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Elizabeth Silsbury
Theatre programs and papers 1952-

MSS 792 T3743.S

Biographical Note

Elizabeth Silsbury (nee White), OAM, BA, B Mus (Hons), attended Woodville High School and then Adelaide Girls High School and gained her tertiary qualifications at the Elder Conservatorium of the University of Adelaide and Adelaide Teachers’ College.

Elizabeth Silsbury has worked as a music teacher and lecturer at secondary and tertiary levels, and as repetiteur, accompanist and conductor with choirs and opera companies. Silsbury taught for many years at the Sturt College of Advanced Education, including supervision of student musical productions and performances. Her current position is Adjunct Senior Lecturer in the School of Education at Flinders University of South Australia.

Since 1975 she has written reviews and features on concerts and opera in Australia and Europe for The Advertiser (Adelaide), Opera Australia (later called Opera-Opera), and Opera (London). She was the first South Australian journalist to report on the Wagner festival in Bayreuth which she attended several times from 1980 to 1992.

She has also been a member of many state and national arts and music boards, including the Music Board of the Australia Council (1973-76), the ABC National Music Advisory Council (1978-84), the Board of Directors of Australian Opera (1977-94), the Arts Grants Advisory Committee as SA Government member and Chair (1974-83), the Australian Dance Theatre (1984-85), the Australian Music Centre (1981-85), the SA Council Australian Bi-Centennial Authority (1985-88), the Council of Adelaide College of TAFE (1989-97), the Churchill Fellowships Selection Committee (1979-2008), and the Alumni Association of the University of Adelaide (1986-2007).

These papers comprise musical compositions; reviews, articles and publications by Silsbury and others, programs of Australian and overseas performance (many annotated by Silsbury), and other research and recorded material. They were donated to The University of Adelaide Library by Elizabeth Silsbury in December 2008. Additional recordings, photographs and certificates were donated in 2016.

Contents Listing

Series 1: Musical exercises, arrangements and compositions  5 cm.

Student exercises

  • Music ms book labelled: Elizabeth A. White: homework: includes ‘Mother-song or Berceuse for Anne’ by J. Elliott Thorpe and Elizabeth A. White
  • Music ms book labelled Elizabeth A. White containing exercises/arrangements of psalms
  • Folder labelled History IV, Elizabeth A. White containing student essays: French opera from 1687-1764 (typescript), review of Harmonie Universelle by Marin Mersenne (ms) and an essay on the music of Johannes Brahms (typescript)
  • Music ms book labelled Elizabeth A. Silsbury, Harmony V, Counterpoint IV containing exercises and examination questions for organ
  • Music ms book labelled Elizabeth A. Silsbury, containing exercises (one signed EA White) and examination paper for B.Mus. 3rd year Canon and fugue, Nov. 1958
  • Music ms book labelled Orchestration, includes arrangements for Skye Boat Song and Greensleeves, dated Sept. 1952

Arrangements/compositions/transcriptions by Elizabeth Silsbury (including Sturt CAE productions)

  • Music ms book containing transcriptions of Bach ‘In dulci jubilo’ and ‘Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern’ [no date]
  • ‘Song dedicated to Jim and inspired by the company of “Theatre Royal” done by Repertory at Tivoli Sep 29-Oct 3rd 1953’. MS pencil and ink drafts
  • ‘Ding dong merrily on high’ arranged for chorus and percussion by Elizabeth Silsbury and Richard Pusz, dated 20/10/78; ‘Rise up shepherd and follow’ (not dated)
  • Shakespeare sonnets and songs set to music by Elizabeth Silsbury for performance by Sturt CAE students in 1981: ‘Music to hear’ Sonnet VIII, June 1981; ‘And let me the cannikin clink’ Otello Act II, June 1981; ‘Farewell, thou art too dear for my possessing’ Sonnet LXXXVII, June 1981; ‘It was a Lordine’s daughter’ from “Sonnets to Sundry Notes of Music [no date] – master ms copies and photocopies. With ms introduction to the performance by Silsbury
  • Music ms book labelled ‘Metronome’ containing songs: Song beginning ‘Beautiful shepherdess I adore you …’; ‘When we’re out upon the spree’ / [from Thatcher’s Colonial Songs by Charles Thatcher, p. 76?]; songs from “Off to the Diggings” – ‘Omnes Oh Oh Oh’, ‘Derby Day’ and ‘Still so gently’
    [no date]

