The strong Welsh influence on the goldfields saw piano competitions take place as early as 1880 and by the turn of the century, Pianoforte was listed as a competition discipline. By 1902, the large number of entries in each age group reached a peak and it was not unusual to have up to 57 young pianists in a single section. Given the piece to be played was only advised at the time of entry, audiences frequently had to sat through the same work multiple times.

The only occasion when the contestants ‘Own Choice’ was acceptable was for duets, a restriction which would continue for many decades. However in 1933, more “own choice” sections were included and a Champion Concerto was added, although the music choice was still limited to piano works only. But before long, strings and woodwind were included and in 1976 brass was also included – at which point the number of entries greatly increased.

Dennis Olsen, better known for his character performances in the Australian Opera, won the Champion Concerto in 1958 – and over the years, many now well recognized musicians showed early promise in the Concerto competition including Wendy Morrison, Genevieve Lacey, Barry Cockcroft, Julie Haskell and Cameron Hill.

Many well-known musicians have also given their time and support to Royal South Street Society Ballarat Eisteddfod including Mr. E Sage, Organist and Choir Master at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, Prof. Fredrich W Beard, and Her Edvard Scharf who officiated at both the Athenaeum and the Coliseum in the early years. Mr. Fredrick Mewton who adjudicated in 1919 gave lectures and demonstrations to the pianists or early “Master Classes’ while the fifties and sixties saw the names of Linda Phillips, G Logie- Smith, Prof Ronald Farren Price, Werner Bayer and Ellinor Morcom added to the list. The latter was the Society’s Official Accompanist for more than 40 years and as well as being a teacher and mentor to many, also competed at South Street in her early days.

A move by the Society to encourage the work of Australian composers and writers in 2001 was adopted across many disciplines including Piano.

In 2006, Mr. Andrew Cochrane initiated the inaugural Celebrating Chopin section in honour of his late mother, pianist and teacher Margaret Schofield OAM. Prof. Dr. Ronald Farren Price and Dr. Anna Goldsworthy Adjudicated this prestigious event at Her Majesty’s Theatre where the Society’s newly restored Steinway Grand Piano returned to the stage. This Section is now contested at the Ballarat Art Gallery allowing for a more intimate venue.

Schimmel Piano

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