Advance Australia Fair

Album: Anthems of Australia (1878)

Songfacts®:

  • Peter Dodds McCormick arrived in Australia from his native Scotland in 1855, and was active in the church all his life. "Advance Australia Fair" is unarguably his best known composition, and certainly one of the finest.
    Andrew Fairfax was the first singer to perform it in public, at the St Andrew's Day concert of the Highland Society on November 30, 1878. After drawing a favourable response from the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, the music and four verses were published under the pen name Amicus by W. H. Paling.
  • The 2nd Edition of the sheet music was published by Reading & Co of Sydney at 1s.6d, credited again to Amicus and "Sung with great success by Mr. Andrew Fairfax" arranged as a solo with pianoforte accompaniment and as a four part song. Described as a patriotic song, it was "Respectfully Dedicated To The Sons And Daughters Of Australia".
    At some point, the last verse of the song was altered - with the author's approval - by John Stuart Blackie (1809-95) who was Professor of Greek in the University of Edinburgh.
  • "Advance Australia Fair" was sung by a ten thousand strong choir at the inauguration of the Commonwealth and played by massed bands at the naming of the Federal capital celebrations in Canberra. In 1907, McCormick was awarded £100 for the song by the Government. Six years later, on August 1, 1913, he described how he came to write it. The inspiration he said was a concert he had attended at which various national anthems were sung, and he felt very aggravated that there was not one note for Australia. He worked out the first verse on his journey home, then set it to music, wrote it out, tried it on an instrument, and completed the words with the greatest ease, as if inspired, as surely he was. He did not though formally register it for copyright until September 3, 1915. He died October 30 the following year.
    There were several attempts after his death to have it proclaimed the National Anthem of Australia, but it was not until 1974 that it was finally recognised as such, by which time McCormick already had another (albeit unofficial) anthem under his belt, "Flower Of Scotland", which probably makes him the only person to achieve this double honour, certainly posthumously. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England, for above 3

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