Guest blogger extraordinaire, Jane, is inspired by some of the treasures in our sheet-music collection……
I am currently helping out with the sheet-music spreadsheet-cataloguing project (try saying that quickly!) in our Arts Library. This project has already added thousands of pieces of music from the 19th century onwards to the Library’s catalogue, with many of the scores works of visual art in themselves.
Often venues associated with particular performers are highlighted on the cover, such as the Wattle Path Palais, a dance hall on the Esplanade at St Kilda: Sing a little song “a bright cheerful foxtrot song”, featured by Joe Aronson and his Syncopaters who were regular performers there, and Red moon – “The dainty waltz the dancers have all been waiting for specially featured by Mr and Miss Le Marr.”
Over its lifespan this building played a variety of roles in Melbourne’s artistic and social life. Built during the dance hall boom of the 1920s, the Wattle Path Palais was designed by Arthur Purnell, a Geelong architect who spent some of his early career in China. I discovered this wonderful piece of footage from the National Film and Sound Archive of dancers streaming up the staircase into the Palais. Dancing was an important part of Melbourne’s social life, with afternoon and evening events run by charitable institutions, temperance societies and entrepreneurs.
After the Palais closed, F.W. Thring (father of Frank Thring) moved his Efftee movie production business to the site, where it operated until 1934 when he suspended production, calling for more government support for the film industry and a quota for Australian films. Thring later moved to Sydney to continue working, but died shortly after in 1936.
The Kleiner family took over the site and re-opened it as yet another venue, The Streets of Paris, however by this time the dance moment appeared to have passed and, after a hiatus, the Kleiners reinvented the space as the St Moritz Ice Skating Rink, opening in March 1939. Its popularity peaked during the war years, finally closing in 1982.
Attempts were made to preserve the building, but it was demolished after a fire in 1982. A Novotel hotel opened on the site in 1991, the new building incorporating some echoes of its’ predecessor’s exotic past.
And yet another famous Palais-de-Danse on the St. Kilda Esplanade, from our Picture Collection