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Hooper Josse Brewster Jones (1887–1949)

by Joyce Gibberd

This article was published:

Hooper Josse Brewster Jones (1887-1949), musician, was born on 28 June 1887 at Black Rock Plain, South Australia, son of William Arthur Jones, schoolmaster, and his wife Rebecca, née Williams. He was educated at country schools at Armagh and Bute largely by his father who taught him music until he left home at 13 to board in Adelaide. From 1901 he studied piano at the Elder Conservatorium of Music. In 1905 a review of one of his concerts described him as `the most promising student' who had ever entered the conservatorium. He won the overseas Elder scholarship, giving him three years at the Royal College of Music, London, where he studied composition, chamber music and piano.

Jones returned to Adelaide in 1909 to teach piano, singing and composition. Teaching, he believed, should be a 'psychological study of the student's possibilities'. He gave recitals, played chamber music, and appeared with visiting musicians. Next year, on 11 June, he married Gerta Homburg, an amateur singer and authority on German lieder. In 1914 he was president of the new Adelaide Chamber Society. In July 1915 Jones conducted his first orchestral concert in the Exhibition Hall; he later formed the Brewster Jones Symphony Orchestra at Queen's Hall. By 1920 it numbered seventy players; during World War I it was South Australia's only symphony orchestra.

Jones introduced contemporary French music to both Adelaide and Melbourne; as a composer he was prolific, original and unacademic. His symphonic poem Australia Felix, 'thoroughly professional' programme music, has been played throughout Australia by Australian Broadcasting Commission orchestras. His love of bush and bird-life resulted in many songs and seventy-three piano pieces of South Australian bird-calls. Of his string quartet performed in 1977 at the old Hahndorf Academy, a critic wrote that its 'ideas and textures stamp it firmly as belonging to the 20th century and the thematic workings show the composer's sound training and impeccable ear, as well as a lively invention and intense energetic drive'.

Jones worked with the A.B.C. as a pianist, lecturer on radio, and conductor of the State studio orchestra in the 1930s. He was music critic for the Adelaide Advertiser in 1935-40 and, later, for the News until shortly before his death. In 1936 his 'Pioneers and Problems', South Australia's musical history, appeared in Australian Musical News. He adjudicated at many eisteddfods and competitions in other States and was an examiner for the Australian Music Examination Board.

By the late 1940s Jones had retired. His son Arthur in 1947 formed a string orchestra and on 8 July 1949 his father was soloist with it, playing the D minor Mozart piano concerto. It was a fine performance, but fifteen minutes later he died from a heart attack. Jones's wife and two of their three sons survived him. He was buried in Centennial Park cemetery.

A handsome, popular man, Jones once related proudly how he had left Sir Charles Stanford's class in London. Jones's composition, An Indian Serenade, contained several tonal and duodecuple effects, ending on the chord of the added 6. Stanford 'threw his fingers anywhere' on the piano and asked if 'that' was melody. By accident, the performance was tonal and good. Jones had the courage to reply 'That was splendid melody, sir'. He was expelled.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Glennon, Music and Musicians (Adel, 1968)
  • Quiz (Adelaide), 30 June 1905
  • Australian Letters, Mar 1960
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 9 Sept 1909, 19 July 1915, 10 Oct 1977
  • Mail (Adelaide), 10 Apr 1915
  • private information.

Citation details

Joyce Gibberd, 'Jones, Hooper Josse Brewster (1887–1949)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 20 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (Melbourne University Press), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

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