Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Allman, George Faunce (1883–1967)

by K. J. Cable

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

George Faunce Allman (1883-1967), organist, choirmaster and music teacher, was born on 27 December 1883 at Yass, New South Wales, eldest of four children of native-born parents Edward McCarthy Allman, road superintendent, and his wife Henrietta Elizabeth, née Faunce. Two of George's great-grandfathers were Francis Allman and Alured Tasker Faunce. As a civil engineer, Edward moved about and George attended five schools before completing his education in 1897-98 at Sydney Church of England Grammar School (Shore) where his musical talent was encouraged. He worked as an accounts clerk with Burns, Philp & Co. Ltd for five years and hated it. Rather than accept a transfer to the South Pacific, he resigned to face the uncertainties of being a full-time musician and teacher.

When his mentor Arthur Mason went to England in 1907, Allman took over temporarily as organist at St James's Church, Sydney; his appointment (which was to last for fifty-three years) became permanent when Mason did not return. Allman found a popular church, with a choral tradition dating back to 1827 and a developing Anglo-Catholic liturgy. Introducing new English music for the elaborate choral settings, he maintained a sizeable voluntary choir, made St James's a centre for church music and taught a large band of pupils. A devout man, he was active as a trustee, warden and councillor. The simplicity and other-worldliness of his character enabled him to weather the theological storms which sometimes beset the parish, even if his endearing attributes did not fit him for managing practical affairs.

On 7 January 1911, at St James's, Allman married a violinist Edith Dora Ranclaud (1885-1960); they were to remain childless. The marriage was an ideal union of two dedicated musicians. Dora taught at the New South Wales State Conservatorium of Music and played in its orchestra; she toured (1919-21) with the State Orchestra under Henri Verbrugghen. George was engaged by the Australian Music Examinations Board from 1915, joined the conservatorium staff in 1924 and was president for twelve terms of the Musical Association of New South Wales (which he and Dora had helped to found in 1912). He taught at Presbyterian Ladies' College, Croydon; she at Ascham, Darling Point; they occasionally taught together, as at Shore (1947-57).

Their partnership was best exemplified in the field of choral music. In all his choir work, Dora acted as Allman's assistant and general factotum, arranging the music and mothering the younger choristers. At St James's, they were 'Sir' and 'Miss' to generations of choirboys. Allman also conducted the Sydney University Musical Society for thirty years from 1928; appointed the university's organist in 1936, he began to conduct its graduates' choir in 1952. Mindful of the educational role of the musician, Allman championed Bach's choral work for Sydney audiences, held lunch-hour recitals at St James's, and played and conducted for wartime concerts. Unassuming and almost hesitant in mundane matters, he was courteously forceful when conducting any kind of choir. For him, the rendition of a choral work was a spiritual and ennobling experience.

Dora Allman died on 22 September 1960. Next year Allman retired from St James's. He had been awarded King George V's jubilee (1935) medal, as well as King George VI's and Queen Elizabeth II's coronation (1937 and 1953) medals. In 1961 the University of Sydney conferred an honorary doctorate of letters upon him. Allman's final years were clouded by illness at his North Sydney home, where his sister acted as housekeeper. He died on 16 February 1967 at Mosman and was cremated after a hugely-attended funeral service at St James's; his ashes, as those of Dora, were interred in its crypt.

Select Bibliography

  • W. Orchard, Music in Australia (Melb, 1952)
  • G. D. Rushworth, Historic Organs of New South Wales (Syd, 1988)
  • St James's Church Parish Messenger, Nov 1957, Oct 1960, Sept-Oct 1961, Mar-Apr 1967
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 25 Oct 1957, 31 Oct 1961
  • Anglican, 31 Oct 1957.

Citation details

K. J. Cable, 'Allman, George Faunce (1883–1967)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/allman-george-faunce-9340/text16397, published in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 3 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

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