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Beaumont, Edward Armes (1842–1913)

Mr. Edward Armes Beaumont, the finest tenor singer Australia has produced, and whose name 25 years ago was a household word throughout the Commonwealth, died at his residence, Flemington road, North Melbourne, at an early hour yesterday morning. For some weeks past his health had been failing, and his advanced age, 72 years, made his death not quite unexpected. His sister, Mrs. J. H. Fox (also a well-known singer), with whom he had been living, and to whom he was greatly attached, died a few weeks ago, and her demise undoubtedly hastened his end.

Armes Beaumont was the name by which the deceased was generally known, and as an operatic and concert singer he gained for himself a high place in the affections of the music-loving people of Australia. Unassuming, kindly disposed towards those who found life's roadway harder than he had found it, he gained for himself, because of these personal qualities, a place which was as high in the esteem of those who came to know him as was that which his abilities as a singer and an artist gained for him in the wider circle of his public admirers. He was not the descendant of forebears who had handed on from generation to generation the wonderful vocal gifts which he possessed, but, in common with his two sisters, he was passionately fond of music from his earliest youth. Australia cannot claim the credit of his birth, but only eight short years had elapsed before he came to this country. He was born at a little village called St. Faith's, near Norwich, and he landed in Melbourne in 1848. His education did not differ from that which is usually afforded those who are not too well blessed with the goods of this world, and at its conclusion he became a shipping clerk.

The commencement of his stage career was as unusual in its surrounding circumstances as it was instantaneously successful. Each Sunday he sang in the choir attached to the Brunswick street Wesleyan Chapel, which was then conducted by a Mrs. Spensley. There he gained his knowledge of the rudiments of music, and particularly of sacred music, in which afterwards he perhaps gained his greatest successes. In December, 1861, the young singer attended the usual Christmas concert. In those days the Melbourne Musical Union gave a sacred concert each Christmas, and in 1861 a production of The Messiah was announced. Mr. Henry Squires, the great tenor of the time, was to sing the tenor solos, but just prior to the commencement of the performance he became seriously ill. Armes Beaumont was among the audience, and when the regretful announcement of the illness of Squires was made, Beaumont offered to fill his place. His offer was accepted, and the unrehearsed effort of the singer was so successful that his name was established almost immediately.

Engagements of a minor nature soon crowded in upon young Beaumont, one of his earliest public appearances being in the Prahran Town Hall. Within a short time Mr. W. S. Lyster, the principal of the then well-known Lyster's English and Italian Opera Company, had become so thoroughly enamoured of the qualities of Beaumont's voice that he took the young singer under his own care, and provided for him the only technical training he had ever received. In 1862 Beaumont accepted his first important engagement to sing at the concert of M.M. Poussard and Douay, two leading French instrumentalists, who were then appearing in Adelaide under the direction of Mr. R. S. Smythe. Madame Stuttaford and H. Wilkinson, the baritone, were also members of the same party. Beaumont made his first appearance in opera in Sydney with the Lyster Company in 1863 in The Bohemian Girl, with Mdlle. Rosalie Durand as prima donna. Four months later he appeared in Melbourne in The Daughter of the Regiment at the old Haymarket Theatre, which was burned down in 1870. In the early seventies Beaumont toured New Zealand with Mr. R. S. Smythe, the other concert artists of the party being Madame Christian and Herr Dohler. For many years in succession the rich voice of the tenor was heard in Melbourne and Sydney — L'Africaine, Faust, William Tell, and Maritana being the operas in which he, perhaps, achieved his most notable successes.

In 1867 a singular accident which resulted in the loss of the sight of one eye befell Mr. Beaumont. In February of that year he was shooting at Donnybrook with Mr. W. S. Lyster. During the course of the day's sport, Beaumont fired at and dropped a bird, which fell on the other side of a wall. He climbed the wall, and just as his head appeared again over the top of the bricks Lyster fired at another bird. Beaumont received the charge in his face, and the sight of his left eye was destroyed.

Notwithstanding this great drawback, Beaumont continued his career, and on the night of his first appearance after the accident he received a tremendous ovation. In 1879 he accompanied Mr. and Mrs. Lyster on a trip to England and America, but he did not make a public appearance during the tour. Eleven years afterwards he left the operatic stage, and formed a concert party of his own, with Mrs. Rosina Palmer, J. Lemmone, Madame Stirling, and H. Gee. They successfully toured Australia and New Zealand, but after some time, in fact in 1894, Beaumont practically retired, occupying his time with teaching, an undertaking at which he was eminently successful. Lyster, with whom Beaumont had been on terms of close friendship, the two men living together for some time at "Sydnenham" on St. Kilda road, left ample provision for Beaumont's future when he died. The collapse which came after the boom, however, reduced what would have been a comfortable bequest to a mere wreckage. In 1910 Beaumont celebrated the jubilee of his professional career, but his physical disabilities were increasing so rapidly that a number of friends and music lovers organised a benefit on his behalf in that year.

There has never been a public performer, either singer or actor, who so endeared himself to the masses of the people, not only by his beautiful voice and the appeal with which he sang, but also by his mode of life and good standing. Unaffected, without pose, he stood for what is ordinarily decribed as "a good fellow." Although he was undoubtedly the idol of the music lovers of the time, he had a fine appreciation of his own powers. The conditions of his time made it impossible for him to receive here that high technical training which, had he possessed it, might have enabled him to gain a world-wide reputation. Beaumont recognised the limitations imposed by what he had missed in that direction, and never sought to go beyond himself. His best work was undoubtedly accomplished in oratorio, and in sacred music, the successes which he achieved in If With All Your Hearts from Elijah, and Every Valley, and Comfort Ye My People, from the Messiah, being still well remembered by the older generation of music lovers. On the concert platform he chose the simplest songs, and although in view of the great change with the standard of concert singing has undergone in recent years it may seem ridiculous, Beaumont gained his greatest reputation with such songs as Come Into the Garden, Maud, My Pretty Jane, The Maid of the Mill, Ehren on the Rhine, The Death of Nelson, Adelaide, and so on. He created the part of Frederick in The Pirates of Penzance, and of Bunthorne in Patience when those operas were first performed in Australia.

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'Beaumont, Edward Armes (1842–1913)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/beaumont-edward-armes-2960/text24105, accessed 16 November 2018.

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