Lindley Evans (1895-1982)
Pianist, composer, conductor, organist, chorister, lecturer, and examiner Lindley Evans was the modern-day renaissance man who made a huge contribution to musical society in Australia during the twentieth century.
His family migrated to Australia from South Africa. Lindley found a series of temporary positions in Sydney firstly as a messenger to a tailor, as a house painter and in the company where his father worked as a chemist. He played the organ at various churches and began to make a name for himself as a pianist who was very versatile and could play anything at any time. When the First World War broke out supplies of raw material dried up almost instantly and his father lost most of his business. To help the family out financially Lindley began teaching piano. From the onset he was deluged with potential pupils, mostly very young children.
He felt his own youth and inexperience was a disadvantage and so sought lessons to improve his expertise with Frank Hutchens at the New South Wales State Conservatorium of Music. One thing led to another and Lindley was soon offered many more musical opportunities amongst them adjudicating various competitions, teaching a music appreciation class at the Presbyterian Ladies College in Croydon, conducting choirs as well as a great deal of accompaniment work.
Lindley describes the role of the accompanist – one which suited him very well – as; It is not merely the ability to play the notes and be with the soloist which is a common enough accomplishment. The really good accompanist must possess the instinct which allows him to make instantaneous decisions and adjustments in matters of balance and resonance. He must feel the one note in the middle of the chord which will add poignancy and colour to the soloist’s melodic line. And he must add requisite support and carefully adjust the piano tone where the voice is likely to be a little thin, perhaps during an awkward vowel, or where the vocal or instrumental tessitura has not been properly considered by the composer.
By 1921 Evans was a member of the piano staff at the NSW Conservatorium, had a private teaching studio in the Paling’s building in Sydney and was often invited to play with visiting artists. After a very successful recital with John Lemmoné Evans played for Dame Nellie Melba with the result that he was invited to be her accompanist on many tours building a partnership that lasted for many years. He accompanied her in England in 1922-23 and on her later tours of Australia. Dame Melba said of Lindley Evans that he was the best accompanist that she had ever had – high praise indeed when former accompanists included Una Bourne and associate artists included Wilhelm Backhaus. A trademark of his accompaniment work for Melba was that he played all of the pieces on every program by memory.
The ABC Children’s program, the Argonauts’ club, was one of Evans favourite activities. On this show he became known as “Mr Melody Man” and introduced thousands of young Australians to an amazing array of musical activities including performances by soloists of all types who sang or played on exotica such as cimbalom, Irish Harp, musical glasses, spinet, lute, harpsichord, virginals, mandolin, balalaika as well as the more traditional instruments.The program ran, with great popularity, until 1969.
Lindley Evans died in 1982 and was survived by his wife Marie.
(Extracts taken from biographical notes by Jeanell Carrigan. See The Composers’ Series)