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Evans, Harry Lindley (1895–1982)

by Larry Sitsky

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

Harry Lindley Evans (1895-1982), pianist, was born on 18 November 1895 at Cape Town, South Africa, eldest of five children of English parents Harry Evans, chemist, and his wife Edith, née Killingbeck. The family was musical. At St George’s Grammar School Lindley sang in the choir; he also enjoyed sport. Aged 15, he came to Sydney with his family and made some attempts to follow his father as a chemist but, already playing the piano and the organ in public, looked to a future in music. While taking lessons with Frank Hutchens at the New South Wales State Conservatorium of Music, he taught piano privately to earn some money. He later had further lessons from Tobias Matthay in England, but otherwise was self-taught.

The role of accompanist suited Evans, who was modest and free of driving ambition. A successful collaboration with John Lemmone led to an introduction to Dame Nellie Melba. He accompanied her in England in 1922-23 and on her later tours of Australia. On 2 September 1926 he married, with Presbyterian forms, Marie Florence Stewart at Strathfield, Sydney.

In 1920-29 Evans taught at Presbyterian Ladies’ College, Croydon. He developed music appreciation classes, which were given the same status in the curriculum as other subjects, an innovation at the time. At the invitation of the Australian Broadcasting Co. (Commission) he adapted these lectures for a program later called `Adventures in Music’. When the headmaster at PLC was removed in 1929, Evans resigned. From 1930 to 1946 he was a visiting teacher at Methodist Ladies’ College, Burwood. He also taught (1928-68) at the State conservatorium, and served (1966-74) on its board.

Forming a duo-piano team, Evans and Hutchens worked together for forty-one years until Hutchens’s death following a car accident in 1965. They performed staples of the classical repertoire (such as works by Mozart and Francis Poulenc) and contributed their own original material. Their programs and personal tastes ran generally to a soft kind of impressionism mixed with an English pastoralism. The duo played from memory, as did Evans for his song accompaniments. They performed at concerts and recorded programs for broadcast by the ABC.

Evans’s compositions included piano solos, many (such as Tally Ho! And Vignette) written for student use, while some (such as Rhapsody and Berceuse) were more showy or suited to the concert platform. He wrote music for two pianos, and for two pianos with orchestra; Idyll was much played and was one of the earliest larger-scale Australian works recorded by the ABC, with Evans and Hutchens performing. Evans, who had a rapport with the voice, also composed part-songs and choral works. His compositions were not the music of passion or tragedy but, rather, of well-crafted affability.After he had written the score for Charles Chauvel film Uncivilised (1936)—one of Australia’s earliest full-length soundtracks— Evans visited Hollywood in 1936-37 to learn more about film-making. He composed the music for Chauvel’s Forty Thousand Horsemen (1940) and The Rats of Tobruk (1944). He also wrote music for films of Cinesound Pro­ductions Ltd, such as Ken Hall’s Tall Timbers (1937).

From 1939 the ABC employed Evans in its children’s sessions on radio; he became nationally renowned as the `Melody Man’ in the `Argonauts Club’ which ran until 1969. Revealing a relaxed, charming personality on air, he often featured as guests young Argonauts who sang and played. An interest in public and youth education led to his involvement in the National Music Camp Association as piano tutor, administrator, director and councillor. He worked with the Australian Youth Orchestra from its inception in 1957. Throughout his career he was an adjudicator at eisteddfods and an examiner for the Australian Music Examinations Board. He was three times president and a life member of the Musical Association of New South Wales, and a composers’ representative (1951-71) on the board of the Australasian Performing Right Association.

Tall (6 ft 4 ins or 193 cm) and lean, Evans was a keen sailor who built his own boat in the 1940s. He was president (1947-59) and a life member of the Sydney Savage Club. In 1963 he was appointed CMG. He died on 2 December 1982 at Greenwich and was cremated. His wife survived him; they had no children. `Hello, Mr Melody Man’, his autobiography, was published in 1983.

Select Bibliography

  • Sun (Sydney), 6 Mar 1927, p 21
  • ABC Weekly, 27 July 1957, p 44
  • Bulletin, 9 May 1964, p 27
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 3 Dec 1982, p 12
  • H. de Berg, interview with L. Evans (typescript, 1972, National Library of Australia)
  • series A463, item 1963/2685 (National Archives of Australia)
  • Harry Evans papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • personal knowledge.

Citation details

Larry Sitsky, 'Evans, Harry Lindley (1895–1982)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/evans-harry-lindley-12466/text22421, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 25 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

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