THE WORLD -FAMED FISK JUBILEE SINGERS, WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Only the front of this interesting cover was seen, and it had an advertisement for The World-Famed Fisk Jubilee Singers, Box 1273, G.P.O., Sydney. The envelope was a printed-to-private-order red KGV One Penny stamp [A.S.C. Type 3 E5 issued in 1916] which was cancelled with a MOUNT PALMER/ 10 DEC 17/ WESTN AUSTRALIA postmark, addressed to A.W. Millar Esq, Theatre Royal, Perth. W.A. (Figure 1).
This postmark is described as ‘Type D iv’ which has a 3-letter month and WESTN AUSTRALIA at the base, and although Mount Palmer is recorded in Western Australia Postal Markings Compendium 2002, its only entry is for a ‘Type C 30mm’, previously ‘Palmers Find’, post office closed 1947. Examples of the two postmarks (one of ‘Type C’ above, and two of ‘Type D iv’ below) are seen in Figure 2.
Palmers Find Mine at Mount Palmer was located in the Western Australia, a 370 km east of Perth, at an altitude 369 metres. The nearest populated place is the village of Marvel Loch, 20 km south west (at the tip of the red arrow) and which to-day has a population of 250. Palmers Find Mine produced 156,000 ounces of gold from 1935-49 when it closed, and one has to wonder about the association of a person living in Mount Palmer with the Theatre Royal, Perth, as well as the use of this cover. The Palmers Find Mine is shown with the blue arrow (Figure 3).
The Canadian-born Thomas G.A. Molloy at the age of ten migrated with his parents to Perth in 1862 and by the 1890's he was described as a man of independent means. He became the monetary force behind the construction of Perth’s three major buildings, of which, the Theatre Royal. was Perth’s first substantial theatre and one of the city’s largest buildings. It was started in 1896 and was completed by Gustave Liebe, being opened in April 1897. I could find no information that the Fisk Jubilee Singers ever performed in Western Australia. The historic Theatre Royal and Metropole Hotel, Perth is seen in Figure 4.
Minstrelsy began in Australia in Sydney on 28 August, 1838 when a Mr. Ferguson sang the celebrated popular comic song ‘Jim Crow’ at the Royal Victoria Theatre. Subsequently following the first tour of the Georgia Minstrels, a number of other black troupes were to follow with an off-shoot of the world-famous Fisk Jubilee Singers arriving in Australia in 1886 and they toured extensively through Australasia with great success. Mr Orpheus Myron McAdoo ‘cashed’ in on their success and the Fisk Singers toured Africa, England with a performance before Queen Victoria, and in continental Europe. McAdoo had several tours in Australia and he died in Sydney on 17 July 1900, and was buried in the Bronte Cemetery, Sydney. A poster of McAdoo and the original Fisk Jubilee Singers is seen in Figure 5.
The Fisk School was opened in 1866 in an abandoned Union Army barrack under the auspices of the American Missionary Association of New York City and the Freedmen's Aid Commission. The school was destitute and desperately required funds. George L. White, Fisk choirmaster, suggested to the Board of Directors, that he take the Fisk choir on tour to raise money. His plan was rejected but White raised the money on his own and in 1871 took a group of nine Fisk students on the road.
Initially the group sang classical works and proper hymns and their reception was lukewarm among the white audiences. Among themselves they sang the "spirituals" that were born of those not too distant "Camp Meetings". One of those defining moments would occur on the evening of November 15, 1871 during a concert of the Fisk Singers. Near the end of the performance, Choirmaster White inserted a spiritual song "Steal Away to Jesus". The response was utterly enthusiastic. The spirituals sung by these fledgling groups would become the basis for what would become known as ‘Jubilee’ style singing, and the Fisk choir later became known as the Fisk Jubilee singers. A notice concerning an upcoming program by the Jubilee Singers of Fisk University, Nashville Tennessee to be held at the Town Hall, Birmingham on Thursday, February 26 and Tuesday, March 3, 1974 is shown in Figure 6.