Inaugural Event and a celebration of Louise Hanson-Dyer and the Lyrebird Music Society
Sunday 5 June 2022, 2:00-6:15 pm
Hanson Dyer Hall, The Ian Potter Southbank Centre

November 2021 was the centenary of the Victorian Branch of the British Music Society (now the Lyrebird Music Society), established by Louise Dyer. Our planned inaugural event was unfortunately disrupted by Melbourne’s COVID restrictions, but we are pleased to announce that it will now take place on 5 June as part of a larger celebration, by the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, of Dyer and the Society. The Network has partnered with the Lyrebird Music Society in devising the concert program and is running the symposium. The latter will serve as the official launch of this Louise Hanson-Dyer and Les Editions de l’Oiseau-Lyre International Research Network.

The concert programme has been designed to honour the British Music Society programmes of the early twentieth-century century, including English madrigals, French 18th-century airs, and chamber music by Gustav Holst, Peggy Glanville-Hicks and César Franck. It also includes a newly commissioned work by Kate Tempany based on a text by Nettie Palmer, in the spirit of Hanson-Dyer’s support of new music and female composers. Performers include Caroline Almonte, Elizabeth Sellars, Merlyn Quaife, Emily Barber-Briggs and Melbourne Conservatorium of Music madrigal singers.

The symposium will present Professor Rachel Cowgill (University of York) and Professor Barbara Kelly (Royal Northern College of Music) speaking of the broad reach of the British Music Society in the early twentieth century, and Dr Sarah Kirby (Nancy Keesing Fellow, State Library of New South Wales) focusing on the British Music Society in Australia and Hanson-Dyer’s important role in the Society. For our speakers’ abstracts, please see below.

You can register and read more details of the entire Celebration here.

The symposium will begin at 4.15 pm AEST both in person and online via Zoom (Password: 571514). An audio recording of the concert will be posted to this website as soon as possible after the concert.

We hope you can join us.


Rachel Cowgill

Discussion of The Internet of Musical Events: digital scholarship, community, and the archiving of performance (InterMusE)  followed by

Contested aspirations? modernity, internationalism and egalitarianism in the first decade of the British Music Society, 1918–28

The British Music Society (BMS) was established by the music critic, organist and educationalist Arthur Eaglefield Hull (1876–1928) in the closing months of the Great War and dedicated to restoring musical exchange between Britain and the European continent. Hull himself was directly involved in setting up more than twenty BMS chapters in towns and cities across the UK, some of which are still in existence today. Led by committees of amateurs, which he believed to be more impartial than professional musicians, the chapters were guided by bulletins and composer catalogues produced centrally. As the years passed, however, the supranationalist vision Hull propagated was refracted by competing nationalist and imperialist agendas within the Society – tensions that came to the fore when Hull published his Dictionary of Modern Music and Musicians (1924), an extraordinary achievement of international scholarship though now almost forgotten. This paper explores the ideological contradictions at the heart of the BMS in the years leading up to Hull’s death (1928), and its relationship with the emerging ISCM, for which the Society provided crucial context and infrastructure within the UK.

Barbara Kelly Strains of Internationalism in the Early Years of the BMS and ISCM.

‘Music more than anything else offers a means of bringing nations to a better understanding of one another’.
These were Arthur Eaglefield Hull’s words in the Manchester Guardian in October 1919 in an article devoted to the newly established British Music Society. The post-war period saw a number of initiatives to promote peace and cooperation through music between mainly European nations. This paper concerns two interlinking organisations – The British Musical Society and the International Society for Contemporary Music.  Both sought to stimulate national interest in contemporary music and international exchange. I look at their adoption of an internationalist stance and tease out what internationalism meant at this moment of post-war transition.  Eaglefield Hull was open about the local, national and international aims of the BMS. Although the leading British figures of the ISCM, Dent and Evans advocated for a cultural internationalism that was above politics and national rivalries, they used diplomacy to influence a realignment of musical power relations that reflected recent political fractures, prejudices and alliances.

Sarah Kirby “‘International spirit’ and ‘patriotic duty’: The British Music Society in Australia”

In the aftershocks of World War One, having been cut off from the artistic centres of Europe, many felt that Australia was in need of cultural renewal. In Sydney in 1920, Henri Verbrugghen—the Belgian director of the Sydney Conservatorium—endeavoured to reinvigorate the musical scene by promoting what he considered a local idiom: music by British and Australian composers. Writing to the President of the newly-formed British Music Society in London for advice, Verbrugghen received the ‘unexpected’ reply that he had been unanimously appointed the representative of the BMS for New South Wales. The following year, after meeting in London with the BMS’s founder Arthur Eaglefield Hull, Louise Dyer established a second Australian branch of the BMS in Melbourne with the dual goals of spreading ’knowledge of British Music’ and fostering ‘the spirit of International Music’. These two organisations in Sydney and Melbourne would, over the following decades, play a significant role in Australian musical life. With broad aspirations to promote contemporary music from across the world, both would also become affiliated with the International Society for Contemporary Music.

This paper explores the establishment, life, and impact of the British Music Society in Sydney and Melbourne in the interwar period, in the context of contemporary critical discourses of music, Australian and British national identities, and internationalism. It argues that—in the decades following Federation and a move towards Australian political independence—the BMS, shaped by both Verbrugghen and Dyer, is illustrative of a broader national impulse to rebuild international connections lost during the First World War.