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Professor John Bishop (1903-1964)
Papers 1915-1973

MSS 0044


Biographical Note

John Bishop, photograph by Herbert Lambert of Bath, undated.John Bishop, Elder Professor of Music at the University of Adelaide from 1948 until his death in December 1964, made a series of important contributions to music in Australia. He was taught piano from the age of twelve by the noted Adelaide teacher William Silver and in 1919 won the Alexander Clark Scholarship to the Elder Conservatorium, where he continued under Silver's tuition and was later awarded the 1923 South Australian Elder Scholarship to the Royal College of Music, London. During his four years at the RCM, he studied both conducting and piano studies and in 1928 was offered his first appointment as conductor of the Royal Wellington Choral Union and Wellington Philharmonic Orchestra in New Zealand. After eight very successful years in New Zealand, he was appointed Director of Music at Scotch College, Melbourne and from 1940 to 1947 conducted the Melbourne University Conservatorium Orchestra. As a result of his involvement in school music in Victoria, Bishop became the first President of the Victorian School Music Association on its formation in 1940 and, together with fellow music teacher Ruth Alexander, subsequently founded summer music camps for young musicians, the first of which was held in 1948. The National Music Camp Association was officially formed in 1954 and the camps in turn gave rise to the Australian Youth Orchestra, established in 1957. Both initiatives were important steps in expanding musical education and opportunities for players in Australia.

John Bishop, photograph by Herbert Lambert of Bath, undated.In 1948 Bishop was appointed Elder Professor of Music at the University of Adelaide.  He proceeded to re-organise the academic curriculum, building up a remarkable faculty, valuing composers and musicologists as well as excellence in performance in his staff and instigating a visiting lectureship scheme in composition. With others in Adelaide he was instrumental in establishing the Adelaide Festival of Arts, now a major biennial cultural event of national and international importance, and was its Artistic Director from its inception in 1960 until his death. He was a member (and later Chairman) of the UNESCO Committee for Music and held many other appointments in the arts, including that of Federal President of the Arts Council of Australia. Bishop died in London in December 1964 shortly after attending (as a member of the Australian delegation) the UNESCO general conference in Paris.

These papers were presented to the University of Adelaide Library in December 1992 by Jenny and Len Porter, daughter and son-in-law of Professor Bishop. Some additional programmes, newspaper cuttings and photographs and the Adelaide High School reports were presented in January 1993 by Mrs J.F. Scarborough and have been incorporated into the collection.

For additional papers, principally relating to the Music Camps Association, see the collection of correspondence between John Bishop and Mrs Ruth Alexander, 1949-1964, donated by Mrs Alexander in 1981. [SR 92 B6199c - written permission of Mrs Alexander is required before access can be granted]


Contents Listing

1. Examination reports

  • South Street Competitions [Ballarat], Piano Section, 1915;
  • Adelaide High School, April 1916-October 1917. 8 leaves. See also Series 11.

2. Correspondence.  1927-1947. 2 cm.
Principally applications for positions, including related testimonials, references and curricula vitae.  Also, replies from Benjamin Britten, Elizabeth Maconchy and Christian Darnton, 1935, in response to Bishop's enquiry to Iris Lemare about works by young composers.

3. Report on Study Leave.  December 1951-December 1952. 11p. Typescript.

4. Correspondence.  Principally replies to invitations and arrangements for visits while on study leave, 1957-1959. 3 cm.

5. Honours (oversized material housed in MAP CABINET)

  • Order of the British Empire 1953 [certificate, letter accompanying medal and statutes]
  • Fellow of the Australian College of Education 1961
  • Pprogramme of admission ceremony
  • Doctor of Music, University of Adelaide, 1964
  • Programme of Commemoration ceremony.

6. Tributes and obituary notices.  1965-66 and 1968. 1 cm.

7. Letters of sympathy.  To Mrs Margaret Bishop and Mrs Jenny Porter [daughter] on John Bishop's death.  1964-1965. 3 cm.
See also Series 15

8. Talks by John Bishop, 1948, 1953 and undated:

  • "Australian composers", July 1948 [to Graduates Association]
  • "Professors are born and not made", undated
  • "Music is in the air", undated
  • [Adelaide Festival of Arts], undated
  • "Toscanini", undated
  • [Music in schools], undated
  • [ABC talk at Music Camp], 1953

9. Newspaper cuttings.  Articles re John Bishop and his work and performances. 1923-1989. 8 cm.

  • Scrapbook (cuttings and programmes), 1923-1935
  • Loose cuttings 1928-1989, including reviews of biographies by Awdrey Hewlett 1983 and Christopher Symons 1989 and (undated) entry for John Bishop in Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart  by Professor Andrew McCredie
  • Cuttings and programmes re Youth Orchestra and Music Camps, 1945-1966
  • Cuttings re Bishop's role in the Adelaide Festival of Arts, 1965-1980

10. Photographs.  191?-1964. 4 cm.
One photograph of John Bishop as a boy, remainder from c1924.  Includes wedding photograph, some Music Camp photographs and formal studio portraits.

11. John Bishop Fund. 1923-1927. 1 v.
Record book of accounts, meetings of the Fund Committee and correspondence, with term reports from the Royal College of Music, 1923-1926; programmes and cuttings re concerts by Bishop and his marriage to Margaret Harvey.

12. Programmes of concerts by John Bishop (as pianist and conductor). 1927-1958. 15 cm.

  • New Zealand (Royal Wellington Choral Union, Wellington Chamber Music Players, Intimate Music Circle, Guild of Music Makers, Pupils of John Bishop, etc.) 1927-1934, 1946 (Hiawatha), 1957 (Proms)
  • Victoria (Oriana Choir, Chamber Music Guild, British Music Society, Secondary Schools Music Festival, Victorian School Music Association, etc.) 1934-1956
  • Scotch College, Melbourne 1939-1945 and undated
  • Conservatorium of Music, University of Melbourne 1943-1946, 5.
  • Adelaide (Winter School of Music and Arts 1948, Elder Conservatorium 1950-1958*, John Bishop memorial concerts 1965-1966, 1980).

* For a more comprehensive collection of Elder Conservatorium concert programmes, see The University of Adelaide Archives series 305.

13. Films.  1949 and undated. 2 reels.

  • "Music makers"  16mm black and white, sound. undated.
  • "Music camps"  16mm comp. print. [1949].

14. Personal Bishop family papers.  c1913 and 1953-1966. 2 cm.

*RESTRICTED*  During the lifetime of Mrs Jenny and Mr Len Porter the written permission of Mrs Porter is required before access  to this series can be granted.

  • Postcard from "Father" [Henry Bishop] to Jack, c1913
  • Letters from Jenny Bishop, London, to her parents, June 1953
  • Letters from John and Margaret Bishop to Jenny Bishop, August 1953 [on her engagement to Len Porter]
  • Letters from Margaret and John Bishop, on a visit to England and Scotland, to Jenny Porter, October-December 1964 [the last letter gives an account of John Bishop's death in London]
  • Death certificate of John Bishop, December 1964
  • John Bishop's diary, 1964 [appointments and addresses]
  • Letter to Mrs Bishop, written on behalf of the Queen Mother, wishing her a speedy recovery from her illness, March 1966
  • Newspaper cutting re death of Margaret Bishop [April 1966]

15. Biography
Cause to rejoice: the life of John Bishop by Awdrey Hewlett (Rigby, 1973). 1 v.

April 1994


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