday at 8.30 p.m. Australian Eastern Time, and each consisting of three singers. The winner of each heat then faced one of six semi-finals, and the winner of each semi-final went forward to the Grand Final in Melbourne Town Hall on 6th September. 

The Sixth Heat was won by baritone Donald Cameron, the younger brother of baritone Joan Cameron with whom Patricia was to sing two year later in the recording of Merrie England. Patricia was in Heat Ten and was runner-up to Beryl Jones, a coloratura soprano. 

The Grand Final was won by Joan Sutherland in front of an audience of 3,000.


In June 1950 Patricia was in Illawarra to compete in the Illawarra Eisteddfod's £100 Aria Competition. She went on to win against stiff local competition and was described by the adjudicators as "outstanding": 

He stated her verbal emphasis and colour were good, while she made many of her words 'live.' She had excellent phrasing, an even voice and her runs were extremely flexible. He awarded her 87 marks for her first aria and 88 for her second. Warmest ovation for the whole Eisteddfod was given to Miss Patricia Baird of Petersham. Clapping continued long after she had left the stage.

Patricia went on to win the Oratorio class in the same competition:

 excellent voice with good shape, atmosphere a trifle forced, good climax


In late September came the news that Patricia was one of twenty-four soloists to reach the semi-final of the Sydney Sun Aria Competition at the Sydney Conservatorium. The semi-final, to select eight soloists was the following evening. Patricia got through and was awarded Third Prize (£50) in the final. The winner was a 19-year-old called June Gough from Broken Hill. She used her £300 prize together with the money raised by her home town to travel to London in 1952 and had an international career under the name of June Bronhill. 

A month later Patricia was in Victoria for the finals of the Melbourne Sun Aria Competition. She came third with an "honourable mention." 

On 14th October 1950 she was the soprano soloist (Ronald Dowd was the tenor) with the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Society's broadcast performance of Verdi's Requiem at the Melbourne Town Hall, conducted by Eugene Goossens.  "A truly magnificent performance," Goossens wrote across her programme.  

Christmas 1950 was a busy time for Patricia with no fewer than seven performances of Messiah including the Christmas Eve concert in Sydney Town Hall. 

While Patricia's success in the smaller competitions, and the cash prizes she won, must have been useful for her, it was her success in the three big competitions which were ultimately more significant. So the year 1951 was to be a busy and important one for Patricia. 

1951

Patricia Baird rehearsing for "A Masked Ball", 1951

In March and April 1951 she sang Amelia in Verdi's A Masked Ball (Il Ballo in Maschera) with the New South Wales National Opera at the Tivoli Theatre in Sydney. June Gough (Bronhill) was also in the cast. 

In June 1951 Patricia was again taking competing in the Mobil Quest. This time she was in Heat Eleven broadcast on Monday 4th June. She performed "Can It Be He" ("Ah fors e lui") from Verdi's La Traviata and Eric Coates's Green Hills of Somerset. Her co-competitors were jointly awarded First Prize with Patricia getting Second Prize and a recommendation from the adjudicators that she should have a place in the semi-finals. 

That same month saw another broadcast performance of the Verdi <em>Requiem</em> in Melbourne Town Hill, this time conducted by Joseph Post - "Lovely singing came from the soprano Patricia Baird, particularly in the unaccompanied Libera Me." 

On 19th August it was Patricia's turn to compete in the Mobil Quest fourth semi-final, singing Rossini's Una Voce Poco Fa. The semi-final was won by Margaret Nisbett, one of the joint winners of the initial eleventh heat. Margaret went on to win the £1,000 First Prize in the Grand Final in Melbourne on 5th September, and in 1954 studied, along with her husband Jon Weaving, with Patricia's own teacher Dino Borgioli in London. 

By August 1951 the funding was in place for Patricia to go to study in London and it was announced in the press that she would leave Australia on 13th November. Before that, however, was the City of Sydney Eisteddford Sun Aria Competition of 1951. Patricia made it through to the semi-final on 26th September at the Sydney Conservatorium. The Sun Aria Prize for 1951 was ultimately won by Angelina Arena. 

Patricia was chosen to be the soprano soloist in the first Australian performance of Mahler's Symphony No. 8 with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra under Eugene Goossens on 3rd October. - "Patricia Baird's soprano seemed to miss the Mahlerian boyishness so necessary." Vincent Wallace's opera Maritana was broadcast from Sydney in an hour-long concert performance on 19th October with a team of soloists including Patricia and the ABC Sydney Orchestra conducted by Clive Douglas. 

