A History of the Yass Music Club


The Yass Music Club was established in 1953 by a group of enthusiasts of good music to provide concerts for the people of the Yass community and Dr R.A.G. Holmes AM was Musical Director from the club’s inception until his death in June, 2007. 

The Music Club was affiliated with the Federated Music Clubs of Australia and its first Musicale was presented on Friday, 16th October, 1953 featuring Ronald Neill (Tenor), Geza Bachmann (Violin) and Dorothy White (Piano) playing to a reported audience of three hundred.

The Yass Tribune Courier praised the concert programme as “well balanced” and was optimistic about the Club’s future and noted that the artists themselves “got a good impression of the town and its people”.

The founding Committee members were J.H.Horsey (President), R.S.Phillips and H.L. Hill (Vice Presidents), G. Gittoes (Secretary), B.M. Merriman (Treasurer), Dr RAG Holmes (Musical Director) and other Committee members were F. Dabbs, Mrs J. Horsey, Dr and Mrs Fogl, R. Sampson and Mrs R. Henderson.

In association with the FMCA, the Music Club introduced the award of Scholarships to assist aspiring young musicians and these awards continue to this day with the Scholarships being re-named as ‘The RAG Holmes Music Scholarships’ in honour of the vision of Dr Holmes. The Scholarships are now funded through the Rotary Club of Yass as a conduit from the Glenlothian Educational Trust Fund.

A fundamental aspect of the Yass Music Club has always been the dedicated voluntary service of its officers and a quite remarkable feature of the life of all Music Clubs throughout NSW has been the length of service given by Musical Directors and other office bearers in their task of bringing beautiful music to their local communities.

Our Club is very much part of this tradition as, for example, its former President, Assoc. Prof. Robin Woods AM, held that office for fifty years and there are many others who have served on the Committee for extended periods confirming a continuing belief in the intentions of its founders.

A Founders’ Funds scheme was established by the FMCA in 1988 to mark Australia’s Bicentenary and Dr RAG Holmes, the first Musical Director, and John Horsey, its first President, were recognised under this scheme, as Founders, and received the Federation’s annual prize for their Instrumental Duo at the Sydney Eisteddfod.

The Club’s first grand piano was a Feurich Grand which was later replaced with a Marshall and Rose Grand which served the Club well until 2009 when it was able, with a very generous grant from the Thyne Reid Foundation, to purchase a magnificent Steinway ‘D’ Concert Grand and this has been a unique asset which has since attracted many performers to play in Yass. Ron Hamblyn and Tom Lock built the cover for the early pianos and the Yass Men’s Shed made the protective housing for the Steinway.

Evgeny Ukhanov, a very fine pianist well known to the Yass Music Club and to music lovers around the world, assisted the Club in choosing the right Steinway and he also ‘christened’ it at its first performance in Yass.

Several prominent citizens have accepted the role of Club Patron and our first in this office was Mary Reid and others since have included Dr Robyn Wood AM (Deceased) and presently are Peter, Sandy and Helen Crisp as well as Alice Giles, who recently received the award of an AM for her services to music. 

From the Club’s beginning, Dr Holmes established a close working relationship with many of Australia’s best musicians – a virtual ‘Who’s Who?’ of artists – who gladly came to perform in Yass and included vocalists such as Rosalind Keane, Marin Tysac, Florence Taylor, Marjorie Conley, Valda Bagnall, Glenda Raymond, Roslyn Dunbar, Shirley McDonald, Helen Ready, Ailine Fischer, Helen McKinnon, James Wilson, Harold Williams, Ronald Dowd, John and Don Cameron, Ray McDonald, Ernach Riley, Geoffrey Chard, Raymond Niesson, John Larsen, Ronal Jackson, Raymund Myers, John Gormain, Neil Williams, Alan Light William Herbert, Gordon Boyd, Ron Maconughia, John Brosnan and David Parker.

The instrumentalists who’ve performed for the Club include Geza Bachmann and Charmaine Gadd (Violinists), Barbara Woolley and Peers Coetmore (Cellists), Dorothy White, Isador Goodman, Clemens Leske, Olga Krasnik, Igor Hmelnitsky, Raymond Fisher, Desiree McEwan, Lindley Evans, Mack Josl, Maria van Hove, Joyce Hutchinson, Ramola Costantino, Henri Penn, Rachel Valla, John Champ, Beryl Potter, Albert Landa, Richard Moyrick and Peter Cooper (Pianists) and Anne Menzies and Clive Amadio (Clarinettists)

There have also been outstanding instrumental groups including the Geza Bachmann Trio, the Don Burrows Duo and Quartet, the Lyric Opera Group, the Sydney Male Choir, the Carl Pini Quartet, the Austral, Sydney and Canberra String Quartets and more recently David Pereira, Alice Giles, Gerard Willems, Roger Woodward and numerous other performers who have been delighted to perform for the Yass Music Club and thus the quality of the Yass Music Club’s presentations has always been assured.

