Heritage Guide to The Geelong College

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Pegasus in December 1941 breathlessly announced the eagerly anticipated arrival of the 'Carnegie Music Set' which had been described the previous issue as 'somewhere in the Pacific' .

' The Carnegie Music Set.

Shortly before the last edition of 'Pegasus' went to press, there arrived at the House of Music twelve heavy packing cases of various sizes, all bearing the label of a famous Chicago musical firm. The cry went up throughout the school, 'The Carnegie Set's arrived', and soon the curious crowd, attracted to the House of Music by this news, was busily engaged in unpacking the contents of the cases which had been so long and so eagerly awaited.

The feverish activity of an afternoon and an evening showed us the Carnegie Set as we now all know it. The sleek, luxurious polish of a modern sound reproducer unit, the dull gleam of mysterious fittings within a plain yet tasteful record player, the empty shelves of the record library, the compact, efficient looking filing cabinet, and, above all, pile upon pile of records. Records! There seemed thousands of them, and of all kinds. Strange new labels on the discs, neat folios in which each record had a place, names of artists, orchestras, composers of whom we had never heard, combined to give us a dizzy impression of magnificence. Most of the honest ones present will admit a feeling of exhilaration. Mr. Smith, without a doubt, was intoxicated.

The 'Carnegie Music Set', 1941.

The 'Carnegie Music Set', 1941.

Of course, since then the Carnegie Set has had to undergo sterner trials than those of the first night's admiration. It has come in for a great deal of work, and has revealed certain defects which, perhaps, only serve to make it more interesting, but generally speaking, it has proved of outstanding value to the school's musical education. The warmest tribute which could be paid to its utility is the eternal crowd which seeks to use the set in every spare moment, and the fact that very seldom is the House of Music free from the sound of one of the Carnegie records being played for the benefit of someone, who, before the advent of the Set, would never have dreamed of troubling himself for a little musical enjoyment. True, for some time the most popular records in the all-embracing collection of 640 were the Hill-Billy March and jazz, but this was a healthy beginning to a process of self introduction into the realms of really good music.

It is an encouraging sight to see young boys who were recently uninterested in the works of music's masters, exploring for themselves the long catalogue of the world's finest music, played by the world's foremost artists. They are asking questions, too, about the composers, their style, the musical forms and so on, encouraged by the omnipresent Mr. Smith. That is no mean achievement, to have ‘converted’, easily and pleasantly, so many of the boys who would normally have left school scarcely touched by good music. The acquisition of all these records, along with the superb apparatus for playing them, gives us a library of about 900 discs, and the opportunity to hear any kind of music at almost any time. Some concern has been caused by the occasional damage suffered by the Carnegie records and apparatus in the course of their extensive use, and it seems likely that a system of stricter control will be introduced next year, but for the most part, good sense and care have been exercised by all who use the Set.

Not only has the College benefited by this bequest, but the public also has had several opportunities, in the form of a series of programme afternoons, of hearing what the far-sighted generosity of a great American Trust has given to one of the centres of Geelong's musical life. Attendances were almost too much for the House of Music on some occasions during these Sunday afternoon programmes, and it seems that there are very many Geelong people who will welcome the continuation of the series throughout next year. Of the origin of all this excitement, joy and true beauty, much could be written. We should never have had such a musical feast had it not been for the Carnegie Corporation in America, and we can best point to the effects of the Set's arrival here as thanks to that organisation.'

Two years later in 1943, Pegasus continued to write glowingly about the Carnegie Collection.
'The Carnegie Set has been played continually. Additions of records are being made to the library whenever it is possible to obtain them, but they are limited greatly by war conditions. A greater burden than usual is thus being thrust upon the House of Music, which is in constant use from seven o'clock in the morning until eight o'clock at night. ...

Musical interest in the School is also being encouraged now tremendously by the Carnegie Set at the House of Music, with its ever increasing library of records, which enables boys to play what ever they wish when ever they wish. This practice is being encouraged by the musical appreciation periods and the meetings of the Music Club. In this way, it is found, a greater and more sincere interest in Music is being created than would be the case if musical education consisted of listening to set pieces of music at set times, and it can be said truthfully that the proportion of boys in the School who prefer jazz to good music is steadily decreasing.'

While the fate of the equipment is unknown, portions of the record collection have survived within the College music department.

Sources: Pegasus June 1941 p19; Pegasus December 1941 p16; Pegasus December 1941 pp22-24; Pegasus July 1942 p19; Pegasus June 1943 p9; Pegasus December 1943 p25.
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