[Portrait from Life - Alfred Hill.]

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Tono kōrero mai

This episode of the series "Portrait from Life" features a biographical interview with composer, Alfred Hill. It was compiled by J. M. Thompson, who also recorded the interview, produced by Barbara Basham and narrated by Meredith Patterson.

An interview with Alfred Hill recorded in his Sydney home. An old harmonium he used in composing the music for the film 'Rewi's Last Stand', which he still uses today, is heard.

The family moved from Australia to the United States, Auckland and then Wellington in Hill's childhood. He recalls his musical family and concerts they would perform, with people listening outside their home. His cornet-playing was good enough that he was soon playing in public and the family toured. He also learnt violin and performed with visiting companies.

He began composing when he was about 12 years old. His father arranged for him and his brother to go to Germany for further study in 1887 in Leipzig. Hill says his teacher there was a genius and he made rapid progress in violin and composition. He recalls seeing Tchaikovsky conducting a concert in Leipzig and heard many other famous musicians.

His 'Scotch Sonata' which he wrote and played for his graduation concert was well-received and is still played today [an excerpt is heard.] He talks about his return to Wellington and working with the Orchestral Society to develop a complete orchestra with an impressive repertoire.

He speaks about the melody to the "Hinemoa" cantata, which he says he got from Wi Duncan. He sings the waiata he learnt from Duncan and says it originally came with a chief from Rarotonga who visited King Tawhiao.
"Hinemoa" was written in conjunction with journalist Arthur Adams. It was performed at the Wellington Exhibition to tremendous acclaim and then toured New Zealand and Australia.[An excerpt is heard.]

He was invited to join a touring Belgian company as violinist, on a world tour, but the tour ended in Australia. He became conductor of the Sydney Liedertafel, and wrote his first opera, "Lady Dolly." He wrote another opera "Don Quixote" but in 1902 decided to return to Wellington. In 1903 his Māori-themed opera "Tapu" debuted and was toured in Australia.

In 1904 he returned to Auckland and became more fully-immersed in Māori music. His friend Charles Goldie was painting portraits of elderly Māori and he would ask the sitters to sing old waiata to him as well. He tells a story about composing 'Waiata Poi" [An excerpt is heard.]

He talks about its success with various artists and collecting other melodies from Māori singers in Rotorua, including Bella [Papakura?] He says he suggested to James Cowan and James McDonald that they record ancient melodies in the King Country, which they did, coming back with 200 'dictaphone records', but he says they have been mislaid. [sic. These cylinder recordings are held at Te Papa.]

His 1905 opera "The Moorish Maid" was a great success, making a star of Rosina Buckman. He then organised an orchestra for the 1906 Christchurch International Exhibition, which later toured the country.
"The Moorish Maid" then played in Dunedin and was taken up by an English company, but Hill became seriously ill and the London opening never eventuated.

A position with J.C. Williamson as a conductor saw him move to Australia permanently. He visited New Zealand to compose the music for Rudall Hayward's film "Rewi's Last Stand' and talks about the traditional flutes made for this work.

Before World War I he ran a theatre company and started an opera league. He began teaching at the Sydney Conservatorium and talks about teaching and works he wrote while there. He retired in 1936, which gave him time to devote on his interest in Aboriginal music and composing for 'neglected instruments' such as the viola [an excerpt of a viola concerto is heard.]

He talks about his belief about what constitutes art and beauty, saying he prizes chamber music as the 'highest form of music.' He is still lively with a great interest in politics and makes some comments about Australian politicians. He says music is keeping him young.

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Reference number 23844

Media type AUDIO

Collection Sound Collection

Genre Documentary radio programs
Nonfiction radio programs
Radio programs
Sound recordings

Credits Hill, Alfred (b.1869, d.1960), Interviewee
Thomson, John Mansfield, Interviewer
Basham, Barbara, Producer
Patterson, Meredith, Narrator
New Zealand Broadcasting Service (estab. 1946, closed 1962), Broadcaster

Duration 00:41:26

Date [1958]

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