Works performed by Sturt College of Advanced Education students (other composers)

  • 'Noah’s Flood’ [by Benjamin Britten] performed by Sturt CAE students early 1970s – photographs only
  • Two Shakespeare Songs by Martin Wesley Smith: ‘Ariel’s Song’ from The Tempest, and ‘Desdemona’s Song’ from Otello. Ms scores (photocopies), with a letter from Wesley-Smith to Silsbury 11/8/1975 re the first performance of the pieces by Sturt CAE students (shelved on Oversize shelf)
  • ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ Overture and Wedding March [orchestral score], from a Sturt CAE production supervised by Elizabeth Silsbury late 1970s(?)

Series 2: Writings and associated research and teaching material  10 cm.


  • Selected reviews and articles from The Advertiser and Opera-Opera 2001-2004. Also draft notes for review of Cabaret Festival(?) 2002, a letter from an ‘Avid Music Lover’ criticising a review of Jane Peters 1998 and other associated correspondence

State of Opera: an intimate new history of The State Opera of South Australia 1957-2000

  • Oral recordings made by Elizabeth Silsbury as research for State of Opera (8 cassette tapes)
  1. Bill (William) Gillespie (3/9/98)
  2. David Kram & E.S. (15/11/90)
  3. Len Amadio (Aug. 199?)
  4. Mary Handley, Kay Gallant (July 23 1997)
  5. Stephen Phillips
  6. Justin Macdonnell (22/8/97)
  7. Kathleen Steele Scott (7/3/97)

Text of author’s talk for State of Opera: an intimate new history of The State Opera of South Australia 1957-2000 / Elizabeth Silsbury, published by Wakefield Press, 2001

David Helfgott articles and research material ca 1988-98

  • Programme of Helfgott performance for The Crafers Organ & Choral Music Society 1988, with comments by Elizabeth Silsbury
  • Newspaper clippings; articles; reviews by Silsbury, Denis Dutton and others of Helfgott’s performances in Australia, USA, UK and Europe
  • Study guide for ‘Shine’ [movie]
  • Videotape of Jana Wendt interview with Helfgott
  • Draft, proof and final copies of Silsbury’s article ‘Send off the clowns, bring on the music’, Philosophy and Literature 1997
  • Copy of Silsbury’s article ‘Critics are professionals too’ written in reaction to negative responses to American reviews of Helfgott’s performances


  • Article: ‘Tertiary Music Education in Australia’ / Elizabeth Silsbury, British Journal of Music Education 5:2 (1988), p. 173-80. Reprint
  • Individual award citations address for Timothy Sexton, Leigh Warren and Mary Moore 2002, and for Paul Blackwell 2003 by Elizabeth Silsbury for Adelaide Critics Circle Awards
  • Speech delivered at Adelaide High School Annual Dinner, 4 July 2003 (reminiscences of Silsbury’s experiences as a student and teacher)
  • Sundry correspondence, including folder on the formation of SPAW (The Society for the Protection of Abused Words)

Lectures/handouts/reading lists Flinders University / Sturt CAE

  • Handout ‘Contemporary Attitudes to Music 16th and 17th centuries’. Sturt College of Advanced Education (MU 33 Music and Us) [between 1973 and 1981]
  • Elizabeth Silsbury. “The Battle between Formality and Feeling’ [lecture] Sept 8 1993. Flinders University (Backgrounds of Contemporary Civilization HUMC 2050). Also Reading List.
  • Elizabeth Silsbury. “Aboriginal Influences in Australian Art: Music” [lecture] Oct. 6 1993. Flinders University AUST 1000 (Australian Studies). Also References list, and associated departmental correspondence and handouts
  • Elizabeth Silsbury. ‘Indigenous Courtesy Begins at Home” [lecture] Sept 15 1994 Flinders University AUST 1000 (Australian Studies). Also References list, readings and assessment sheet

Series 3: Wagner programmes etc  32 cm.

