Music Making in the Colonial City

'Music Making in the Colonial City: Benefit Concerts in Newcastle, NSW, in the 1870s' focuses on the cultural significance of benefit concerts in Newcastle, NSW, during a period of rapid immigration: the 1870s.

Miners and their families in Newcastle 1888

Written by University of Newcastle Senior Lecturer in Music, Helen English,this article highlights the importance of benefit concerts for transplanted communities whose origins were a class-structured society.

By 1870 the townships of Wallsend, Waratah, Lambton and Hamilton had been established for around ten years and were developing their own cultural identities. Music was an important aspect of this and the mining communities were remarkably active, supporting brass bands and choral unions – and organising concerts and eisteddfods.

These predominately working-class township communities were drawn from mining communities in Britain and recreated musical practices from 'home'. One such important practice was community benefit concerts. These concerts provided entertainment, much-needed funds for the destitute or local building projects and a source of community endeavour and pride.

Concerts usually involved many local performers as soloists, in brass bands and various choirs, including Lambton and Wallsend Choral Unions and juvenile choirs.

This article shows the inclusive nature of benefit concerts. Through the concert's inherent potential for compromise, collegiality and collaboration, the communities in Newcastle during the time period could promote themselves as thriving, respectable and democratic.