Music historian Narelle McCoy is cataloguing Adderton: house & heart of mercy’s substantial collection of music books and sheet music. Today, she kindly shares some of her favourite discoveries:
The pile of boxes currently being catalogued at Adderton: house & heart of mercy is a treasure trove of music and memorabilia from Mercy Convents around Queensland. One of the most interesting facets of the All Hallows’ collection is the anthology of harp music, which includes solo and orchestral pieces as well as teaching manuals with annotations. There are two books of exercises demonstrating hand positions, which have been signed on the flyleaf by Sister Mary Lignori, and dated 1902. She has written detailed comments about which positions are the most effective and this gives a window onto the way that harp technique has changed over the century.
The harp was not a common instrument in schools, but the Sisters of Mercy brought one to Queensland in the 1870s where it formed an integral part of the All Hallows’ School orchestra. At the time, girls were not taught the violin as it was considered a masculine instrument so the school orchestra consisted of four pianos, harp and harmonium. It wasn’t until the 1890s that Sister Mary Cecelia broke the rule and began teaching the students the violin.
Music has always been an essential part of the All Hallows’ School curriculum even from its earliest days when the subjects taught included music, French conversation and embroidery. It is significant that the harp and harmonium are still a part of Adderton’s treasured early instrument collection, connecting the students and teachers of the past to the musicians of the future.