Dulcie Holland AM (1913-2000) was one of Australia’s most prolific composers. She composed for all musical genres except opera and her output includes music for forty documentary films, symphonic works, and works for choir, keyboard, solo instruments, chamber music and many songs spanning her entire lifetime. She studied at the NSW Conservatorium completing a DSCM (Diploma of the State Conservatorium of Music) in 1933 where she had harmony lessons with Alfred Hill, cello with Gladstone Bell and piano with Frank Hutchens. After two years of composition lessons with Roy Agnew, Holland left Australia in November 1937 for England where she enrolled at the Royal College of Music taking composition lesson with John Ireland. Her name has become synonymous with musicianship and theory tuition as she wrote textbooks for all levels of difficulty and the publication of these books made Dulcie Holland a household name.
Many of her serious compositions won prizes as Holland was a great advocate for those competitions which gave young composers the possibility of gaining feedback and a worthy – and sometime financial – goal to strive for. She was accused by some of her peers of being a ‘miniaturist’ and certainly Holland excelled in shorter compositions especially those for piano and voice. Her songs demonstrate a brilliant use of appropriate motives which emphasize the innate meaning of the text/poems. In her orchestral and chamber works the key feature is her excellent use of harmony. Holland had a very strong sense of harmonic correctness and she felt that the tonal centre and the pull of a strong key basis was at the root of everything she wrote. In an interview she said that her main musical influences changed often but among many included the music of Gabriel Fauré, Claude Debussy, Frederick Delius and César Franck.
Holland was a composer, teacher, pianist and examiner. In her own words she described her mission in life as such: “But after many years of writing music, simply because I had the urge to do so, I have reached the strong conclusion that music is greater than the sum of all those who contribute to it, and that instead of adding to the volume of music that has been composed, it would be much more valuable to make new converts for music, to share my enthusiasm for it with those possibly as yet unaware, and to stimulate them to find out more of its mysteries and delights. I and have had first-hand opportunities to observe how young people develop, how their tastes may be formed, and their imagination fired, and ultimately how their lives can be enriched by a knowledge and love of music. To encourage others along these lines has become my mission in life, and I dare to hope that my influence for good may continue long after my earthly life ends, thus adding significantly to the quality of life in at least one small part of this world.”