This is a blog about music, photography, history, and culture.
These are photographs from my collection that tell a story about lost time and forgotten music.

Mike Brubaker
{ Click on the image to expand the photo }

Music in Motion

06 February 2016

Her identity was easy, as the young lady's name was printed on the corner of her postcard. Miss Ruby Corrick. Wearing an elegant gown she holds a piston valve cornet while on a table behind her is a mellophone. Clearly she is a professional musician, but from where? Not German or French. American? Maybe British? The postcard was never mailed but the printer left a company name: Dodgson & Muhling, Print. Perth.  That's Perth, Western Australia. She has traveled a great distance, practically halfway round the globe, to find a place in my collection here in the mountains of North Carolina.

Names are very useful things on the internet and within a week of acquiring her postcard, I found her on another one, posed with her father, mother, brother, and five sisters as the "Corrick Family" Entertainers. Miss Ruby again has a cornet, and a mellophone lies on a table in front of her. Her brother holds a clarinet, one sister has a flute and a piccolo in her lap, and three sisters have violins, as does her father. The men wear formal white ties and tailcoats, and the women are attired in a splendid array of long evening dresses, some adorned with corsages. This was not the image of a small town orchestra, but of a high class musical troupe.

What made it interesting was that this card was posted in 1909, but not from Western Australia. The printer was based in London, England. That's a very long span between two postcards of the same person. So was Ruby Corrick's family an English or Australian musical group?

Actually neither. They came from New Zealand.


In January 1909, the London theatrical weekly, The Era, ran an advert for the Corrick Family within its announcements page. The section title, Music Hall Artist's Wants, was a place for stage artists and musical groups to post their availability for bookings.

London The Era
January 16, 1909

Wanted Wanted Known
of Entertainers

Nine Brilliant Instrumentalists,
Vocalists, Handbell Ringers,
National Dancers,
Humorists, and

Just returned from a Phenomenally Successful
Tour of the Australian Colonies, New Zealand,
Ceylon, India, and the Far East.

Every member a Star Artist of remarkable

Professor Corrick, Conductor, Pianist, Violinist, Bass.
Madame Corrick, Contralto, Double Bass, Artist.
Miss Corrick, Pianist and Accompanist.
Miss Amy Corrick, Flautist, Vocalist, Dancer.
Miss Ethel Corrick, Violinist, Soubrette, Dancer.
Miss Jessie Corrick, Vocalist and Violinist.
Miss Ruby Corrick, Champion Lady Cornet Soloist and
  Mellophone Soloist, Vocalist, and Dancer.
Mr. Leonard Corrick, Baritone, Clarionet Soloist, Dancer, and
   Bio-exert; and (Viola)

Miss Alice Corrick, the Brilliant Dramatic Soprano.

Nightly changes of Programme, each a perfect
galaxy of Musical and Pictorial Art, including
Orchestral Selections, Choruses, Glees, Duets, Instrumental Solos and Duets, Cornet, Mellophone, Flute, Piccolo, Clarionet, Expert Handbell Ringing, National Dances, Excerpts from Grand and Light Opera, Ballads, Folk Songs, Chorus Songs, and Humorous Sketches, Monologues, and Songs, concluding with a display of Leonard's Beautiful Pictures.

Eight horse-power electric engine and dynamo carried on all country tours, brilliantly illuminating Halls inside and outside where necessary.

Open for engagements singly or collectively.

For particulars apply to
Manager, Mr. Harold G. Coulter
Woodfield Lodge, Mount Ephraim lane
Streatham, S.W.


The Corrick Family Entertainers, circa 1905
Source: Wikipedia

The origin of the Corrick Family Entertainers started with its patriarch, Albert Corrick. Born in Somerset, England in 1848, Albert's family immigrated to New Zealand in 1862. They settled in Christchurch where he pursued an interest in music to become a church organist and music teacher. While leading his church choir he pursued another interest, Sarah Alice Calvert, a young singer, and married her in 1877. Like Albert, Sarah's family also came from England, and together she and Albert opened a music academy in Christchurch that offered music lessons and sold musical instruments and sheet music. In the course of time they produced 8 children –  seven daughters and one son.

