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The Floral Dance

Sunday Herald Sun (Aust)
Catherine Lambert

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The elegant ballads and marching songs of Peter Dawson recall another time when England was an empire and family musical evenings were held in Camberwell homes.

The charm of his music is not only nostalgic, though that is its most obvious delight.

It is also cheerfully melodic and humorously patriotic and sentimental.

Maria Vandamme, managing director and producer of Melba Recordings. is so taken by Dawson's music she is also planning a television documentary on his life.

She is discussing the project with Barry Humphries, who is also a great Dawson fan.

“It’s disarming and artless music that hasn't lost any of its appeal." Vandamme said.

“My background is Greek, so the first music I listened to was folk and Dawson has the same appeal ‑ simple music of the people that speaks to your heart. "It's irresistible and I adore these songs as much as I adore Mozart and Bach.”

Dawson (pictured above) was as famous in his time as Dame Nellie Melba. Peter Dawson fan clubs still operate in Europe.

Born in Adelaide in 1882, Dawson entered a singing competition in Ballarat when he was 18 and won first prize.

His singing career developed quickly, in Australia and, in 1903. his father arranged for him to study in England.

Three years later, he began a tour of the West Country and was later invited to perform throughout the UK.

In 1905, Dawson made his first recording. He is said to have made 3500 in his career though only 2000 are known.

He returned to Australia in 1940. Being too old to serve in World War 11, he worked in his brother's metal factory. Dawson retired in 1956 and died in 1961.

In compiling a recording of Dawson hits, sung by bass‑baritone Gregory Yurisich, Vandamme went to London to hire the sheet music from the BBC.

"Even though all Dawson's songs were recorded in Australia, none of his sheet music is here," she said.

"It was a huge job and it took six months to sort it out, find a conductor in London ‑ David Lloyd‑Jones ‑ and travel to Hobart to record with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra.

The disc of 22 tunes, The Floral Dance, was recorded in June last year