Miriam Hyde

Dr Miriam Hyde, AO OBE AMUA, LAB, MusBac(Hons), ARCM, L:RAM, HonDlitt, HonFMusA, HonFIMT, FCompASMC, HonDipMus, one of the foremost Australian pianists and composers of the twentieth century, was born in Adelaide on 15 January 1913. After early studies with her mother, she won an AMEB scholarship at the age of 12 to the Elder Conservatorium as a pupil of William Silver, who remained her tutor until 1931.

With MusBac(Hons) she then won the Elder Overseas Scholarship for three years at the Royal College of Music, London. Although composition was nominally a second study, it vied with piano for her time, as she produced a number of orchestral works including two concertos, in which she was soloist with the major London orchestras including the BBC.

Returning to Adelaide in 1936, she wrote much of the incidental music for South Australia’s Centenary pageant, Heritage.

Seeking wider opportunities, she moved to Sydney. There she remained, apart from a few of the War years in which her husband Marcus Edwards was a POW.

She was busy as a pianist, composer, teacher, examiner, lecturer and writer of numerous articles and analyses for music journals. For many years she conducted workshops in New South Wales country towns, for students preparing for piano examinations. She was in demand for giving master classes featuring her own compositions.

Miriam was recitalist in capital cities and regional centres, and broadcast extensively on ABC Radio and 2MBS-FM. She gave her services in concerts for musical and other charities.

She marked the year of her 80th birthday with recitals in Sydney, Perth, Adelaide and Ingham featuring two monumental sonatas – Sonata in F minor by Brahms and Sonata in B minor by Liszt. She was a soloist in her Piano Concerto No.2 with the Sydney Symphony. She continued to perform from memory.

In 1997, aged 84, she travelled to London to give a concert of her major works at the Royal College of Music, some 62 years after her studies there. In that same year, the eminent pianist James Muir, with his Sydney Chamber Players, paid Miriam a great compliment by recording much of her unpublished chamber music on two CDs, produced by Walsingham.

In recent years, far from retiring, she performed with the Strathfield Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Dr Solomon Bard, her Fantasy-Romantic, and at the age of 89, her Piano Concerto No.2 in C# minor.

In her 88th year, some of Sydney’s outstanding piano teachers presented tribute concerts featuring their students playing her works.

Her Happy Occasion Overture was played at the official opening of the 1995 CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting) in Wellington, New Zealand, in the presence of the Queen.

In 1996 Film Australia produced a documentary of her life for the Australian Biography series on SBS Television.

Her compositions were in many categories – piano solos and duets; chamber music involving piano, violin, viola, cello, flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon (2 CDs on the Walsingham label); orchestral (2 piano concertos and Fantasy-Romantic, 4 overtures, also Heroic Elegy, Lyric, Village Fair, Fantasia on Waltzing Matilda); and 50 songs and some choral works. In 2000, the ABC re-issued her piano concertos and Village Fair on a new CD for the Eloquence label.

Her major literary work was her autobiography Complete Accord, published by Currency Press in 1991. She wrote almost 500 poems, 15 of these used in her own songs, of which 5 won first prize in song competitions. For a selection of 50 poems, see the State Library of South Australia:

Miriam was Patron of the Music Teachers’ Associations of New South Wales and South Australia, of the Australian Musicians Academy and of the Blue Mountains and Inner West Eisteddfods; Honorary Life Member of the Fellowship of Australian Composers and of the Strathfield Symphony Orchestra.

In 2002, she was Guest of Honour and Artist-in-Residence at the Barossa International Festival of Music.

Miriam’s special awards include the OBE, AO, HonDLitt (Macquarie University), HonFMusA, International Woman of the Year for Service to Music (1991-1992 and 1998-99) from the Cambridge International Biographical Centre. As recently as 2001 she was awarded a Fellowship of the Institute of Music Teachers, and in 2002, of the Australian Society of Musicology and Composition. In 2002, she was presented with an Award from the Australian Music Centre for Long-Term Contribution to the Advancement of Australian Music.

On her 90th birthday, 15 January 2003, the ABC presented a celebratory concert at their Eugene Goossens Hall, Sydney with performances by outstanding musicians of some of her piano solos, chamber works and songs. It was broadcast direct on ABC Classic FM.

In 2004 Dr Miriam Hyde was awarded by, American Biographical Institute: Woman of the Year 2004; The Australian International Conservatorium of Music: HonDipMus; University of Adelaide: Distinguished Alumni Award (for 2003) and APRA (Australasian Performing Right Association): Distinguished Services to Australian Music.

Her other interests included writing, gardening, Italian, Scrabble, watching cricket and tennis.

Dr Miriam Hyde died on 11 January 2005. A Tribute Concert of her music and poetry was held at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, 23 July 2005, to honour her life and work.

Photograph: Geoff Aitken

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