Like the families of many music teachers, Albert and Sarah discovered their children were gifted with exceptional musical talent. Their second oldest daughter, Alice, had a particularly fine voice and in 1898 was invited to perform in Hobart, Tasmania. This required a journey by ship of over 1400 miles and about a week from Christchurch. Her success with the Australian audiences encouraged Albert to organize a concert tour of New Zealand for the entire family ensemble in 1899. These performances proved so popular that they continued for another two years. In 1902, the Corrick Family traveled again to Tasmania to begin a long series of concerts that would take them all around Australia over the next few years. The image from their Wikipedia entry shows a group of only eight, as the two youngest daughters were left behind in New Zealand under the care of family relations. 

In 1907, the Marvellous Corricks, as the musical troupe was advertised, embarked on a grand tour to the other Asian parts of the British Empire, performing concerts in Singapore, Malaysia, Ceylon, and India. Albert arranged for the trip to continue back to Britain, via France, so that the children, especially Alice, might benefit from study under music teachers in Paris and London. They arrived in England in January 1909 when evidently their advance agent, to judge by the advert in The Era, was still looking for concert opportunities.

Miss Ruby Corrick
Kalgoorlie Western Argus
April 16, 1907

By April, at Easter week, the Corricks were billed to play at the Victoria Rooms, Cheltenham. Headlining their advertisement was the Brilliant Dramatic Soprano, Miss Alice Corrick, and Miss Ruby Corrick, the wonderful Girl Cornet Soloist

Cheltenham Looker On
April 03, 1909

The reason this is interesting is that the postcard I acquired of the Corrick Family Entertainers was sent that same week, on April 14, 1909, to Miss May Hardwick of Landford Farm in Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire by someone who had just attended one of those Corrick concerts.

 21 Tivoli Place
Dear May - We all arrived home
safe + sound, but feeling a little tired
The train was half an hour late at
Ross. We all had a very enjoyable
time + thank you all very much.
Tuesday evening four of us went
to hear the Corrick Family. It
was very good. The next will
be the theather + skating then I
think it will finish for this week
Kind Love to you all
From Eva

The aptly named Cheltenham Looker On published a review in the following week.
The paper's critic used a few more words than Eva to say that the Corricks were very good.

Cheltenham Looker On
April 17, 1909

As a musical family they make up a combination admittedly the cleverest at present before the public. There is something about their performance which is altogether dissimilar from that of the majority of musical families. Each member of the party is so individually entertaining that it is difficult to distribute praise with equal fairness.  

The review continues, remarking on the delightful singing of Miss Alice and the excellent playing of Ruby on cornet and handbells. But it ends with a comment on the most remarkable thing about the Corrick Family's Entertainment. The programme was varied by a selection of Leonard's Pictures, and it is safe to add that for clearness and effect no pictures to surpass these have ever been shown in Cheltenham before.

Leonard's Pictures were moving pictures, short cinema films that Leonard Corrick introduced to supplement his family's variety shows. As a Bio-expert, Leonard's first pictures were short newsreels, trick films, dramas, travelogues and comedies that came from the leading cinema companies of the time - Pathé, Edison, Gaumont and Itala. By 1906 the Corricks traveled with an electric generator to power a film projector, fans, and stage lights. The family bought a cine camera in 1907 to make their own films. Often when they reached a new town, they advertised that they were going to use a camera during the day, to then entice an audience to come see themselves on film later that night at the Corrick's show. 

Some of Leonard's first pictures were just magic lantern slides projected as backdrops for music that the family performed. It seems likely that for these early silent movies the family also provided music. Here is an example of an early Pathés film from 1905 entitled, La Poule aux Oeufs d’Or – The Hen that Laid the Golden Egg. It uses color effects that were handpainted onto each frame of the film. Since the Corricks also featured dancing in their stage act, these films may have included dances as well as musical accompaniment.



