This article examines the variety of women’s performance of music in the respectable middle and working-class world of colonial Ballarat, in the decades following the gold rushes. For many women, music was far more than a genteel accomplishment. Through music women achieved personal, social and aesthetic rewards. They gained public approval and made a real difference to their community. Within the context of performance, women used music to situate themselves at the forefront of activity, and in positions of power. This article has been peer-reviewed.
When gold was discovered at Ballarat in 1851, the peaceful pastoral community was transformed into a rough mining camp. People from all parts of the world came in search of wealth, bringing with them a diversity of cultural and spiritual affiliations. As the musical life of the various denominational groups developed according to specific doctrinal principles and local influences, strong opinions were expressed in the community regarding the place of music in worship. This article looks at the developments in sacred music during the two decades that saw Ballarat transformed into a major city. The strong differences in discourse and practice that were evident between and within particular religious groups form a background for reflecting upon contemporary perceptions of the function of music in worship.