In 2015, the Club became fully Incorporated and a Constitution was adopted as a means of assuring the Club’s future stability with the various administrative and organisational advantages of Incorporation firmly in place.

Several concerts have special designations such as ‘The RAG Holmes Tribute Concert’ and ‘The Katherine Holmes and Mary Reid Memorial Concert’ in acknowledgement of the service that these members have rendered to the Club.

Lately, since 2011 our concerts have included the ACT singers, the harpist, Alice Giles, with her unique ‘Alice’s Adventures in Antarctica’, the Strelitzia Trio and the Winner of the Australian international Chopin Competition and in 2012,’The Idea of North’ entertained us as well as the Dolce Trio, the Royal Military College Band, the Winner of the Sydney International Piano Competition and the outstanding choir, Cantorian Sydney, conducted by Dr Sion Llwyd. 

2013 was our Diamond Jubilee Year and, to mark our sixty successful years of music, we had a very special performance from the prima diva soprano, Yvonne Kenny, as well as from the Joe Chindamo Trio, guitarist Tim Kain, the Maruki Orchestra and we also enjoyed the exceptional talents in concert of Alice Giles (Harp), Arnan Wiesel (Piano) and Uzi Wiesel (Cello).

In 2014 we were again entertained by the Royal Military College Band and then by the extraordinary vibraphonist, Nick Parnell, the Maruki Ensemble, Guitar Trek and Meg Corson and ‘The Idea of North’ returned in 2015 as well as the LLewellyn Choir, the exceptional Bush Baroque, the Lanyon Trio and with the welcome return of Joe Chindamo on piano, this time with violinist, Zoe Black.

In 2016 we broke new ground with the exuberant Three Tenors Show giving us a great experience of musical showmanship in concert followed by David Pereira (cello) in concert, a brilliant production of ‘Yehudiana’ from Philip Bailey and friends, the huge talents of the Grigoryan Brothers, Slava and Leonard, and the welcome return of the RMC Band to conclude the year’s performances.

David Hobson spectacularly opened our 2017 season on the hottest day ever in February, the wonderful singers of Voce Stupende were next with jazz musician Wayne Kelly and his trio following, then the very gifted Acacia Quartet with the final concert being the return of the vibes genius, Nick Parnell. 

2018 is our 65th Year of operation, our Sapphire Jubilee, and we have engaged some outstanding artists to mark this historic milestone in the Club’s life.

We begin with ‘Four Hands for the Piano’ from Elena Katz-Chernin and Tamara Anna Cislowska, then the brilliant baritone Teddy Tahu Rhodes, the exciting Australia Piano Quartet, the glorious young soprano Greta Bradman, granddaughter of Sir Donald, and the welcome return of the Royal Military College Band to conclude our Jubilee Year celebrations. 

The current Committee comprises Peter Crisp (President), Ann Holmes and Peter Jones (Vice Presidents), Brian Millett (Secretary), Edgar Mongan (Treasurer), John Whiteley and Brian Millett (Musical Directors) with Committee Members Alex Webbe, David Campbell, Ian Wearing, Ros Whiteley, Peg Keogh (Life Member), Linda Maxwell and Stephe Jitts.

Our subscription series will continue to include five concerts each year, with three Saturday evening concerts at 7.45pm and two Sunday afternoon concerts at 2.00pm in the Winter months. At all our concerts we provide suppers or afternoon teas catered for by local groups as a means of giving them financial support for their community charity activities. 

Additional non-subscription Concerts associated with the Club are presented at the Crisp Galleries and a special discount is offered by the Galleries to Yass Music Club members who attend.

The Yass Music Club has an active webpage at http://www.yassmusicclub.com with many excellent photographs included and it provides, along with a regular Yass Music Club Hour on the local community radio station YassFM, effective communication with Yass and its district.

So the Yass Music Club continues to fulfil the vision of its founders in bringing fine, enjoyable and accessible music to the Yass and district community.

Brian Millett. 24/9/17.