Programs for ‘Richard Wagner Festspiele’ at Bayreuth 1980-1986, 1988-89, 1992

  • 1980 – in addition to programs (some annotated) for individual events, includes photographs of performers and places, related correspondence and postcards, draft and print articles/reviews [the first reports on ‘The Ring’ in a South Australian newspaper], also telexed text from London
  • (after Bayreuth, Elizabeth Silsbury travelled to the Edinburgh Festival and London – see also Series 4: Festivals)
  • 1986 – includes programs, photographs of performers and performances (many annotated), some correspondence; also Silsbury’s notes on performances and related material, review in The Advertiser (photocopy) and draft typescript of review for Opera Australia. Also photographs from Munich Opera’s ‘Rosenkavalier’ and ‘Les Contes d’ Hoffmann’ 1986
  • 1992 – includes programs (some annotated), photographs of performers and performances; also Silsbury’s notebooks and article for The Advertiser (photocopy)
  • general – includes booklets on the history of the Bayreuth festival, the Opernhaus, Bayreuth, The Richard Wagner Museum, and Wagner’s death and funeral

Other Wagner programs

  • Includes programs (some annotated), newspaper clippings and other resource materials - not listed in detail but sorted into South Australian, Australian, British and European performances. South Australian programs includes a copy of Michael Fox’s From Alberich to Wotan : 101 things you ought to know about Wagner and the Ring Cycle (1996) with Silsbury’s notes

Series 4: Programs etc (other than Wagner)  80 cm.


  • Edinburgh Festival 1980 - includes Festival programs, photographs and postcards; also Silsbury’s notebooks, draft review on the Australian Dance Theatre at Edinburgh and review of musicals in London
  • Festival d’Avignon 1992 - includes programs (many annotated) clippings, photographs, press kit, librettos, and ms text of Silsbury’s article for The Advertiser about the live TV simulcast of ‘Tosca’
  • Salzburg Festival 1992 – photographs, articles, press releases, guide to Salzburg
  • Steirischer Herbst 1992-93
  • Munich-Münchener Biennale 1994 – programs, photographs, press material, articles etc, ms score (photocopy) for ‘Playing Away’, cassette tape of Barbara Zuber and Tilmann Broszat, guide to Munich opera house; also Silsbury’s articles for The Article (typescript draft and print) and Opera Australia(?), and Silsbury’s notebook
  • Sydney Festival 2000
  • Adelaide Festival of Arts 2000 – includes media kit, and libretto and score for ‘Night and Dreams: the death of Sigmund Freud’

Other programs etc

  • Includes programs (many annotated), newspaper clippings, reviews, photographs, associated correspondence, librettos, articles and other resource materials - not listed in detail but sorted into:
  1. Opera - South Australian, Opera Australia, other Australian, British and European performances
  2. (Australian opera includes papers from the Opera Forum at the Sydney Opera House, 1972 and the 1981 Opera Diary)
  3. Choral performances, South Australia (includes General Concert ‘Back to Pirie’ Jubilee Celebration 1926, and Mount Gambier Choral Society Golden Jubilee celebrations)
  4. Music - South Australian, Barossa Music Festivals 1994-96 and 2000-2001, Coriole Music Festivals 2000-2001, University of Adelaide/Elder Conservatorium, Australian, British and European (including tours by Australian artists)
  5. (European music includes folder on the Ensemble Intercontemporain (IRCAM=Institute for Research and Coordination of Contemporary Acoustic and Music) 1986 – includes Silsbury’s notes and article for The Advertiser, photographs and commemorative program book for US tour 1986) Also 2 scores: Hans Ulrich Lehmann ‘… zu Streichen’ and Josef Haselbach ‘Fragen an die Nacht’ presented to Silsbury by members of Die Kammermusiker Zürich 2/8/1978
  6. Musicals – British
  7. Ballet - Australia
  8. Theatre – South Australian
  9. Film – Topsy Turvy
  10. Photographs – folder labelled ‘Professional productions: photographs’ mainly international and Australian opera and musicians

Series 5: Recordings  20 cm.

