Tag Archives: Organ Music with Michael Dudman

Organ music from across the world – (MA Research Project – Archiving and Preservation)

20 Sep


Michael Dudman was born in Sydney in 1938. His father was an electrical engineer, originally from the Royal Navy, and had a very powerful influence on both sons. He was passionately interested in organ music and philosophy. One of his sons became one of Australia’s most renowned organists. In 1980 he was appointed Principal of the Newcastle branch of the State Conservatorium of Music. The Newcastle Morning Herald records that at that time he said:

“The raison d’etre of this place is students. The staff must have a satisfying environment to work in. Then there is the community: we are intended, designed and funded specifically to service the community, the city and the Hunter Valley. We are not here to be a nice little hothouse.”

The music critic of the Herald, T H Naisby, added the observation:

“As I left, the building was still silent, but one felt that ideas were in the air.”

Michael Dudman’s abiding interest in, and love of the King if Instruments developed at quite an early age, so that by the time he came to be appointed organist and choirmaster (at the prodigious age of thirteen at St Oswald’s Anglican Church, Haberfield, he already had an intimate acquaintance with many of the instruments recorded there. An-other for example, is also the first that Michael Dudman encountered, ac-cording to his brother, Victor, who recalls,

“having the clearest memory of Mike and me standing on each side of the console, watching the keys being pulled down by the couplers, rgan Mand Mike barely coming up to the stop handles.”

Michael Dudman’s absorption with the organ and his working acquaintance with many of its manifestations developed in the company of his brother, and of a father who was fond on taking them to, “ church crawls on a Sunday afternoons.”

At age fifteen Michael Dudman was selected to play the Sydney Town Hall organ at a Combined High Schools’ concert. Also, at about that time, he gave a lunchtime recital on the 1910 Hill organ at the then Pitt Street Congregational Church, and recorded the first “Young Australia” broadcast for the A.B.C. In his final year of high school he topped the State in Music and, having then gained his Leaving Certificate, the all but self-taught eighteen year old began formal lessons in organ playing with Norman Johnston at the Sydney Conservatorium. He subsequently graduate with the Performer’s and Teacher’s Diplomas in 1959 and with the prize for the most distinguished student of the year.

Aided by the Award of a Vasanta Scholarship, Michael Dudman then undertook post-graduate study in Paris with Norman Johnston’s teacher, André Marchal. This was, how-ever cruelly cut short because of the Algerian crisis. Forces to leave Paris, he went to Eng-land where, not very long after his arrival, he was appointed Assistant Organist at Ely Cathedral. He served at Ely for four years and then spent four years at Grimsby Parish Church before returning to Australia in 1968 armed with much experience in practical music making and with a fellowship of the Royal College of Organists.
The year following his return saw Michael Dudman’s appointment as Organist and Master of the Choristers at Newcastle’s Christ church Cathedral, and as lecturer at the city’s fledgling Conservatorium. He served the cathedral with distinction for some ten years. With the exception of a few years spent in Perth, where he was organist at St George’s cathedral and a lecturer at the Perth’s Teachers College, Michael Dudman spent the remaining twenty-five years of his life in Newcastle. Thus it was that his name became identified with the music of the city the service of which he zealously devoted almost half of his all too short life.

This zeal, and his reputation and achievements came to be recognized in various ways: his being made a member of the Order of Australia for services to music, for example, and his three-month’s tenure as first Artist-In-Residence at the Sydney Opera House. Michael Dudman became Principal of the Newcastle Conservatorium in 1980 and it expanded and progressed enormously under his direction. In 1989 he based there an annual Keyboard Festival of which he was artistic director. That same year his title changed to being that of Dean and Director when the Conservatorium became the Faculty of Music for the University of Newcastle: eventually he was to become Professor upon being given a personal chair in Music.

The combination of onerous responsibility, unrelenting stress in his academic life, family life and the will to maintain his technique through daily practice as well as his active concert and recital career ultimately proved fatal. He died most unexpectedly of a heart attack on the 6th August 1994 aged fifty-five.

Project outline : Michael Dudman’s career as a radio broadcaster, both with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and 2NUR FM, spanned some 30 years and rewarded listeners with a wealth of recorded material from organs around the globe. He made frequent solo and concerto appearances throughout Australia and recorded for Chartreuse, the ABC Label and Festival. Michael’s concerto recordings with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra have included the Poulenc Concerto in G minor, the Langlais Concerto III, Reaction, both the Rheinberger concertos, Dupré’s Concerto in E minor, Symphony for Organ and Orchestra in G minor, and Cortege et Litanie. He was also fortunate to be elected the first Artist-in-Residence for the Sydney Opera House with a season lasting over just over three months.

He also made a number of documentary programs on Australian and American organs including Organs of the Hunter Valley (1973 and 1978), Organs of Western Australia (1975), Historic Organs of Sydney (1985), Historic Organs of Tasmania (1987) and Great Organs of America (1989, 1990, 1991). The Australian Broadcasting Corporation also have a number of releases available on Compact Disc, these include The Sydney Opera House Organ Extravaganza (2010) & Mendelssohn’s Organ Sonatas (2011). Michael’s radio show Organ Music with Michael Dudman, broadcast on 2NUR ran for over 2 years and boasted an impressive feat; never playing the same piece twice. Such a challenge awarded the show with almost a thousand different pieces, and winning the BASF Award for Best Australian Music Program of public radio in 1992.

For a performer with such a prolific back catalogue it is a shame so many of these recordings have already been lost forever. In 2012, a large number of tapes from Michael’s personal collection were uncovered in Sydney, along with a large number of manuscripts, journals, personal correspondence, films and photographs. The aims and objectives of this project is to catalogue, research and curate an archive of classical music recordings to form a cultural resource that can serve as a resource for both listeners and scholars.

So far the acquired artefacts include

  •  Approximately 60 Hours of sound recordings
  •  Approximately 7 Hours of video concert footage
  •  Approximately 1000 photographs, manuscripts and photographs

The cultural value of and interest in these collections being digitised under this project is considerable. The completion of this project will greatly increase the availability of material for the study of Organ Music in Australia and beyond. Classical music scholars, listeners and general broadcasters are already hailing this classical music offering as very significant and as an example of the importance in archiving musical collections in future. The creation of a user panel will provide a sounding board and quantitative evaluation evidence of how such an archive could lead to new areas of scholarly research. Members have contributed some case studies and have actively used recordings in their own research activities. The project proposal was made in support of a number of its strategic objectives. Due to the nature of recorded audio, resources are often unavailable and with limited access. It was proposed that online delivery of material would ensure access to a substantial amount of artefacts, many of which are being made available for the first time.

Content was originally evaluated according to

  • research and teaching interests,
  • technical digitization requirements,
  • IPR Risk,
  • Preservation needs
  • cultural significance.

It is hoped that a number of tapes will be curated for a release of never before heard material, due in August 2014 on Compact Disc and digital download. To accompany this release and to mark the 20th Anniversary of Michael’s death, a new website will be launched online. The web site will serve as a resource for Organ music lovers and performers across the world.

To follow the project’s progress please visit:



Due to the scope of the project we are actively seeking sponsorship from interested parties,

if you would like to know more please contact :