La Poule aux Oeufs d’Or (1905) The Corrick Collection

This next short novelty film is entitled The Hand of the Artist by R. W. Paul.
It shows some very imaginative special effects that are impressive even today.



Leonard's camera also recorded some of the first moving images of Australian people. This next short made in 1907 shows a clever view taken from the center of a busy street in Perth with all the hustle of big city life. At about 0:30 there is a curious altercation that is either typical of Australia or a set up by Leonard to add some drama. At about 1:00 a quartet of young ladies cross the street and they may be Leonard's sisters. 



Perth Western Australian
July 14, 1909

The Corricks returned to Australia shortly after the concerts in Cheltenham, and by July 1909 were advertising shows in the Perth newspapers. It would be the start of their longest concert tour of Australia. Their agent, Harold G. Coulter, a government officer in the state Land and Survey Dept. would win the heart of the fourth daughter, Ethel Corrick, and they were wed in 1912. Besides featuring Alice and Ruby, the Marvellous Corricks' program now included Mr. Ernest Leathley, the Marvellous Mimic and Comedian. Like many vaudeville acts, Albert Corrick was  constantly looking for new novelty bits to enliven the audiences. By 1912 the youngest daughter, Elsie Corrick, now age 18, could join the tour, making the Corrick Entertainers a complete musical family band for the first time since their New Zealand performances in 1901.

Leonard's Beautiful Pictures were not to be missed and included A Magnificent Series Just to Hand, and Shown in Perth for the First Time. He probably included some of the earliest moving images of London and Paris that the Corricks had picked up from film studios on their world tour.

In our multimedia century, it is hard to imagine the delight that audiences in the 1900s enjoyed at seeing moving images for the first time. It was the beginning of a new art form that, though primitive by our standards, had a magical quality that in a few decades would overtake live stage performances to become the dominant medium of storytelling. 

Miss Ruby Corrick
Kalgoorlie Western Argus
August 10, 1909

The Corrick children were now adults who wanted to expand their individual lives beyond the family. The constant touring placed a great stress on their father's health and in 1914 Albert Corrick died. The family put on a last farewell tour of New Zealand that lasted until July 1915, and then chose to make Launceston, Tasmania their new home. Alice, Amy, Ethel, and Leonard all continued to be active musicians. Ruby married in 1920 and raised two children in Queensland. 

For decades, the hundreds of the short films used in the Corrick Family shows were stored in a family shed in Launceston. In 2006 the remaining canisters of deteriorating nitrate prints were given to the
National Film and Sound Archive of Australia which recognized the valuable cinematic and social history they represent. A major restoration project aims to bring Leonard's Beautiful Pictures back to a new audience that can appreciate the extraordinary legacy of the Corrick Family Entertainers.

This last video is a trailer for the NFSA project that includes
many more images of the Marvellous Corricks.



It is over 9,534 nautical miles (10,971 miles or 17,656 km) by steamship from Perth to London, via the Suez Canal. The Corrick's luggage included a cornet, a clarinet, a flute and piccolo, violins, violas, a double bass, maybe a cello, numerous handbells, probably a pump organ and maybe even a small piano. Not to mention reams of sheet music, flyers, and postcards too. Their steamer trunks carried countless costume and formal apparel for stage performances as well as their ordinary travel clothes. This was not a simple wardrobe either, with seven women in the troupe. Leonard's projector, lights, camera, film canisters (an extremely flammable hazard)  and especially the eight horse-power electric dynamo added even more volume to the Corrick show.

Somehow Albert Corrick persuaded his wife Sarah that it was worth the family effort to travel so far away from home and make music for 16 years on the road. To say that show business is hard work seems a gross understatement, but it must have been fun too. 

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
Lights! Camera!... Action!

As many of my readers know, I'm never satisfied until I've found the whole story, and on the encouragement of Jo Featherston comment of looking up the Corricks on the Australian Newspaper Archive - Trove, I went in search of more. Here is a 1968 remembrance piece of the Corrick Family Entertainers from the Australian Women's Weekly that has such great pictures and stories, it deserves to be a nice epilogue to this post.

