British Colonist, 22 Nov 1894, page 4
Three Big “M’s”
Music, Mirth and Minstrelsy Reign Supreme at the Victoria Theatre
The Amateur Minstrels Delight a Crowded House and Cover Themselves with Glory
The Victoria Amateur Minstrels gave their first of three performances at the Victoria Theatre last evening, to a crowded house, and now the notes of interrogation that have been flying in the air whenever the minstrels have been mentioned, are replaced by exclamation points. It was a great tournament of merriment and music; the small boy from the gallery expressed tersely and completely the sentiments of all when he gave as his judgement that “dat show’s a corker and no mistake.” And he intended no reference to burnt cork, either. From the moment the curtain rose – sharp on time, too, it may be noted – and the music of “the Minstrel King” floated across the footlights, until it descended amidst a tumult of applause to shut the cake-walk from view, everything was good. The general success was of course made up of many contributory successes – there was notably good stage management; the music was new and sweet and plentiful; the settings were rich and the costuming appropriate; the jokes and stories were funny and required no explanatory footnotes; the dancing was particularly and especially pretty and graceful – in fact everything was good and the performance moved easily and smoothly throughout.
After the opening chorus it was W Ralph Higgins, from the bones corner, who started the fun. He wanted to know if the interlocutor, Mr Egan – these minstrels have introduced the desirable custom of giving the proper names in the dialogue – had heard about the post office strike.
Of course he had, and he was very sorry indeed for the poor postmen.
But had he heard about the Postmaster Shakespeare sending for all the Victoria Cricket Club the day the men left work?
“Sending for the members of the Victoria Cricket Club,” inquired Mr Egan in surprise, “Why, what do you mean?”
“Oh yes, he did – he sent for all of them, Mr Pooley and Bryan Drake and Dr Helmcken and PAE Irving and Foulkes and all of them.”
“Why whatever could he want them to do,” and the interlocutor waited.
“Oh, he just wanted them to tend the wicket!”
Then Dave Patterson sang his song, “The Lime Kiln Club,” and sang it well too. Afterwards Mr Alf Hood’s sympathetic tenor was heard in “Whose Little Girl are You,” a sweetly pretty little melody, which with the excellent chorus effect thoroughly merited the hearty applause accorded. WR Higgins had as his solo the rousing minstrel song, “Do, Do, My Huckleberry Do,” which he gave with gusto and effect, holding his audience right with him as he did in all his many “turns” during the evening, for he is one of the hardest worked men in Victoria while these minstrel shows are on.
Of course the three solos were not all together. They were sandwiched in with a running fire of nonsense, which kept the house in one continuous smile.
Ernest Pauline, also one of the bones brigade, had a story. He started it by telling of the great success he was having ever since he started in the insurance business.
“De people done jess fall ober demselves comin’ to dis chile,” he said. Not only did the general public walk right up, begging him to write their policies, but all the other agents – Drury, Sam Matson, Louis Jenns, all the big men in the business. Everything and everybody came his way.
The interlocutor was just beginning to congratulate him on his good fortune when he interrupted,
“But I done had one piece o’ hard, hard luck yest’day,” he said.
“And what was that?”
“Why, you see, Premier Davie he came to me and he says Pauline, he sez, I want you to ensure my life.”
“And of course you did,” – this from the interlocutor.
“No,” and Bones shook his head mournfully. “No – I couldn’t make out his policy no way.”
Mr Frank Sehl’s powerful bass was heard in “the Little Woman”; Mr Pilling gave “The Soldier’s Sweetheart,” which was indeed a gem as he presented it; and Messrs McIntyre and Fred Richardson sang “Hooroo for Casey” acting the incinental “business” with all the ease and dash of old professionals. Mr Richardson on the tambo end did good work all night; his comicalities being many and neat; everything being done gracefully and nothing overdone.
“I would like to have a little light on this sewer business,” remarked the wise man from the middle of the stage. “I’d like to know where all this money’s gone to that we voted to build the sewer on Fort Street.”
“I know, boss!” – this from Dave Patterson.
“Well, where has it gone Mr Patterson?”
“Oh, it’s in the pockets of the ratepayers.”
“And how do you make that out, Mr Patterson?”
“Well, it’s in the hands of the council, isn’t it?” – !!
Interlocutor Egan had a funny “Dago” story a little later; Norman Macauley and Fred Richardson each had his little joke, and there were lots of other good jokes besides. George Powell told about his bard that was insured and burned (because he needed the $900) and rebuilt by the insurance company (although he didn’t want the barn – he wanted the $900). He told of his experience of life insurance on a similar line, and all his stories were fully appreciated, because he told them all well, and has that easy self-possession that holds an audience attentive and deeply interested.
“When the Pilot Takes Command” was the last of the first part solos, sung by Mr Brownlie. It is a delightful song and one eminently suited to the singer’s rich, robust and much enjoyed voice. Fred. Richardson’s “Polly McGilligan’s Band” was an instantaneous hit, because Fred and his bandsmen all entered into their work heartily and the leader sang his funny little song just as it should be sung. All of the songs of the first part were with first-class chorus, the concerted singing throughout being very skilfully and effectively handled. It will be noted that the majority of the songs are new, and those who heard them last evening will agree that all are good.
The second part brought a sketch, “A Public Meeting” in which some funny dialogue work was given by Messrs Egan, Higgins (WR) and Powell. The minstrel quartette “favoured with a few choice selections.” The quartette – Messrs WR Higgins, Hood, Sehl and Robertson – sing well together, and made admirable choice of subjects. Their work during the latter part of the evening and especially in the Chinese imitation was delightfully tuneful, finished and generally meritorious. “Tommy Atkins” by Gunner Ayton and men of the RMA, was good and encored vociferously; the brave soldiers appearing were Gunners Lyons, Osborne, Butler, Davis, Bournen, J Osborne, Llewellyn, Richardson, Wallis, Creed, Sherwood and Bombardier Kelly; the cake walk was also excellent, calling for cool and capable stage direction, which it had. The feature of the second part was, however, beyond a doubt the skirt and serpentine dancing by seven young and charming gentlemen – Messrs “Charlotte” McIntyre (premiere danseuse), “Georgie” Powell, “Harriette” Austin, “Tommy” Dowlen, “Daisy” Patterson, “Henrietta” Howard and “Ernestine” Brammer. This particular part of the show is indeed “worth going miles to see.”
Appended is the complete muster roll of the minstrels, who will again hold the boards this afternoon and evening:
First Tenors – Messrs Shedden, Pilling, Mallandaine, Sherbourne, Hood, Herbert Pauline and Kingham
Second Tenors – Messrs Bert Powell, Clarke, Howard, R Robertson, Brammer and Jackson.
Baritones – Messrs Paul Higgins, Goward, Prinz, Austin, Dowlen, McIntyre, H Robertson and Mitchell.
Bassos – Messrs Sehl, Brownlie, Frank Higgins, Greenwood, F Cullin, Oliver and Wilson.
Executive Committee – WE Dowlen, Frank Higgins, Norman Macauley, W Ralph Higgins, Martin Egan, Thomas Corsan, WJ Burnes
Treasurer – Ernest Brammer
Secretary – George Powell
Musical director – John M Finn
Stage Manager – Frank Higgins
Managers of Properties – Messrs AJ Dallain, HE Courtenay
Bones – W Ralph Higgins, Ernest Pauline, Dave Patterson
Tambourines – Fred Richardson, Norman Macauley, Geo E Powell
[Ernest Pauline was my great-grandfather]