The Tait Memorial Trust

Sir Frank Tait and his four brothers played a very important part in the establishment of theatre and the performing arts in Australia. The Trust  recognises with an annual award the major contribution of Viola, Lady Tait – who died in 2002 – as a founding patron of the Trust.

Sir Frank & Lady Tait, ca. 1960

Sir Frank & Lady Tait, ca. 1960

The Trust offers awards/grants for postgraduate study, performance opportunities to young Australian musicians and performing artists, and general help in the furtherance of their careers while resident in the UK.

The Trust has helped many young singers and instrumentalists who have subsequently performed with British orchestras and in leading opera houses, including Li-Wei, Liane Keegan, Benjamin Bayl, William Chen, Natalie Christie, Grant Doyle, Leslie John Flanagan, Julian Gavin and Joanna Cole.

Through the Royal Over-Seas League it grants a scholarship to ‘the Australian musician showing the most promise’ in the Annual Music Competition. The Trust also grants a prize to the winner of Opera Foundation Australia’s Covent Garden National Opera Studio Scholarship, and to a finalist in the Mietta Song Recital Award in Melbourne.

To ensure its continuance the Trust arranges regular fund raising events and concerts, invariably featuring the talented young winners of the various awards, and relies a great deal on financial support from the business sector, private donors and other loyal supporters.

The Trust has helped many young singers and instrumentalists who have subsequently performed with British orchestras and in leading opera houses, including Li-Wei, Liane Keegan, Benjamin Bayl, William Chen, Natalie Christie, Grant Doyle, Leslie John Flanagan, Julian Gavin and Joanna Cole.

Through the Royal Over-Seas League in London, it grants a scholarship to ‘the Australian musician showing the most promise’ in the Annual Music Competition. The Trust also grants a prize to the winner of Opera Foundation Australia’s Covent Garden National Opera Studio Scholarship, and to a finalist in the Mietta Song Recital Award in Melbourne.

To ensure its continuance the Trust arranges regular fund raising events and concerts, invariably featuring the talented young winners of the various awards, and relies a great deal on financial support from the business sector, private donors and other loyal supporters.

Founding Patrons of the Trust were Viola Lady Tait and the Dame Joan Sutherland. The Patrons now include The RH Countess of Harewood; Dr. John Amis; Peggy Haim; Barry Humphries AO CBE; Piers Lane; Googie Withers AO CBE and Roger Woodward AC CBE.

The Tait Performing Arts Association in Australia together with the Trust  carries on this fine tradition of support for Australian performing artists.

Tait Brothers

In Melbourne, Australia, three years before the turn of the century, a family of five sons of John Turnbull Tait, a sheep farmer in Lerwick, Shetland who had emigrated to Australia in 1860, emerged into the entertainment world to become the dominating influence in the theatrical scene for the next seventy years.

One of their earlier ventures, in 1905, was to make the world’s first full length feature film – a 9,000 ft film on the capture of the notorious Ned Kelly Gang. The film was a sensation and was played in every Australian capital city until the films wore out. Only fragments remain.

J & N Tait Concert Management was formed in 1906. From concert management the Tait brothers amalgamated with J C Williamson in 1920 to form the largest theatrical empire in the world, offering a constant flow of ballet, drama, grand opera and musical comedy.

They presented world famous celebrities such as Melba, Chaplin, Flagstad, Pavlova, Harry Lauder, David Oistrakh, Margot Fonteyn, Menuhin and many others. In 1957, Frank Tait was made a Knight Batchelor by the Queen in recognition of the major contribution he and his brothers has given in their dedication to Australian theatre.

It was Sir Frank’s ambition to present the late Dame Joan Sutherland to the Australian public after her international acclaim. The Sutherland Williamson Opera Company was formed in 1963. Richard Bonynge as Artistic Director engaged a team of world renowned principals and internationally successful Australian artists. One of the principals was Luciano Pavarotti, a young tenor from Modena. The chorus was all Australian. There was no government subsidy and the fate of Williamson’s future rested on the success of the venture.

Sir Frank lived to see his ambition fulfilled. The triumphant Melbourne opening heralded the return of Dame Joan to her homeland. It was a season never to be forgotten. In Richard Bonynge’s words: “Sir Frank Tait has done the greatest service to Australian Theatre and to the arts of anyone we know.”

The Tait brothers

The Tait brothers

Sir Frank died at the age of 81 after the Melbourne season finished and while the company were in Adelaide. It was the end of an era in the history of Australian theatre.