Saturday, 23 March 2013

The accepted history of the Brisbane Band

When viewed from the vantage point of more than 155 years, the efforts of the Brisbane Band in bringing regular musical performances to Brisbane seem significant. At the time, the four members were just a few more foreigners around town who did not have a proper job. Contemporary reports of their activities are limited to classified advertisements and occasional references in the gossip columns[1] of the Moreton Bay Courier .

The accepted version of the history of the Band, as set out in Ericksen's 1987 dissertation[2], is based entirely upon three short pieces that appeared in the The Brisbane Courier in 1923 under the byline of Pauline Seal[3] .

Those articles appear to have been prompted by the fact that late in 1922 both major Queensland papers had published (in full) material provided by W.H. Paling & Co Ltd[4] to promote their music store brand through association with the deeds of its founder. From a twenty-first century perspective, this marketing attempt looks clumsy and poorly targeted, but it clearly struck a nerve with those who saw Queensland musical history being rewritten without Andreas Siegel (aka Andrew Seal)

Miss Seal was the daughter of the leader of the Brisbane Band but her articles describe events that occurred before she was born and were published almost two decades after the death of the principal protagonist. They cannot be considered primary sources.

It also may be significant that in 1911, a Letter to the Editor[5] of the Brisbane Courier (signed PS of Toowong) reported that Miss Seal and her sister Mrs Pizey were receiving communications from beyond the grave that would enable them to write out sections of their father's great last work, the D Major Symphony. That there is no record of this piece being performed may be attributed to the fact that it was scored for "heavenly instruments named therein, including the argentic harp [and] grand heavenly organ" which were apparently not widely available in Queensland.

It seems prudent to re-examine critically each of the claims made by Pauline Seal (and then transcribed by Ericksen).

  • [1] Domestic Intelligence The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 26 September 1857 page 2
  • [2] Erickson, Frederick J 1987, The bands and orchestras of colonial Brisbane , St. Lucia available online at:
  • [3] Records of Early Australian Musicians The Brisbane Courier 14 April 1923 page 17; Brisbane Bands Early Records Interesting Reminiscences 16 June 1923 page 18; Early Musicians on the Wallaby 1 December 1923 page 19
  • [4] A Famous Firm - History of W H Paling & Co Ltd The Queenslander Saturday 30 December 1922 page 15
  • [5] Inspired Musical Compositions The Brisbane Courier Wednesday 28 June 1911, page 21

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