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Dalley-Scarlett, Robertlocked

  • Andrew D. McCredie
  • , revised by Samantha Owens

(b Sydney, Australia, April 16, 1887; d Brisbane, Australia, July 31, 1959). Australian conductor, composer, and music collector. He studied with Arthur Mason and Gordon Lavers in Sydney. In 1912 he was appointed organist and choir director at Christ Church Anglican Cathedral and conductor of the choral society in Grafton, New South Wales. After war service he went to London for further study with Frederick Bridge, R.R. Terry, and Charles W. Pearce. He returned to Australia in 1919 and settled in Brisbane, where he served as organist and choirmaster at St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church (1919–32) and the Anglican churches of St Thomas at Toowong (1933) and All Saints, Wickham Terrace (1933–41). He directed the University of Queensland’s Musical Society (1920–30), an association that culminated in what was believed to have been the first Bach Festival in the southern hemisphere, held in October 1930. Dalley-Scarlett later founded the Brisbane Bach Society (1931) and the Brisbane Handel Society (1933), and from 1937 was conductor of the A.B.C. Brisbane Singers. He also served as chief music critic for the Courier Mail and as the Brisbane correspondent for the Australian Musical News. In 1940 he became the founder and first president of the Queensland division of the Guild of Australian Composers. He studied externally with the University of Adelaide, receiving the MusB (1926) and the MusD (1934).

Dalley-Scarlett became renowned in Australia chiefly as a promoter of historical performance practice for the music of Bach and Handel. He produced almost all of Handel’s operas and oratorios, either in concert or on the radio. His extensive library, owned since 1960 by the Fisher Library, University of Sydney, included many Handel first editions. Dalley-Scarlett’s work promoting Handel’s music – which included two Handel Festivals held in Brisbane in 1933 and 1934, respectively – resulted in the town of Halle awarding him their prestigious Handel Medal for his services to Handel research. His compositions, which number around 300 works (almost all in manuscript), remain relatively unexplored.

MSS in AUS-Sml, AUS-Sb


  • R. Dalley-Scarlett: Handel’s Messiah: How Can We Realise the Composer’s Intentions? (Brisbane, 1952)
  • P. Brown: ‘Introduction to Robert Dalley-Scarlett and his Collection’, SMA, vol. 5 (1971), 87–9
  • P. Brown: ‘Early Published Handel Scores in the Dalley-Scarlett Collection’, SMA, vol. 5 (1971), whole suppl.
  • P. Roennfeldt: Robert Dalley-Scarlett: His Contribution to Musical Life in Brisbane, 1919–59 (diss., U. of Queensland, 1978)
  • J. Dawson: A History of the Queensland University Musical Society, 1912–80 (diss., U. of Queensland, 1980)
  • S. Owens: ‘Robert Dalley-Scarlett (1887–1959) and Handel Reception in Australia between the World Wars’, Musicology Australia, vol. 34 (2012), 165–83
Sydney, Music Branch Library, University of Sydney
Studies in Music [Australia]
Sydney, Symphony Australia National Music Library