Even at this late stage, Patricia continued to compete in eisteddfods, presumably for the cash the prizes could bring her. In the Bathurst Eisteddfod on 21st October she won the Second Prize of £50 in the Aria Competition. October brought a return visit to Pitt Street Congregational Church for Haydn's The Creation, conducted by Richard Thew. 

Patricia's farewell concert at the Sydney Conservatorium

Patricia's farewell concert was given at the Conservatorium in Sydney on Wednesday 7th November at 8.15 p.m. Accompanied by her teacher, Richard Thew, she sang pieces by Mozart, Brahms, Franz, Wolf, Rossini and Verdi. A review in the Sydney Morning Herald gives some clues as to her failure to win in the larger competitions, and the areas she needed to work on once she reached London.

There was much tasteful, well-considered and attractive singing in a recital by soprano Patricia Baird at the Conservatorium last night. Miss Baird (who plans to continue her career abroad) is very well equipped in the primary necessities of singing and in some of the secondary considerations, too, for last night the points of phrasing and expression were often most carefully designed and executed. But there is still an impression of immaturity about her work, A general preoccupation with the technical side of expression and a diffidence in emotional colouring makes even a well-wrought performance like her Willow Song from "Otello" seem a little cold. Apart from this lack of dramatic colour and conviction, Miss Baird has very little to worry about technically. Her tone is sweet and flexible, a little inclined to excessive tremolo and a little hard at the top of her range, but quite capable of the brilliant coloratura of Rossini's "Una Voce" and the delicate intimacy of Wolf's "In the Shadow of My Tresses."

A few days later, she left for England on the 26-year-old RMS "Otranto". Her departure was noted by "Margaret's Column" in the Illawarra Daily Mercury: 

MRS. COWBURN and Mrs. Witte went down by train to say 'Au Revoir' to Mrs. Hatfield. Some of the other members did the trip by car. The two ladies mentioned, took the ferry that accompanies the departing ships. They tell me that Patricia Baird (we have seen her artistry down here) sailed on the 'Otranto', too. Some of her friends from the Conservatorium were on the ferry, and their singing of 'Now is the Hour' was certainly appreciated by the Wollongong countrywomen, if not heard by Patricia Baird.

Patricia was not to set foot in Australia again for eleven years.

England

Patricia wasn't the only musician to leave Sydney at that time. 

Eugene Goossens, in Australia as conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, was off to conduct in South Africa, then Belgium (his family were Belgian) and London before returning to Australia in March 1952. But Goossens was travelling by air in a Qantas Constellation. 

The P&O liner SS Otranto docked in Southampton 18th December 1951. The year of the Festival of Britain was coming to an end and Christmas was fast approaching. In the recent General Election the Conservatives had come back into power with Winston Churchill as Prime Minister.

Patricia's first Christmas in the northern hemisphere was a far cry from the sunshine of Australia, London was plagued by thick smoky fogs, still depended on coal, and showed the damaged inflicted during the Blitz. Meat, sugar and sweets were still rationed.

1952

Arriving in London she began her studies with Dino Borgiol and on 10th March 1952 Pat made her first broadcast for the BBC in Souvenirs of Music with Robert Busby conducting the Augmented BBC Revue Orchestra. This was to be the first of many broadcasts on the Light Programme and Home Service between 1952 and 1961. 

How she came by this work it unclear, but  her work with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation must have stood her in good stead. Perhaps she was provided with a letter of recommendation? Did Goossens help her with introductions when he arrived in London? 

March 1952

  • Monday 10 March 12.00 SOUVENIRS OF MUSIC Augmented BBC Revue Orchestra (Leader, David Paget) Conductor, Robert Busby with Patricia Baird (soprano) 

  • Tuesday 11 March 17.30 RENDEZVOUS - Commonwealth artists entertain Hugh Hastings, The Hassan Five Patricia Baird (accompanied by Geoffrey Parsons) BBC Revue Orchestra, conductor, Robert Busby Introduced by Peter King Produced by David Miller 

Meanwhile, Eugene Goossens returned to Australia after his four month tour abroad. He told the press that five Australian singers were making a success in London: Sylvia Fisher, John Cameron, Elsie Morison, Joan Sutherland - and Patricia Baird. 

