The Manly Music Club was formed in September 1929, and held its first musicale in St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Manly. According to the early musicale programs, the stated aim of the Club was ‘to provide good music and social intercourse for the enlightenment and entertainment of its members and their friends, and for the advancement of music in the community’.
Manly Music Club included members of the Leggo, Osborne, Meldrum and Zlotkowsky families, some of whom went on to forge careers in the Australian music and theatre industries.
Their musicales appear to have been held every month or so until around 1934. In July 1945, the Club re-formed with more than 200 members, and became affiliated with the Federated Music Clubs of Australia.
Manly Mayor Jim Anderson chaired the first meeting of the re-formed Manly Music Club and became its founding President. He remained an active member of the Club for 21 years.
The Musical Director of the re-formed Club was Mrs Twigden, who had also been associated with the original Club. The re-formed Club’s first musicale was held in August 1945 in the St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church hall in Manly, although in the early 1960s it moved to St Matthew’s Church on the Corso. During Mrs Twigden’s directorship, many artists performed with the Club, later becoming well known singers: June Bronhill, Florence Taylor, Allan Light, Raymond McDonald, Harold Williams. Pianists included Joyce Hutchenson and Marie van Hove. Mrs Alice Bryant, eminent organist of the district, gave her services at each Christmas concert. Other artists of note were violinist Charmian Gadd, pianists Tessa Birnie and Nigel Butterley, and singers Marilyn Richardson and Yvonne Minton.
Joan Fletcher became the Club’s Musical Director in 1963, holding the position for 21 years. A number of choral concerts were programmed and included St Gregory’s Chorale and St Nicholas Choirs. Artists performing during this time included singers Lauris Elms, Pearl Berridge, Russell Cooper, and instrumentalists Robert Pickler, Carl Pini, Donald Hazelwood, June Loney, John Paynter and Peter Seymour.
In 1973, for the opening of the Sydney Opera House, Manly Council approached the Club to arrange a concert to celebrate in Manly amongst other festivities. The venue was the Silver Screen Theatre on the beachfront, with artists Werner Bar, and singers Pearl Berridge and Russell Cooper.
Vaila Mead became Musical Director during the 1980s and held the post until 2006. With her association with the Sydney Conservatorium of music, a number of artistic programs were arranged with many talented artists.
Mrs Mead’s husband Tom served as President of the Manly Music Club for many years, following the presidency of Bill Watts. Brian Pentecost and Dr Warren Ogborne also served as Presidents of the Club.
In 1987, Manly Music Club used invested funds and member donations to purchase a grand piano, which is still in use for many concerts and recitals.
In 1990, by favour of Father Iverson at St Patrick’s College, the Great Hall became the venue of the Manly Music Club’s musicales.
Concerts during the turn of the millennium featured some of the biggest names in Australian music, including Martin Cooke, Simone Young, pianist Gerard Willems, and violinist Richard Tognetti with members of the Australian Chamber Orchestra.
Since 2010, Manly Music Club Musical Directors have included Bridget Bolliger and Alex Robertson-Jervis, and performers have included members of the Song Company, pianists Tamara Anna Cislowska and Hoang Pham, singer Amelia Farrugia, flautist Jane Rutter, cellist Christopher Pidcock, saxophonist Amy Dickson, percussionist Claire Edwardes, and ensembles the Marais Project, the Acacia Quartet, and the Volatinsky Trio.
Since 2011, Manly Music Club has been operating under the name of Music At Manly, to reinforce the organisation’s commitment to promoting excellent Australian musical talent and bringing a diverse range of fine music to the Peninsula.