Click to enlarge the images.

Australian Women's Weekly
September 11, 1968


Sharon said...

A wonderful post yet again. I was fascinated and did some research of my own about the Corricks. It is so wonderful that their films have been located and preserved but such a shame that we cannot hear their music! The reports are so good that I would love to be able to hear it also!

Little Nell said...

A hugely entertaining and absorbing post. The family is so interesting and your link to the theme is spot on. I found mysef thinking that their story would make a great movie or TV series of their own; I hope someone else thinks so and does that very thing.

Jofeath said...

Fascinating! I had a look for Ruby Corrick on both the Australian site Trove and the NZ site Paperspast and can see that there are large numbers of articles on her and her family, including in some cases photographs of her playing her cornet. The 8th article that appears on Trove is a brief obituary and the 10th article is one written by someone who previously thought that a woman playing a cornet would be a monstrosity. The film of Perth street life is excellent too - so busy with foot traffic rather than vehicles back then!

Jofeath said...

Sorry, the obit is the 7th article.

ScotSue said...

I love your vintage photographs of musicians , and never realised there were so many female groups. A fascinating post.

Barbara Rogers said...

A great post, documenting a family that should not be forgotten, both from music history and filmography (is that the word?) I was also struck by the culture in 1905 Perth where so many people were out on the streets in broad daylight. What was their occupation, I thought, that they weren't off working somewhere but were just apparently wandering from one place to another on the streets? And they were mainly men, with hats of differing styles. Then there were the costumes in the movies, the dancing chickens were in risque costumes for the era! A most enjoyable post.

Helen Killeen Bauch McHargue said...

An amazing post. What a family! The films are really incredible. I can't believe the special effects - turning chickens into dancers. And those costumes - they are racy. Wouldn't their story make a great movie? Has someone written a book about their adventures? This post is too good for our small Sepia Saturday audience...I hope more people get to enjoy it. Thanks so much for all the research and the way you revealed the information musically...starting with a pianissimo and ending with a forte.

Wendy said...

Leonard did a great job on those little "pictures." Loved the chickens. I'm so glad that Jo suggested you check Trove because seeing little Elsie all grown up was fun. So often our stories are told from other people's perspectives, but with the newspaper articles we get the Corricks' story from their view too.

genie said...

What an awesome contribution this week. It is definitely all inclusive, with videos, photographs, articles,and even more. You are one of those like me that will persevere until you have found out everything you can about a subject in which you are interested. I love seeing all the women in their long dresses. I think the reason I am so captivated is for a number of years I was a member of an all women’s string band when I live in Asheville....The Mountain Women’s Cooperative String Band. My little girl was in it, too. We went all over North Carolina playing at old time music festival....not bluegrass. So that first picture really hooked me and I followed it thru to the end. Love the post.

Unknown said...

You have one of the most interesting, detailed blogs I've ever come across. I am amazed at how seamlessly you connect the photos to the families to the postcards.

Lavender and Vanilla Friends of the Gardens said...

Fantastic and wonderful the story about the Corrick family. Great pioneers,they brought lots of pleasure and happiness to people with their music and entertainment. Your research again, amazing. Thank you, just learned again something about Australia.

La Nightingail said...

Your posts are always so much fun & so informative. The pictures of the Corrick family were lovely, and the movie clips were great. Those ballerinas hopping around were a hoot!

Anonymous said...

A particularly fascinating post for we Australians. Interesting how your photos led you down under. Glad you found Trove, a mainstay for our research.

Boobook said...

Wow, what a fascinating story. I wonder what it was about Launceston that attracted them.
The author of the Womens Weekly article, Patsy Adam-Smith, is very well known in Australia.

Tattered and Lost said...

This was tremendous. I'm imagining them rolling into town. And no roadies!

Seriously, is there anyone who reads lips because I'm dying to know what the fella is muttering in the Hand of the Artist. I'm hoping it's something more than blah blah blah blah.


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