American influences on Australian traditional music next



American influences on Australian traditional music



WARREN FAHEY © 2005

page 2 [cont.] …

The entertainment varied but we do know that novelty acts, circus, dancing girls, singers and German bands were all popular, We also know that major international artists like Lola Montez (and her Spider Dance) and Jenny Lind (‘The Swedish Nightingale’) toured extensively and caused near riots. American minstrel was also extremely popular. It was also popular in England and America. It was the sentimental ballad that ruled supreme in the mid 19th century. With so many pioneers and new settlers parted from home and country this was to be expected. One of the most popular was the ‘Girl I Left Behind Me’ and the tune entered the local tradition and was used for the carrier of some new compositions.

Popular songs provided the carrier tune for many parodies

Dance music was also popular. The ‘German bands’ were almost a phenomenon as they oompa oompared their way around the bush. One wonders if they wore heavy lederhosen? There is a story, maybe a yarn, about the bushranger Fred ward ‘Thunderbolt’ bailing up a coach team carrying a German Band out to the New England district. The story explains how the bushranger was so intrigued he ordered the band to play a tune on the side of the road. He apologised for taking their money by adding he needed it so he could bet at the races. He promised that if he won he would leave their money at the post office in town. Legend has it he won and their money was waiting! Personally, I suspect it’s a yarn, but a good one.

What were popular were the quadrilles and polkas and the popular dance music associated with them. These did reach the goldfields but, one imagines, the actual dances rarely did.

Sheet music, like the Topsy Quadrille (right), mostly came in from England although some sheets came in from America. Some sheets were also printed here if they had Australian references. There were several sheets published in the 1850s surrounding the subjects of rail and gold.

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© Warren Fahey 2005


Jenny Lind the ‘Swedish Nightingale’ captivated the hearts of the miners.