Gladys Moncrieff

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Gladys Moncrieff
OBE
Gladys Moncrieff 2.jpg
Gladys Moncrieff performing in the 1930s
Background information
Born 13 April 1892
Bundaberg, Queensland, Australia
Died 8 February 1976(1976-02-08) (aged 83)
Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia
Genres Musical theatre, opera
Occupation(s) Singer
Instruments Vocals

Gladys Moncrieff OBE (13 April 1892 – 8 February 1976) was an Australian singer who was so successful in musical theatre and recordings that she became known as 'Australia's Queen of Song' and 'Our Glad'.

Life and career[edit]

Moncrieff as Teresa in The Maid of the Mountains (1921)
Moncrieff in the Montezuma dress used in Rio Rita (1928)

Early years[edit]

Moncrieff was born in Bundaberg, Queensland. Her father Robert Edward Moncrieff was a piano tuner, and her mother, who went by the stage name Amy Lambell, was a professional singer; they lived in North Isis.[1] She attended several schools in north Queensland, and quickly became involved in music. Her first stage performance was at the age of six at the Queen's Theatre in Bundaberg, where she sang the American folk song "The Merriest Girl That's Out" with her father accompanying on piano.[2] She performed in Gilbert and Sullivan productions. At the 1907 Charters Towers eisteddfod, Gladys shared first prize for her junior soprano rendition of "O for the Wings of a Dove" with local girl Eileen Coleman.[3]

When she left school, she and her parents travelled around far north Queensland performing. Moncrieff was billed as 'Little Gladys: The Australian Wonder Child'[4] and her performances helped her to raise funds to move to Brisbane to pursue her career. She worked in Brisbane and Toowoomba during 1909, and then went to Sydney with her mother. In Sydney she auditioned for Hugh J. Ward for a position in J. C. Williamson's theatre. She was successful, and with a starting salary of £3 per week she spent 18 months receiving singing lessons from Ward's wife, Madame Grace Miller. In 1914 she was in the chorus of a house Gilbert and Sullivan production; for there she took on leading roles such as Josephine in H.M.S. Pinafore.[2] The company toured New Zealand and performed in Melbourne.

Sheet music from A Southern Maid

Moncrieff toured South Africa and New Zealand as a leading lady in numerous productions. When she returned to Australia she landed her most famous role as Teresa in Harold Fraser-Simson's light opera The Maid of the Mountains, which she first performed in Melbourne in 1921.[2] The waltz song "Love Will Find a Way" became particularly associated with her. The Maid was to become the most frequently revived musical of the Australian stage, and Moncrieff appeared in it some 2,800 times.[2] She also was a success in A Southern Maid in 1923.[5]

Contemporary critics wrote of the purity, richness, power and wide range of her voice, her conviction of style and her clear enunciation.[6] H. Brewster-Jones spoke of the "richness of quality and expression in her well produced voice, and makes a striking appeal to a concert audience with her platform manner and interpretive abilities" in a 1938 review of a concert performance at the Adelaide Town Hall.[7]

Later years[edit]

Moncrieff's wedding at St James' Church (Sam Hood)
Moncrieff's grave at South Head Cemetery, Vaucluse, New South Wales

In May 1924, Moncrieff married Thomas Henry Moore, at St James' Church, Sydney in a ceremony that attracted a large crowd.[8] Moore became her manager. While honeymooning in England and France, she made her first gramophone recordings for the Vocalion Company. In Australia she was hugely successful as a musical comedy performer. She earned £150 a week, which made her one of the highest-paid performers in the history of Australian theatre.[2] She left Australia for the stage in England in 1926. Her first show there was poorly received, but when she appeared in Franz Lehár's The Blue Mazurka in 1927, her success in England was assured. While in England she made 37 more gramophone recordings, which were sold locally and exported to Australia where they sold successfully.

Her marriage was not successful and she began to live apart from her husband,[2] and then returned to Australia to appear in John Fuller's Rio Rita. The production was a commercial success and her career in Australia bloomed. She had a radio show in Australia and in the 1930s undertook tours for the New Zealand Broadcasting Service with New Zealand pianist Gil Dech.[9] She also appeared in the Australian musicals Collits' Inn and The Cedar Tree for producer F. W. Thring.[10]

Her career was put on hold in March 1938[11] when she was involved in a motor vehicle accident,[12] and she did not return to the stage until June 1940.[13] She returned to perform in musical comedy, and was engaged to entertain Australian troops fighting in the Second World War at home and in New Guinea, and she became very active raising funds for war-related charities. In 1951 she toured Japan and Korea to entertain British and Australian occupation forces.[14] For her wartime contributions, she was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1952 for services to patriotic and charitable movements.[15]

She continued her stage and radio work, and during 1958 and 1959 began her farewell stage tour of Australia and New Zealand. Her final stage appearance was at Hamilton, New Zealand, and her last public performance was in a televised concert in Brisbane in 1962. She retired to the Gold Coast, Queensland in 1968 and prepared her memoirs My Life of Song which was ghosted by Lillian Palmer and published in 1971.[16]

Moncrieff came outside of her Gold Coast home on a canal to wave to the people on the canal cruise boats whilst they played her arias.[17]

Moncrieff died at Pindara Private Hospital at the Gold Coast at the age of 83.