April 1952

  • Tuesday 8 April 20.00 SONG OF VIENNA - The life story of Franz Lehar - Episode 2 - 'The Rage of the Town Devised by Kenneth Pakeman, Written by Maurice Gorham The Players: Dermot Palmer, Elaine Dundy, Mary Wimbush. Roger Delgado, Richard Hurndall, Gladys Spencer The Singers: Patricia Baird , Kyra Vayne, John Cameron , Rowland Jones BBC Opera Chorus (Trained by Alan G. Melville ) BBC Opera Orchestra (Leader, John Sharpe ) Conductor, Stanford Robinson Produced by Kenneth Pakeman and Archie Campbell
  • Friday 25 April 19.00 First House MELODY FROM THE STARS Patricia Baird , Jimmy Young, Kathran Oldfield , Ereach Riley The Joe Saye Trio Augmented BBC Revue Orchestra, conducted by Robert Busby Producer, Jimmy Grant 

In 1952 Patricia joined the Arts Council's "Grand Opera Group". This was a group formed in 1950 comprising four or five soloists (one acting as compère) with a pianist which toured the UK performing specially chosen programmes of excerpts, both in ensemble and aria, which were introduced with an explanation of their dramatic significance within the story of the opera.

  • Sunday May 16th Eisteddfod Marquee, Cardigan. The Treorchy Male Voice Choir was asked to perform at the Semi-National Eisteddfod Concert. Also on stage was soprano Patricia Baird, John Cameron (bass) and Brychan Powell (tenor). The accompanist was Charles Clements

June 1952

  • Friday 13 June 17.30 BAND CALL BBC Variety Orchestra, conductor, Paul Fenoulhet with Patricia Baird and Mark Pasquin Introduced by John Webster 

July 1952

On 3rd July 1952, Patricia's father died in the family home at 4 Jarvie Avenue, Petersham. While she was probably told of his death by telegram, returning home for the funeral would have been impossible. 

  • Friday 18 July 21.15 John Watt introduces SONGS FROM THE SHOWS Melodies from Theatreland over the years with Helen Clare, Jack Cooper, Eve Becke, David Hughes, Patricia Baird and the Grosvenor Singers BBC Revue Orchestra conducted by Robert Busby Produced by Michael North 
  • Friday 25 July 21.15 John Watt introduces SONGS FROM THE SHOWS Melodies from Theatreland over the years with Helen Clare, Jack Cooper Eve Becke, David Hughes, Patricia Baird and the Grosvenor Singers BBC Variety Orchestra conducted by Paul Fenoulhet Produced by Michael North 

August 1952 

  • Friday 1 August 21.15 John Watt introduces SONGS FROM THE SHOWS Melodies from Theatreland over the years with Helen Clare, Jack Cooper, Eve Becke, David Hughes , Patricia Baird and the Grosvenor Singers BBC Variety Orchestra conductor, Paul Fenoulhet Produced by Michael North 
  • Friday 8 August 21.15 John Watt introduces SONGS FROM THE SHOWS Melodies from Theatreland over the years with Helen Clare, Jack Cooper , Eve Becke, David Hughes, Patricia Baird and the Grosvenor Singers BBC Variety Orchestra conductor, Paul Fenoulhet Produced by Michael North 
  • Friday 15 August 21.15 John Watt introduces SONGS FROM THE SHOWS Melodies from Theatreland over the years with Helen Clare, Jack Cooper, Eve Becke, David Hughes, Patricia Baird, Sydney Keith and the Grosvenor Singers BBC Variety Orchestra conductor, Paul Fenoulhet Produced by Michael North 
  • Friday 22 August 21.15 John Watt introduces SONGS FROM THE SHOWS Melodies from Theatreland over the years with Helen Clare, Jack Cooper, Eve Becke, David Hughes , Patricia Baird and the Grosvenor Singers BBC Variety Orchestra conductor, Paul Fenoulhet Produced by Michael North 
  • Friday 29 August 21.15 John Watt introduces SONGS FROM THE SHOWS Melodies from Theatreland over the years with Helen Clare, Jack Cooper, Eve Becke, David Hughes, Patricia Baird and the Grosvenor Singers BBC Variety Orchestra conductor, Paul Fenoulhet Produced by Michael North 