Audition cassette tapes (tapes recorded for private audition purposes only. Not to be copied, broadcast or sold without permission of the copyright holders)

  • Peter Sculthorpe ‘Songs of Tailitnama’, ‘Urizen’, sop. Glenda Kempe, cond. Janis Laurs: TAFE School of Music Adelaide 31/7/1989 / Colin Brumby ‘Clarinet Concerto’ Queensland Symphony Orchestra, cond. Lehmann, clar. Paul Dean: ABC Brisbane 21/7/1989
  • Christopher Lyndon Gee ‘Chamber Symphony no. 1: The Poet Dies’: Canberra School of Music Contemporary Ensemble, Llewellyn Hall Canberra 15/4/1989 / Larry Sitsky ‘Violin Concerto no. 3: I Ching’
  • Nigel Butterley ‘Pentad’, SSO cond. Mester: Sydney Town hall 23/9.1989 / David Lumsdaine ‘Mandala 5’, SSO Challender 24/5/1989
  • David Joseph ‘Clarinet Concerto’, Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, cond. Franks, clar. Nigel Sabine: Odeon Theatre Hobart 13/10/1989 / David Joseph ‘Horn Concerto’, Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, cond. Franks, horn Darryl Poulsen: ABC Collinswood 1/12/1989
  • Peter Tahourdin ‘Symphony no. 4’ / Richard Mills ‘Seaside Dances’
  • JA & A Schultz ‘Black River’, Sydney Met Opera, Parade Theatre Kensington 4/11/1989 / Liza Lim ‘Garden of Earthly Desire’ Elision Ensemble, Great Hall Montsalvat Vic. 9/10/1989
  • Gordon Kerry ‘Cantata’, Sydney Philharmonic Motet Choir, Seymour Group, cond. John Grundy: Concert Hall Sydney Opera House 9/7/1989
  • Roger Smalley ‘Concerto for Piano & Orchestra’, WA Symphony Orchestra cond. Franks, pno Smalley: ABC Studios 14/7/1989 / Peter Rankine ‘Symphonia Dialectica’, Qld Youth Orchestra, cond. Curro
  • Felix Werder ‘Business Day for Dr Faustus, Concerto for Cash Register’ / Ross Edwards ‘Yarrageh’, SSO John Hopkins, soloist Ian Cleworth: Meet the Music Series 19/7/1989

Composer Profile (ABC radio program) audio cassette tapes

  • No. 1. Nigel Butterly talking to Charles Southwood ,1992 (2 copies)
  • No. 39. Anne Boyd speaking to Charles Southwood, 1992 (2 copies)

Composing Australia (ABC radio series of eight programs looking at Australian music from 1788-1970 / by James Murdoch in discussion with Charles Southwood, surveying Australian creative music)

  • Program no. 1 (first hour only) / produced by Chris Casey. 199?

5UV tapes (7” reel-to-reel)

  • MSA Haydn Conference. Haydn Conference 8.15pm 18/5/1982. Members of the Adelaide Chorus, Stephen Walter (pianoforte) ‘An die Frauen’, ‘Daphnens einziger Fehler’; Adelaide Chorus with Alan Smith (violin) ‘Love will find a Way’, ‘Toen Home’, Fy Gar Rub Her O’er Wi’ Straw’, ‘Be Kind to the Young Thing’, ‘Wo’d and Married and A’, ‘Mucking of Geordie’s Buyer’
  • MSA Haydn Conference. Haydn Conference 8.15pm 18/5/1982. David Swale (harpsichord) ‘Sonata for Violin and Harpsichord’; Alan Smith (violin) ‘Allegro’ / ‘Minuet and Trio’ / ‘Moderato (theme and variations)’; Members of the Adelaide Chorus, Stephen Walter (pianoforte) ‘The Ten Commandment

5UV cassettes

  • 7/2/1979 Tribute to James Whitehead ABD and 5UV. 2 cassette tapes
  • Musical Brunch 13/6/1993. Prof. John Lovering interviewed by Frank Heney; Robyn Archer interviewed by Elizabeth Silsbury. 1 cassette tape
  • 4/12/1996 Tribute to Benjamin Britten. 1 cassette tape

Adelaide Girls High School Choral Group 1959 Christmas concert.