Legacy[edit]

Patrons enjoying the Gladys Moncrieff Library.

The federal electoral division of Moncrieff in Queensland, and the Canberra suburb Moncrieff are both named in her honour. Her image was featured on an Australian postage stamp in 1989. The main entertainment complex in Bundaberg was named the Moncrieff Theatre, recently changed to Moncrieff Entertainment Centre.[18] A Gold Coast park was named in her honour,[19] and the Queensland Performing Arts Centre maintains the Gladys Moncrieff Library of the Performing Arts.[20] A book Gladys Moncrieff : Australia's Queen of Song was published in 1996.[21]'; a 2-CD release of her recordings was put out in 2012 entitled "Gladys Moncrieff – Our Glad: The Queen of Song", based on her 1920s and 1930s recordings; four earlier CDs contain all of the songs on this 2-CD release plus others, and were released in the 1990s: "Gladys Moncrieff sings musical comedy & operetta", "Gladys Moncrieff: the Golden Years;", "Gladys Moncrieff: Australia's Queen of Song;" "Gladys Moncrieff: favourite popular ballads;" a few additional songs are found on the double cassette: "Gladys Moncrieff: Stage Musicals";

Her personal papers, including correspondence, photographs, newspaper clippings and theatre programs are held at the State Library of Queensland.[22]

In 2009 as part of the Q150 celebrations, Gladys Moncrieff was announced as one of the Q150 Icons of Queensland for her role as an "Influential Artists".[23]

Select album discography[edit]

  • 1996 – Australia's Queen Of Song (EMI Records Australia)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bundaberg Regional Libraries Archived 27 April 2018 at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved 16 May 2018
  2. ^ a b c d e f Peter Burgis, Moncrieff, Gladys Lillian (1892–1976) Archived 21 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine., Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, Melbourne University Press, 1986, pp. 551–552.
  3. ^ "Eisteddfod". Northern Miner. Charters Towers. 2 April 1907. p. 3. 
  4. ^ Burgis, Peter. Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. Archived from the original on 28 April 2017. 
  5. ^ "Classified Advertising". The Argus. Melbourne. 14 Mar 1923. Retrieved 2017-01-24 – via Trove. 
  6. ^ Covell, Roger. "Moncrieff, Gladys". Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 24 January 2017. [permanent dead link]
  7. ^ "GLADYS MONCRIEFF POPULAR - Orchestral Concert At Town Hall". The Advertiser. Adelaide. 28 March 1938. Retrieved 2017-01-24 – via Trove. 
  8. ^ "Gladys Moncrieffs Wedding". The Advocate. Burnie, Tas. 21 May 1924. p. 5. Retrieved 8 April 2012 – via National Library of Australia. 
  9. ^ Downes, Peter. Dech, Gil 1897 – 1974 Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine.. Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, updated 7 April 2006
  10. ^ ""CEDAR TREE"". The Sun (7865) (FINAL EXTRA ed.). Sydney. 18 March 1935. p. 12. Retrieved 24 January 2017 – via National Library of Australia. 
  11. ^ "WIDE SYMPATHY FOR GLADYS MONCRIEFF". The Advertiser. Adelaide. 31 March 1938. p. 20. Retrieved 24 January 2017 – via National Library of Australia. 
  12. ^ "GLADYS MONCRIEFF RETURNS TO SYDNEY". The Telegraph (CITY FINAL LAST MINUTE NEWS ed.). Brisbane. 8 September 1938. p. 1. Retrieved 24 January 2017 – via National Library of Australia. 
  13. ^ "Gladys Moncrieff". The Advocate. Burnie, Tas. 14 June 1940. Retrieved 2017-01-24 – via Trove. 
  14. ^ "GLADYS MONCRIEFF'S KOREAN TOUR". Cairns Post. 8 Oct 1951. Retrieved 2017-01-24 – via Trove. 
  15. ^ "WIDE-RANGING LIST OF NEW YEAR HONOURS". Morning Bulletin. Rockhampton, Qld. 1 Jan 1952. Retrieved 2017-01-24 – via Trove. 
  16. ^ Moncrieff, Gladys (1986), My life of song, Rigby, retrieved 24 January 2017 
  17. ^ "Gladys Moncrieff 4". liveperformance.com.au. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 24 January 2016. 
  18. ^ Bundaberg City Council. Moncrieff Theatre Archived 23 February 2011 at Wikiwix
  19. ^ Gold Coast City Council. Gladys Moncrieff Park Archived 13 May 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  20. ^ QPAC. Moncrieff Library of the Performing Arts Archived 6 July 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  21. ^ Written by Adrian Magee,
  22. ^ Moncrieff, Gladys (1940), Gladys Moncrieff Papers, 1940-1976, retrieved 24 January 2017 
  23. ^ Bligh, Anna (10 June 2009). "PREMIER UNVEILS QUEENSLAND'S 150 ICONS". Queensland Government. Archived from the original on 24 May 2017. Retrieved 24 May 2017. 

External links[edit]