Fans will have a chance to bid on Melbourne’s – and indeed Australia’s – classical music history this month, with a collection of autographs from the iconic and well-loved Thomas’ Music going under the hammer. The store, which closed down in March this year, was a hub for classical music fans and performers alike, with a back wall of ceiling tiles signed by the many artists who had passed through its doors over the years.
The collection – over 200 autographs – includes signatures by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Dame Joan Sutherland, Elisabeth Schwartzkopf, Victoria de Los Angeles, conductors Arthur Fiedler and Neville Marriner as well as artists such as Elvis Costello, Nana Mouskouri, Adam Ant, and John Clarke – even Andre Rieu.
Thomas’ Music. Photo supplied
“The autographs started during the 50s, originally on the ceiling tiles of the store at the corner of Bourke and Exhibition Streets,” Thomas’ managing director Elisabeth Vodicka tells Limelight. “It quickly grew into a vital record of celebrated artists who visited the store over the subsequent 60 years. Although often we’d be so enamoured of whoever it was, we would forget to ask for their signature!”
“I started at Thomas’ in the mid-80s as a teenager and was immediately enamoured by the clientele and ambience of the store,” Vodicka told Limelight earlier this year. “That was always the highlight – who was going to walk in the door? Musicians, politicians, actors, comedians and a wide range of interesting professional people who just wanted to browse or chat about music. John Clarke was a much loved ‘staff favourite’ and I’ll never forget Joan Kirner, upon seeing only women behind the counter one day, announcing ‘there’s been a revolution!’ You just need to browse our autograph collection to realise the wide appeal and reputation of Thomas’ Music.”
“There’s so many,” she says when pressed for favourites. “Victoria De Los Angeles, Danny Kaye, Stephen Kovacevich, David Oistrakh, Walter Susskind, Dave Allen… a plethora of genres. My favourite would be the Dave Brubeck, which was before my time.”
But it wasn’t just the artists that were memorable. “A favourite memory, which does not involve a musician, was soon after I’d taken over the store, which meant that the staff was predominantly female – a notable first for Thomas’ Music (and the music industry!),” Vodicka says. “Long-time customer and ex-Premier of Victoria, Joan Kirner, walked in one day, took one look at counter staff and announced in her gravelly mezzo: ‘There’s been a revolution!’”
The collection can be viewed in December 12 before the auction at the Leonard Joel Auction House, Melbourne on December 13