  • Soloists: Merilyn Braddock, Tina White, Ruth Buxton; flautist: Margaret Crawford; Accompanists: Ruth Buston, Zanette Coulter. Conducted by Elizabeth Silsbury. With typed programme. 1 cassette tape, 33rpm record with typed list of contents

Adelaide Chorus

  • Xmas concert 1981. 1 cassette tape


  • Interview of Elizabeth Silsbury by Kerrie Round 20/2/1998 for University of Adelaide Theatre Guild History. Copied from J.D. Somerville Oral History Collection. 2 cassette tapes
  • Interview R. Pusz re R. Smith may 1991. 1 cassette tape
  • Elizabeth Silsbury interviewed by Vincent Plush (National Library of Australia TRC 6765) 3 MP3 files on computer disc

Silsbury E.A.S. [Elizabeth Alice Silsbury]

  • ABC broadcast London 31/10/1986. 1 cassette tape

Peter Narroway

  • Peter Narroway Tribute and Memorial, State Theatre 12/8/1993. 1 cassette tape
  • Narroway. ‘After the leaves fall’ Adelaide Chorus and ADCO. 1 cassette tape
  • P.K. Narroway “How can we love?” Singer Deidre Rubenstein. 1 3” tape, speed 7 ½, stereo


  • Harold Tidemann (baritone) and Robin Higgs (piano) 2 songs. Copied as tribute 2002. 1 cassette tape
  • Missa Salisburgensis Hymnus “Plaudite tympana” John Pringle NSW Gallery 1/10/1990. 1 cassette tape
  • Jennifer Walter (mezzo-soprano) Jane Fitton (piano) Aria ‘Non piu mesta’ (Rossini’s La Cenerentola. Recorded Elder Hall 17/1/1983 in Elder Hall. 1 cassette tape. Duration 6 ½ minutes
  • Florence Foster Jenkins? 1 cassette tape
  • [Wagner radio series?] Program 1. The early years. Program 2. The pivot point. Program 3. The concept of The Ring. Program 4. The Royal benefaction. 2 cassette tapes

A copy of Andrew McCredie’s “A composer’s last will and testament for the operatic stage: Richard Strauss ‘Capriccio’ revisited” was added to the McCredie papers MSS 780.01 M13a

Series 6: Photographs and certificates

Adelaide Girls High School Anniversary Concert 1983

  • Small photograph album of performers presented to Elizabeth Silsbury in appreciation. 14 b&w photographs 8 x 11 cm
  • Group photograph of performers, b&w 20 x 46 cm, in mount      IN MAP CABINET

Adelaide Chorus (forerunner of Adelaide Philharmonic Chorus, Elizabeth Silsbury was a former Music Director) IN MAP CABINET

  • Adelaide Chorus with Elizabeth Silsbury in front of Adelaide Town Hall organ, colour photograph 21 x 26 cm
  • Adelaide Chorus in rehearsal with Symphony Orchestra, b&w photograph 41 x 49 cm

Double-manual harpsichord, colour photograph 25 x 29 cm, in frame  ON SR OVERSIZE SHELVES

University of Adelaide. Development and Alumni. Distinguished Alumni Award 2008, presented to Elizabeth Alice Silsbury. 48 x 38 cm         IN MAP CABINET

[Certificate] Presented to Elizabeth A. Silsbury by the directors of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust in recognition of having successfully completed the terms of a fellowship awarded under the Trust’s 1967 series of awards. 30 x 24 cm, in triple frame 51 x 34 cm      ON SR OVERSIZE SHELVES

Cheryl Hoskin
January 2009, revised June 2017

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