September 1952

  • Friday 5 September 21.15 John Watt introduces SONGS FROM THE SHOWS with Helen Clare,  Jack Cooper, Eve Becke, David Hughes, Patricia Baird and the Grosvenor Singers BBC Variety Orchestra conductor, Paul Fenoulhet Produced by Michael North 
  • Friday 12 September 21.15 John Watt introduces SONGS FROM THE SHOWS with Helen Clare, Jack Cooper, Eve Becke, David Hughes, Patricia Baird and the Grosvenor Singers BBC Variety Orchestra conductor, Paul Fenoulhet Produced by Michael North 
  • Friday 19 September 21.15 John Watt introduces SONGS FROM THE SHOWS Melodies from Theatreland over the years with Helen Clare, Jack Cooper, Eve Becke, David Hughes, Patricia Baird and the Grosvenor Singers BBC Variety Orchestra conductor, Paul Fenoulhet Produced by Michael North 
  • Friday 26 September 21.15 John Watt Introduces SONGS FROM THE SHOWS Melodies from Theatreland over the years with Helen Clare, Jack Cooper, Eve Becke, David Hughes, Patricia Baird and the Grosvenor Singers BBC Variety Orchestra conductor. Paul Fenoulhet Produced by Michael North 

December 1952

  • Tuesday 9 December 17.30 RENDEZVOUS - Commonwealth artists entertain Patricia Baird , John Cazabon, Bob Freema, , John Hauxwell BBC Revue Orchestra (Leader, David Paget) Introduced by Aidan MacDermot Produced by David Miller 
  • Saturday 20 December 16.00 BAND CALL BBC Variety Orchestra (Leader, George Deason) conductor, Paul Fenoulhet with Patricia Baird and Randall Stevens Introduced by John Webster 
  • Saturday 27 December 14.00 BAND CALL BBC Variety Orchestra conductor, Paul Fenoulhet with Patricia Baird and Denis Catlin Introduced by John Webster

January 1953

  • Saturday 17 January 20.00 THE STAR SHOW - Introduced by Joe Linnane Tonight in order of broadcasting: Leslie Adams, Karoly Szenassy, Johnnie Brandon, Patricia Baird, Gladys Cooper and Angela Baddeley, Ian Wallace, Elsie Waters and Doris Waters The George Mitchell Choir BBC Variety Orchestra conductor, Paul Fenoulhet Produced by Tom Ronald and Michael North 
  • Friday 30 January 12.25 MIDDAY MUSIC-HALL Michael Miles introduces The Four in A-Chord, Tony (Silly Thing) Scott, Professional Protégés Ted Andrews and his Canadian Singing Sisters, Kitty Bluett Your Favourite Musical Comedy - Patricia Baird and John Hauxvell Cardew Robinson BBC Revue Orchestra Produced by Trafford Whitelock 

May 1953

  • Sunday 17 May 14.15 COMMONWEALTH OF SONG - Music from four corners of our Commonwealth of Nations Patricia Baird (Australia), Eve Boswell (South Africa), Edmund Hockridge (Canada), George Browne (West Indies). Introduced by Robert Easton (United Kingdom) with The Johnston Singers and the BBC Variety Orchestra conductor, Paul Fenoulhet Producer, Donald MacLean 
  • Sunday 24 May 14.15 COMMONWEALTH OF SONG - Music from four corners of the Commonwealth of Nations Patricia Baird (Australia), Eve Boswell (South Africa), Edmund Hockridge (Canada), George Browne (West Indies) Introduced by Robert Easton (United Kingdom) with The Johnston Singers and the BBC Variety Orchestra conductor, Paul Fenoulhet Producer, Donald MacLean 
  • Saturday 30 May 20.00 VARIETY PLAYHOUSE with Vic Oliver as host and Master of Ceremonies, who each week invites stars of the entertainment world This week, in order of broadcasting: Tollefsen, Hermione Gingold, Frederick Sharp and Patricia Baird, Max Wall, Maurice Chevalier The George Mitchell Choir Augmented BBC Revue Orchestra conductor, Harry Rabinowitz Musical adviser, Vic Oliver Continuity by Carey Edwards Production by Tom Ronald 
  • Sunday 31 May 14.15 COMMONWEALTH OF SONG - Music from four corners of the Commonwealth of Nations Patricia Baird (Australia), Eve Boswell (South Africa), Edmund Hockridge (Canada) George Browne (West Indies) with The Johnston Singers Introduced by Robert Easton (United Kingdom) and the BBC Variety Orchestra conductor, Paul Fenoulhet Producer, Donald MacLean 

