Source: Whaite family (Australian Variety Theatre Archive)
Fred Whaite i(32 works by) (a.k.a. Frederick Henry Whaite)
Born: Established: 26 Sep 1885 ; Died: Ceased: 19 Oct 1964
Gender: Male
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Composer, librettist, music director, musician.

The son of Harry Whaite, one of Australia's leading scenic artists during the late 1890s and early twentieth century, Fred Whaite established himself in the Australian variety industry as a music director and composer. He studied piano as a youth under Henri Kowalski and gained his orchestral training with Gustave Slapoffski. Showing an early liking for operatic composition, he was encouraged and assisted by J. C. Williamson's music director Andrew MacCunn and Thomas A. Ricketts. Two of his earliest compositions to be published were 'The Coronation: Grand Galop de Concert' (1907) and 'Golden Wattle Schottische' (ca. 1909). Between 1906 and 1909 Whaite was largely associated with the British Pianoforte Depot in Sydney, being engaged as the society's pianist for its series of regular Apollo recitals.

After moving to Maitland NSW for a few years to lead a local orchestra, Whaite began his association with the variety industry, working initially for Edward Branscombe (as pianist for his Orange Dandies troupe), and then Fullers Theatres. His first opera, Carmelita (based on a Spanish story), was staged in Melbourne in 1918 under the auspices of the Fullers and J. and N. Tait. The works is said to have been praised by Fritz Hart, then director of the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music (ctd. Brisbane Courier 4 June 1920, p.12).

Whaite's name is next identified with Walter Johnson's Town Topics, which began an extended season under John N. McCallum at the Cremorne Theatre, Brisbane, from 16 August 1919. In addition to his duties as pianist/music director and arranger, he also regularly contributed songs and ballet music. During his time in Brisbane (1919 - ca. 1922), Whaite played a significant role in disseminating the jazz music craze, which the Brisbane Courier records had recently reached the Queensland capital after finding much popularity in England and America. 'The orchestra, under Mr Fred Whaite,' writes the paper's theatre critic, 'will take a most important part, as the members not only play the jazz music but will also sway their bodies to the rhythm of the music, and the drum and other special features are most startling' (27 September 1919, p.12).

Whaite also wrote the music for a number of burlesques, musical comedies, musical scenas, and sketches, including Punchinello (1919, musical comedy), Robinson Crusoe (pantomime, 1919, with Elton Black), In Amsterdam (comic opera, 1920), Lavender Time (musical comedy, 1920), The Girl of Seville (comic opera, 1921, co-written with Walter Johnson), and The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe (pantomime, 1921, co-written with Billy Maloney).

Whaite and his family left Brisbane in 1923, returning to Melbourne to work as music director for the Fullers. While there he also director the music for Hugh J. Ward's 1924 Christmas pantomime Cinderella, which was staged at the Princess Theatre, Melbourne, beginning 20 December. Brought direct from the London Hippodrome, and produced in association with Fullers' Theatres, Cinderella featured among its Australian cast members such performers as Moon and Morris, Dinks Paterson, Trixie Ireland, and Clivalli's Miniature Circus.

Although much of Whaite's career during the remainder of the 1920s is still to be determined, it is believed that he remained with the Fullers until 1929, at which time he joined the ABC as a music arranger and performer. Between 1930 and 1934, for example, he regularly appeared as a novelty pianist on Sydney stations 2FC and 2BL, with these often being relayed around the country on the ABC network. The 1930s also him write and direct the music for a number of radio dramas - notably The Tin Soldier (1931, musical comedy) and Waratah (1931, pantomime) - as well as leading his own radio vaudeville company and orchestra. In addition to this he collaborated (as composer) on the Clipper and Brown comedy detective radio series with author John 'Jock' Macleod.

Fred Whaite remained with the ABC until his retirement in 1962. He died in 1964. Known to have written countless songs throughout his career, at least twenty-five songs are known to have been published, including 'Rose of My Dreams' (1924), 'My Wollondilly Home' (1925, with John Moore), 'Into the Barrel' (1940, which he dedicated to the Red Cross), 'In-doo-roo-pilly' (1940, with Billy Maloney), 'I'm Cutting up the Rainbow' (ca. 1947), and 'The Little Green Wood' (1953, with John Wheeler). Whaite also reportedly wrote two radio plays in collaboration with S. D. Douglas - Kabula Love Song and Moon

Over Mexico. No production or broadcast details have yet been located for either work.


  • Entries connected with this record have been sourced from historical research into Australian-written music theatre and film conducted by Dr Clay Djubal.

Last amended 22 Jan 2015 10:28:22
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