While a few might think of the State archives including scripts of plays even fewer would think any music would be held in them. A rare find indeed is some music included in a manuscript play from the 1850s.
The play in which the music was found is Rookwood, or, The Adventures of Dick Turpin and Tom King (NRS 980, [SZ57]). The manuscript play was submitted to the Colonial Secretary on 21 September 1850 by Gustavus Frederick Arabin, a colonial actor who had performed in places such as Hobart, Launceston and Sydney. The play was performed at the Royal Victoria Theatre in Sydney on 13 February 1851 as Rookwood, or, The Adventures of Dick Turpin and Death of Tom King.
The music was found by Senior Archivist Janette Pelosi during her research for a conference on popular entertainments. Janette has researched the plays held by State Records and even a few of the actors and actresses who played in them.
Another researcher with interests in colonial music is Graeme Skinner, musicologist, historian, and writer. Graeme’s Austral Harmony website includes a biographical register of many of the colonial performers as well as a chronological checklist of colonial compositions. Like many of us Graeme is a Trove aficionado.
When Janette found the music she asked Graeme whether it was a colonial piece. The answer is on his website . For those of us who can’t read music the tune is Greensleeves – think of ice cream van music!
For more about the manuscript plays see
- Janette’s article – Plays Submitted to the Colonial Secretary for Approval.
- Janette’s published conference paper ‘“Submitted for approval of the Colonial Secretary”: Popular Entertainment in the State Archives, 1828-1856’see A World of popular entertainments : an edited volume of critical essays – Chapter 7