June 1953

  • Monday 1 June 11.55 VARIETY PLAYHOUSE - A repeat of the broadcast on 30th May. 2 June 1953 - Coronation Day
  • Sunday 14 June 14.15 COMMONWEALTH OF SONG - Music from four corners of the Commonwealth of Nations Patricia Baird (Australia), Eve Boswell (South Africa), Edmund Hockridge (Canada), George Browne (West Indies) The Johnston Singers (United Kingdom) Introduced by Robert Easton (United Kingdom) Malcolm Lockyer and his Orchestra Producer, Donald MacLean 
  • Sunday 21 June 14.15 COMMONWEALTH OF SONG - Music from four corners of the Commonwealth of Nations Patricia Baird (Australia), Eve Boswell (South Africa), Edmund Hockridge (Canada), George Browne (West Indies), The Johnston Singers (United Kingdom) Introduced by Robert Easton (United Kingdom) BBC Variety Orchestra conductor, Paul Fenoulhet Producer, Donald MacLean 
  • Sunday 28 June 14.15 COMMONWEALTH OF SONG - Music from four corners of the Commonwealth of Nations Patricia Baird (Australia), Eve Boswell (South Africa), Edmund Hockridge (Canada), George Browne (West Indies), The Johnston Singers (United Kingdom) Introduced by Robert Easton (United Kingdom) BBC Variety Orchestra conductor, Paul Femmlhet Producer, Donald MacLean 

July 1953

  • Sunday 5 July 14.15 COMMONWEALTH OF SONG - Music from four corners of the Commonwealth of Nations Patricia Baird (Australia), Eve Boswell (South Africa), Edmund Hockridge (Canada), George Browne (West Indies), The Johnston Singers (United Kingdom) Introduced by Robert Easton (United Kingdom) BBC Variety Orchestra conductor, Paul Fenoulhet Producer, Donald MacLean (Eve Boswell is in ' The Show of Shows' at the Opera House Theatre, Blackpool) 
  • Sunday 12 July 14.15 COMMONWEALTH OF SONG - Music from four corners of the Commonwealth of Nations Patricia Baird (Australia), Eve Boswell (South Africa), Edmund Hockridge (Canada), George Browne (West Indies), The Johnston Singers (United Kingdom) Introduced by Robert Easton (United Kingdom) BBC Variety Orchestra conductor, Paul Fenoulhet Producer, Donald MacLean 
  • Sunday 19 July 14.15 COMMONWEALTH OF SONG - Music from four corners of the Commonwealth of Nations Patricia Baird (Australia), Eve Boswell (South Africa), Edmund Hockridge (Canada), George Browne (West Indies), The Johnston Singers (United Kingdom) Introduced by Robert Easton (United Kingdom) BBC Variety Orchestra conductor, Paul Fenoulhet Producer, Donald MacLean 
  • Sunday 26 July 14.15 COMMONWEALTH OF SONG Patricia Baird (Australia), Marion Williams (Nigeria), Edmund Hockridge (Canada), George Browne (West Indies), The Johnston Singers (U.K.) Introduced by Robert Easton (U.K.) BBC Variety Orchestra conductor. Paul Fenoulhet Script by Jimmy Grafton Produced by Donald MacLean 

