The son of Marshall Hall and
Mary née Mammatt, Marshall-Hall was born in London on 28 March 1862
and educated locally. In spite of parental disapproval and a hearing
disability, Marshall-Hall’s love of music was instilled at an early age by
his paternal grandmother and his musical studies was spasmodic, limited and
largely self-taught; in late 1883 he spent less than a year at the Royal
College of Music before his appointment as organist and choirmaster at
Newton College, South Devon. When the wealthy philanthropist Francis
Ormond (Geelong Eastern Cemetery) endowed £20,000 to establish a chair
of music at the Melbourne University in his name, Marshall-Hall was elected
first Professor of Music (1890-1900, 1915) after a period of protracted
indecision from the selection committee and he arrived in
Melbourne 7 January
1891. Rather than a conservative academic in the “organist-pedagogue”
mould, Marshall-Hall was controversial to the core - a flesh and blood
bohemian, an avowed atheist and a staunch socialist. Not surprisingly, he
soon embroiled strait- laced Melbourne in controversy with his bohemian ways
and attacks on social norms and religion notably through his verses in “Hymns
Ancient and Modern” (1898); the arch-conservative The Argus
launched into a ferocious campaign against Marshall-Hall. One such
offering was “Teetotalism”:
“D’ye think that I’ll go
fast and pray,
For you, you drunken swine?
No!-you be dammed in your own way,
And I’ll be damned in mine”.
Marshall-Hall had many admirers who considered him a genius. In 1892 he
founded the Marshall-Hall Orchestra (1892-1912) and gained a reputation as a
first class conductor performing more than 100 concerts, notably “Stella”
(1912). Later with William Laver
(q.v.) he established what eventually became the Melba Conservatorium of
Music in early 1895 as a solution to the lack of academic studies; he
abhorred examinations where the emphasis was instead on emotion not
technique. Described as “tall, dark, bluff-mannered, idealistic” and
somewhat flamboyant, the forces of conservatism aided with a whispering
campaign against immoral conduct succeeded in ousting Marshall-Hall from the
Ormond chair in June 1900. But all was forgiven and he was later
re-appointed in 1915 after the death of Franklin Peterson (Melbourne
General Cemetery) only to pass away suddenly on 18 July 1915 at Mount St.
Evin’s Private Hospital, Fitzroy survived by his second wife Catherine
née Hoare (d 1940). Amongst Marshall-Hall’s sympathisers were artists
E. Phillips Fox (q.v.), (Sir)
Arthur Streeton (Ferntree Gully Cemetery), and the illustrator and
writer Sir Lionel Lindsay (1874-1961), the distinguished historian Sir
Ernest Scott (1867-1939) and the soprano Elsie Pinschof (Boroondara
(Reproduced with permission from the University of
Melbourne Archives, UMA/I/1220)
ADB Volume 10 1891-1939 (Lat-Ner).
The Argus 5 August 1898, 19, 20 & 21 July
The Age 19 July 1915.
The Herald 20 July 1915.
Dunstan, K., “Wowsers” (1968).
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