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Kinglake West Glee Club


The Oxford dictionary gives two definitions for 'glee': 1. lively delight 2. musical composition for several voices. During the 1700s, groups were formed in England for the purpose of singing musical compositions with lively delight and they became known as Glee Clubs. In 1910, the idea was taken up by a group of residents of Kinglake West and, at the first meeting on 8 July, there were 22 members, young and older, present in spite of the squally weather. The families represented included Pearce, Pollard, Burton, Carman, McDonald, Mueller, Salisbury, Crebbin, Junor, Lang, Cook, Yarwood , King and Roney.
It was decided that they would attempt a collection of songs under the title 'Jessica's First Prayer' to be presented at a concert later in the year to raise funds for the local church. The conductress in charge would be Mrs Christie, the daughter of Rev. Lyttle who was the mission minister for the Presbyterian congregation which met in the Kinglake West Mechanics Institute Hall. Mrs Christie was a fine musician and qualified to teach music and singing. Miss Evelyn Joyce, who played the organ for the church meetings, would be the accompanist.
The concert was held on 18 November with 30 members taking part, and their presentation was so impressive that they were dubbed 'The Songbirds of the Mountain'. The evening was a great success with the singing followed by refreshments and then games for the young people until everyone joined in the circle to sing 'Auld Lang Syne' together.
The Glee Club followed this success by presenting two items at the community Christmas concert at the Kinglake West Hall in December 1910 and were complimented on their performance. There were also solo songs by Misses Craig and Pollard and Messrs Mueller and Lang, all Glee Club members. The concert program was followed by dancing with music provided by Mrs Christie while Mr J. Junor and Mr G. Ramsay shared the MC duties. The 'Evelyn Observer' newspaper report recorded that it was 'well into daylight the next morning before the dancing stopped' and the only negative comment was that it was a pity that the Hall trustees did not provide more strong seating as many people had to stand at the back and several of the hall forms broke and caused a disturbance during items.

Glee Club Members Mabel, Ethel and Florrie Pearce
Glee Club Members Mabel, Ethel and Florrie Pearce

In 1911, the Glee Club's new presentation was the main feature of the concert held on 11 April and the group made an attractive formation in rows on the stage with the ladies dressed in 'spotless white'. Other items included a piano duet by Mrs Christie and Miss Jessie Rawsthorne and a solo by Ernest Mueller, and Mr Skeoch sang 'I Love A Lassie' suitably attired in his Highland kilt.
This concert was a highlight remembered clearly in his old age by Jim Salisbury who, with his sister Isabel, presented a duet that evening. In his book 'Born With The Century', Jim Salisbury recorded memories of the Glee Club, his schooldays at Kinglake West State School and the kindness of the local families when the Salisbury family arrived there from England.
Unfortunately, just after the concert in April 1911, both Mrs Christie and Miss Joyce were leaving the district and, as no further reports of the Glee Club have been found to date, it seems that its activities may have ended then. Nonetheless, it is yet another example of the initiative and talent of those early families who found ways to get together, enjoy themselves and develop a sense of community, even in 'squally' weather.
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