August 1953

  • Sunday 2 August 14.15 COMMONWEALTH OF SONG - Music from four corners of the Commonwealth of Nations Patricia Baird (Australia), Marion Williams (Nigeria), Chester Harriott and Vic Evans (West Indies), The Johnston Singers (U.K.) Guest, Patricia Howard (Australia) Introduced by Edmund Hockridge (Canada) BBC Variety Orchestra conductor, Paul Fenoulhet Script by Jimmy Grafton Produced by Donald MacLean 
  • Wednesday 5 August 20.00 THE LEISURE HOUR - A radio diversion for the whole family Informally introduced by Rex Palmer This week you meet: Betty Marsden Robb Wilton in 'Councillor Muddlecombe, J.P.' Bransby Williams 'Midge's Choice' Wilson Midgley talks about new books he has enjoyed reading and Beverley Nichols, Jill Balcon, and Francis de Wolff present scenes from them Leisure Serenade with Patricia Baird A Wandering Minstrel with John Cameron and Alan Paul at the piano Louis Voss and his Orchestra provide the music Incidental music composed by Alan Paul Production by Alfred Dunning and Richard Keen 
  • Sunday 9 August 14.15 COMMONWEALTH OF SONG - Music from four corners of the Commonwealth of Nations Patricia Baird (Australia),  Marion Williams (Nigeria), Edmund Hockridge (Canada), The N.Z.-ers (New Zealand), The Johnston Singers (United Kingdom) Introduced by Robert Easton (United Kingdom) Louis Voss and his Orchestra Script written by Jimmy Grafton Produced by Donald MacLean 
  • Wednesday 12 August 20.00 THE LEISURE HOUR - A radio diversion for the whole family informally introduced by Rex Palmer This week you meet: Betty Marsden Robb Wilton in ' Councillor Muddlecombe, J.P.' Bransby Williams 'Midge's Choice' Wilson Midgley talks about new books he has enjoyed reading and Molly Rankin, Edana Romney, Denise Bryer. Warren Stanhope, Harold Reese , David Spenser and Charles E. Stidwill present scenes from them Leisure Serenade with Patricia Baird A Wandering Minstrel with John Cameron and Alan Paul at the piano Max Jaffa and the Leisure Hour Players provide the music Incidental music composed by Alan Paul Production by Alfred Dunning and Richard Keen (Betty Marsden is appearing in 'Airs On A Shoestring at the Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, London) 
  • Sunday 16 August 14.15 COMMONWEALTH OF SONG - Music from four corners of the Commonwealth of Nations Patricia Baird (Australia), Marion Williams (Nigeria), Edmund Hockridge (Canada), The N.Z.-ers (New Zealand), The Johnston Singers (United Kingdom) Introduced by Robert Easton (United Kingdom) Louis Voss and his Orchestra Script written by Jimmy Grafton Produced by Donald MacLean (Edmund Hockridge is in Carousel ' at the Grand Theatre, Leeds) 
  • Wednesday 19 August 20.00 THE LEISURE HOUR - A radio diversion for the whole family introduced by Rex Palmer This week you meet: Ann Lancaster Robb Wilton in ‘Councillor Muddlecombe, J.P.’ Bransby Williams ‘Midge's Choice ’ Wilson Midgley talks about new books he has enjoyed reading and Robin Bailey and Molly Lawson present scenes from them Leisure Serenade with Patricia Baird A Wandering Minstrel with John Cameron and Alan Paul at the piano Max Jaffa and the Leisure Hour Players provide the music Incidental music composed by Alan Paul Production by Alfred Dunning and Richard Keen

Patricia's home in London for the next four years was a shared flat in Cranley Gardens, South Kensington. She spent a year in Flat 2C and then moved into 2D. 

1955

Wednesday 9th and Thursday 10th March Central Hall, Chester - City of Chester Male Voice Choir Festival Patricia Baird, Paul Asciak, Michael Langdon. Maelor Richards (Accompanist) 

1957

26th and 28th June 1957 - Welsh National Opera at Sadler's Wells - Nabucco (Abigail / Abigaille - debut on the London stage) (The Times):

Miss Baird is certainly an acquisition to opera. She has a bring, strong, agile soprano voice, and a clear flowing line; she can negotiate florid music with some accuracy, and should become adept in fioritura before long, since the voice is cleanly focused. Her singing is naturally dramatic in manner, though of stagecraft she is still innocent. She made much of a bravura role; it is no surprise to learn she comes from Australia 

 



After a whirlwind romance of only four months, in August 1957 Patricia married a British engineer, William Shackell, at St Marylebone Register Office in London. They had decided to marry only one week before. 

1958

In 1958 she was in the Carl Rosa Company's production of Verdi's Falstaff at Sadler's Well as Mistress Ford, being described by "The Stage" as "safe and sure". 




Later the same year she appeared with the Welsh National Opera in Cardiff in Pagliacci

1961

  • London Telephone Directory, 1961: Patricia Shackell, 4C Leinster Square, W2 
  • Register of Electors, 1962: Patricia and William Shackell, Flat C, 4/5 Leinster Square, W2 

Return to Australia

1962

In early January 1962 Patricia left Tilbury Docks on P&O line SS Iberia bound for Sydney, travelling via Gibraltar (18th January), Suez, Aden, Colombo, Fremantle, Melbourne and Adelaide. 

On 13th February the ship docked in Sydney. Patricia had travelled alone and in First Class. This would not have been cheap. She gave her destination as her mother's address - No 1, Kara Flats, 30 Orpington Street, Ashfield, Sydney, and her name as Mrs Patricia Fairlie Shackelle. The spelling of her surname may be an error on the part of P&O. 

  • 24 March 1962 - 14 April 1962 - Theatre Royal, Adelaide, SA, Falstaff / Don Giovanni / La Traviata

1963

By February 1963 Patricia had moved to Canberra where she advertised that she was conducting auditions for students for her forthcoming series of classes. Her three advertisements in the Canberra Times show that she had gained two professional diplomas: the Licentiate in Music, Australia (L. Mus. A.) and the Licentiate of Trinity College London (L.T.C.L). 

1964

By September 1964 Pat was back in London.

