Sunday, September 5, 2010
I have been neglecting the Australian music-hall singers! I will start off with Florrie Forde.
Florrie Forde was called 'the world's greatest chorus singer'. She was a quintessentially Australian music-hall singer with a broad Australian accent. She was proud of being Australian and helped other Australian singers, such as Billy Williams.
Forde, a Melbourne girl, was one of eight children. She had an unhappy home life and longed to go on the stage. When she was very young the ambitious girl ran away to her aunt in Sydney. She may have worked as an under-housemaid at Government House before being discovered by a theatre manager.
She began to sing and dance at the theatre and often appeared as a principal boy in pantomimes. She appeared at the Theatre Royal in Sydney. Forde also had seasons in Adelaide and Melbourne. She sang 'After the Ball' at the little Alhambra music-hall in Melbourne's Bourke Street for many weeks. She was also honoured to ride Tarcoola, the 1893 Melbourne Cup winner, onto the stage.
When Forde was only 21 the British comedian, G.H.Chirgwin, heard her and offered her a large sum of money for her work if she'd go to England. The irrepressible Florrie Forde agreed. She appeared on the stage at three music-halls on her first night!
She also continued to act in pantomimes.
Forde popularized the great songs: 'It's A Long, Long Way to Tipperary' and 'Pack Up Your Troubles In Your Old Kitbag' during the First World War. She also sang 'Hold Your Hand Out, Naughty Boy' and 'Down at the Old Bell and Bush'. Forde made many recordings and had small parts in films. I also read that she had a club in Shoreham, Sussex, where she lived that was notorious for drinking and rowdiness. The neighbours apparently frowned on it.
One wonders what her husband, who was an art dealer, thought of the club.
Florrie Forde was very popular and had a wonderful stage presence. Even Melba praised her strong, clear voice. She said that: "Florrie's is a voice of true Australian quality."
Forde became very plump - she eventually weighed over sixteen stone. This may have contributed to her death at sixty-five in 1940. The music-hall singer collapsed and died after singing for patients at a naval hospital in Scotland.