Horace Keats

223 Horce Keats 2 1944 bwHorace Keats (1895-1945), Australian songwriter, was affectionately described by an Australian academic as, "the Schubert of Australia." He was essentially a songwriter of classical music but also a composer for radio plays, film music, ballet music and incidental works.

His aim as a songwriter was to express in music what the poet had already said in words. So successful was he in this, that he was known as the, "poet's composer". He set a wealth of Australian poetry including the words of Christopher Brennan, Hugh McCrae, Kenneth Mackenzie, Edith Sterling Levis, John Wheeler, John L. Glascock, John Shaw Neilson, and Russell Henderson. His settings of English poetry included works by William Blake, Herbert Brandon, John Cowper Powys, Christina Rossetti, Oscar Wilde, Gerald Manly Hopkins, John Drinkwater, and Lord Byron.

He was an exceptionally talented accompanist and conductor of various ensembles being employed by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation from 1923 until his untimely death.

Well over 100 of his works have been published and include songs with piano and string quartet accompaniment. His works have been recorded by HMV and Columbia from as early as the 1940's and the ABC has recorded his settings of Christopher Brennan's poetry on three separate occasions. The latest CDs of Horace Keats songs are now available online: Echo - The Songs of Horace Keats (Wendy Dixon, soprano, Marina Marsden, violin and David Miller, piano), A Poet's Composer (Jane Parkin, soprano and Clemens Leske, piano) and the instrumental and vocal CD, Movement (The Linden String Quartet, Janet Web, flute, Louise Page, soprano, Philippa Candy, piano). The biography of Horace Keats is also available online A Poet's Composer by Brennan Keats.


(Painting by Dora Toovey for the Archibald Exhibition in 1945. In the foreground is Barbara Russell, the composer's wife, the composer Horace Keats is at the piano and overlooking them is the Australian poet, Christopher Brennan. Swept across the bottom right-hand corner are the notes from the Brennan Song, I am Shut Out of Mine Own Heart, the last song performed by the composer and his wife.)   The portrait now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra.

This portrait is part of the prestige Archie 100: A Century of the Archibald Prize. It marks a hundred years of Australia's oldest and most-loved portraiture award.  The 100 portraits chosen are traveling the country exhibiting in major galleries throughout 2022-2024. For more information:

Talk and concert given at the National Portrait Gallery Canberra 18th August, 2012 (Sydney Male Choir and, Wendy Dixon (soprano) and David Miller (pianist)

Launch of CD "Movement" and concert held at the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra 15th August 2015 (Louise Page (soprano), Janet Webb (flute), Phillipa Candy (piano), The Linden String Quartet (Marina Marsden and Emily Long (violins); Justine Marsden (viola); Elizabeth Neville (cello)).

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