  • Thursday 10 September  1964 20.40 SONGS FROM THE SHOWS Introduced by John CARLIN with PATRICIA BAIRD, PETER REGAN THE MIKE SAMMES SINGERS MICHAEL COLLINS AND HIS ORCHESTRA Produced by Chris MORGAN 

1965 and after

On 19 November 1965, in London, Pat married her second husband, Fred. Later in life they returned to Australia. 

Fred died in 2007 and Pat stayed in Australia even though she said didn't enjoy living there and would have preferred to return to the UK. 

This was the point at which I was able to make contact with her through her cousin. In spite of her disabilities her memory was perfect and she remembered her work in the UK in the 1950s. 

Patricia Baird died on 23rd July 2015 in a nursing home in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. 

WILLIAMS Patricia Fairlie (nee Baird) 6.3.1926 - 23.7.2015 Loved wife of Fred (deceased). Fond aunt to Margaret. A Service for Patricia will be held in its entirety in the Ann Wilson Chapel, corner Barrenjoey Road and Darley Street, Mona Vale on Friday, July 31, 2015 at 2.00pm. Ann Wilson Funerals An Australian Company 9971 4224
Published in The Sydney Morning Herald on July 29, 2015

 





07 November 2020

Elgar, Binyon, Martin-Harvey and 'Arthur'

Title-page of Elgar's full score.
Courtesy of the British Library.

 

 To

SIR JOHN and LADY MARTIN HARVEY

With what names should I inscribe this play but with yours? Yet what right have I to dedicate to you what is already so much your own? Memory goes back to the June day, now long ago, when first I undertook to write for you a play out of Malory's pages on a theme long pondered by you both. And many days come back to me, in London or by the sunny Channel, when time was forgotten in ardent work and interchange of ideas; in rejecting and recasting; in the search for essential structure. How much the play owes to you, both in framework and in detail, none knows so well as I. Give me leave, therefore, to write these words in grateful acknowledgement of that initial trust, of much fruitful suggestion and inspiriting counsel, and of all I have learnt from you of the playwright's patient craft.

 

With these words, the playwright Laurence Binyon introduced his play Arthur: a tragedy. The dedication is to my ancestor, Sir John Martin-Harvey and his wife who acted as 'Miss N. da Silva', and the music for the first production was written by Sir Edward Elgar.

In February 1998, Anthony Payne's elaboration of the sketches which Elgar made for his Third Symphony received its first public performance in London's Royal Festival Hall.

For the first time, people who had not been familiar with the sketches either as they were published in The Listener or W.H. Reed's Elgar as I Knew Him (1936) became aware that the symphony seemingly drew on Elgar's music for Binyon's play Arthur.

I want to present here some paragraphs taken from The Autobiography of Sir John Martin-Harvey (Sampson Low, Marston and Co, 1933), which explain the background to Binyon's play in some detail. Then I want to discuss briefly Elgar's music for the play, and how it relates to the Third Symphony sketches.


Martin-Harvey's account of the genesis of the play

After the production of Oedipus Rex at Covent Garden in 1912-13, a new ambition had taken possession of me. In my mind arose again the loved stories of my youth - those of Malory's Morte d'Arthur. What would be more glorious than to produce a play on the great British theme of Arthur, written by a British poet, in settings by a British artist, in the foremost British Theatre?

Laurence Binyon for the poet, my old friend Professor Robert Anning Bell for the designer, and Covent Garden Opera House for the production!

Binyon had entered enthusiastically into the project and many an hour had we spent with my wife over the construction of the play in her cottage at Bonchurch, to which he refers so charmingly in his dedication of the printed copy.

Our original idea was that Lancelot [Binyon used the spelling 'Launcelot', but Martin-Harvey does not follow this] should be the leading character; but, when I read the play aloud, my wife much preferred my expression of the King, and, with Binyon's concurrence, it was decided that I should play Arthur. This necessitated some changes in the latter part of the play which Binyon willingly made. In the meantime, consultations with Anning Bell over the costumes had been frequent and a large staff of workpeople had been carrying them out at Covent Garden Opera house.

Then came a disappointment. I had approached Robert Loraine to play 'Lancelot' and he had agreed, though at that time he was not in fit condition to undertake any work. He was war-weary and his doctor insisted upon a long sea voyage to re-build his health. The production of the play was postponed and, as I now had the tenancy of Covent Garden on my hands, I decided to revive Hamlet there for four weeks, with the same production which had been received with such favour at the Shakespeare Tercentenary performances at His Majesty's Theatre in 1916.

