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Collier, Frederick Redmond (1885–1964)

by Sally O'Neill

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

Frederick Redmond Collier (1885-1964), by May and Mina Moore, 1910-13

Frederick Redmond Collier (1885-1964), by May and Mina Moore, 1910-13

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, H38782/511

Frederick Redmond Collier (1885-1964), singer, was born on 5 October 1885 at Collingwood, Melbourne, son of Daniel Henry Collier, London-born coach-painter, and his wife Catherine, née Redmond, from Kilkenny, Ireland. After education at Victoria Park State School, he joined the Victorian Railways in November 1901 as a 'lad porter' in the traffic branch.

Collier began singing at 10 in the choir of St Philip's Church of England, Collingwood, and later studied with Arthur Nickson. In 1907 he won the grand aggregate award at the Ballarat South Street competition, with further success next year. From 1909 to 1919 he was bass soloist at St Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne. In the war years he took part in patriotic concerts including a series with Dame Nellie Melba in aid of the Red Cross. He appeared frequently with the Melbourne Philharmonic and the Royal Victorian Liedertafel, and in 1917 he left the railways to become concert manager for Chappell & Co. Ltd's Melbourne office.

In January 1919 Collier joined the Rigo Grand Opera Company which was taken over later that year by J. C. Williamson's; Collier toured Australasia as the company's principal baritone. His wife Elsie (Elsy) Louise, née Treweek, whom he had married on 12 January 1910 at St Philip's, Collingwood, was also a member.

In 1921 Collier, Elsy Treweek and their daughter Elva, left for London where Collier joined the British National Opera Company. He became known for his Wagnerian roles, both bass and baritone. His Escamillo in Carmen received excellent notices, and he played at various times almost all the bass and baritone roles in La Bohème. Collier also sang in three English operas: Holst's Savitri and The Perfect Fool, and Vaughan Williams's Hugh the Drover. Noted for his magnificent dignity of bearing, he was also a fine actor. He sang often on British radio but his few recordings were made under a pseudonym. In 1926 he studied in Milan, returning to sing in the international season of grand opera at Covent Garden in which Melba starred; he took part in her farewell performance of La Bohème in June. In 1928-34 he toured Britain as a member of the Carl Rosa Company.

Collier returned to Melbourne in April 1934. From September to April next year he was engaged for Sir Benjamin Fuller's season of grand opera. In 1935-36 he sang in the Australian Broadcasting Commission's grand opera season. On 26 December 1940 he joined the A.B.C.'s Melbourne Wireless Chorus (later Melbourne Singers), whose work—to 1960—ranged from opera to light entertainment, and included the 'Village Glee Club' and 'In quires and places where they sing'. In 1940 and 1944 he was with the National Opera Company for short seasons. Collier's last stage appearance was in the 1961 season of The Most Happy Fella; in October 1963 he took part in the A.B.C.'s videotaped production of Simone Boccanegra.

Collier died on 14 October 1964 at South Yarra, survived by his daughter who also sang professionally for some years. He was cremated.

His wife Elsy, described as 'very beautiful, with fair skin and blue-black hair', had early success in South Street competitions as a soprano. She made her name in Melbourne and interstate as Marguerite in Faust. She joined the British National Opera Company but had mostly minor roles. Particularly good in character parts, such as the witch in Hansel and Gretel, she also received acclaim as Venus in Tannhäuser. She died on 3 November 1953.

Select Bibliography

  • B. and F. Mackenzie, Singers of Australia (Melb, 1967)
  • Listener In, 14 July 1934, 12 Oct 1935
  • Brisbane Courier, 3 Aug 1918
  • Australasian (Melbourne), 20 July 1921
  • Argus (Melbourne), 6 Apr 1934
  • A.B.C. Archives (Sydney)
  • private information.

Citation details

Sally O'Neill, 'Collier, Frederick Redmond (1885–1964)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/collier-frederick-redmond-5730/text9697, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 12 December 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

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