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Music in 1913 was one of the most popular entertainments. Australian performing artists and musicians were drawn to Europe.

Many, including Percy Grainger, Nellie Melba and Florrie Forde, were hugely successful there. In Australia’s cities, receptive audiences flocked to concerts, the opera and the ballet, where many of the performances were by touring artists and companies.

Australians sang around the piano or pianola at home, or flocked to concerts. Newspapers keenly followed the visits of artists from abroad, as well as the performances of Australians achieving success internationally.

The quality of recorded music was rapidly improving, and many households could boast a phonograph or gramophone. Opera, popular song and vaudeville performances are all represented in this selection.


Silent films were still a novel form of entertainment in 1913. They were screened in venues across Australia, from rural town halls – perhaps to the accompaniment of a lone pianist – to purpose-built cinemas with small orchestras in the larger cities. Outdoor screenings were popular during the warmer months.

The first, full-length feature film, Quo Vadis?, was released internationally in 1913. A love story with a religious theme set during the reign of Roman emperor Nero, the film enthralled large audiences with its spectacular special effects.

Although 1913 was a buoyant year for the Australian film industry, only one complete Australian feature film, The Sick Stockrider, survives from this time. Some screenings of the film were advertised as having ‘elocutionary accompaniment’ to make ‘the heart of every Australian … throb to the music of [Adam Lindsay] Gordon’s poem’.

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