The postponement of Arthur was a great disappointment to us all, and conditions have changed so greatly since the War that I have not yet found it possible to produce the play. The fact is that the traditions in which I had been brought up were, before the War, still a powerful influence in my imaginative conception of poetical drama and were moulded on the old Lyceum lines - long casts, vast scenes, great crowds, elaborate and subtle lighting effects, large orchestras and all the rest of it. These things are no longer possible. The glories of that long line of Irving productions, in these days of Trade Union tyranny and mass discipline, can never return.

Perhaps the drama will be none the worse; for these are not essentials - "the Play's the thing" - and the acting. It is partly characteristic of the changed point of view in the matters that, whereas I had spent sixteen hundred pounds on costumes for Arthur, the 'old Vic', where the play was ultimately produced, has staged it complete for fifteen pounds, ten shillings!

Yes; an opportunity had presented itself for its production there, and after Binyon's disappointment I could not say 'No' to the opportunity; besides, I very much wanted to see the play brought to life. It is only then that one can finally judge of its form. Alas! the play was staged at a time when I was travelling and I could not see it, but I had a later chance.

The dramatic section of the London County Council Literary Institute in Drury Lane prayed for permission to give the play, and it was performed there by girls on an occasion when my wife and I were in Town, and very well too. The representation renewed my admiration for Binyon's noble work and confirmed my intention to produce the play whenever the favourable moment can be seized. There is so insignificant a public for such plays in London that it would be courting bankruptcy to stage it there, but that it will be welcomed and supported by an audience in the country I am convinced.

In the midst of these hectic movements I received news of our King's gracious bestowal of the dignity of Knighthood upon me, an honour which he himself had chosen as one which would be equally shared with my wife, in recognition of her long and arduous services during the War.


Elgar's music for the play

Sir Edward Elgar and Laurence Binyon first collaborated in the three-part choral work The Spirit of England. Binyon quickly became a friend and in 1923 asked the composer to write incidental music for the production of Arthur.

In a letter to Binyon the composer wrote in January 1923:
I want to do it but since my dear wife's death [in 1920] I have done nothing & fear my music has vanished ... my wife loved your things & it may be that I can furnish (quite inadequately) music for Arthur.  Can you give me three days more to “try’?
Elgar's score amounted to nearly 90 pages ranging from a few bars to one piece of nearly five minutes. He scored the work for flute (doubling piccolo), clarinet, 2 cornets, trombone, drums, percussion, harp, strings and piano. Elgar drew much of his music from his old sketchbooks. 

The scenes of the play, and Elgar's contributions, are:

Scene 1: Sir Bernard's castle at Astolat

  • Introduction to Scene 1
  • Now you have told me
  • End of Scene 1
End of Scene 1.
Courtesy of the British Library.


Scene 2: A room in the Palace in London: the King and Sir Bedivere

  • Introduction to Scene 2
Introduction to Scene 2.
Courtesy of the British Library.


Scene 3: Sir Bernard's castle at Astolat: Elaine asleep

  • Introduction to Scene 3
  • Put me on the barge
  • Link to Scene 4

Scene 4: The Banqueting Hall at Westminster

  • Introduction to Scene 4
  • Curtain rises
  • And both dangerous
  • It may be
  • The Queen
  • King Arthur’s Fellowship
  • As the King wills
  • The radiant rose
  • Our Queen!
  • Ah false
  • Reading letter

Scene 5: The Queen's Tower at night

  • Introduction to Scene 5
  • No tree was there

Scene 6: The King's Tower, the same night


Scene 7: The King's camp before Joyous Gard and Battle Scene

  • Introduction to Scene 7
  • Go, Lucan, to meet her
  • Thy sword, my life, are yours
  • End of Scene 7

Scene 8: Arthur's passage to Avalon

  • Introduction to Scene 8



In a letter to Binyon after the performances Elgar wrote:
...for theatrical purposes I sh. have like Arthur & all his train to march mistily past, seen through a window on the stage R.
A sentiment with which Martin-Harvey might well have sympathised.

Elgar's Third Symphony

What was the significance to Elgar of the themes which he first used in Arthur and then re-used in his Third Symphony?
  • Elgar's second movement is a scherzo and uses for its main opening section the central section of the introduction to Scene 4 (The Banqueting Hall at Westminster).
  • For the second subject of the final movement of the symphony, Elgar used the theme which appears (in the Hurst recording) at 1' 20" in the introduction to Scene Two (The King and Bedivere). The theme is based on an arpeggio figure and is strongly reminiscent (to me) of the "chivalric" themes of Elgar's old Froissart overture.