My European Musical Heritage

Comments: 0

When I saw my Great Uncle Cecil Parkes feature on the first music filmclip in Australia on a Video retrieved from the National Film Archives by his Grandaughter Katherine Griffiths and her mother Margaret Griffiths nee Parkes, I was inspired to look further into my Musical Heritage.

I was also fascinated to read the book ‘Prodigy’ about the careers of my musical ancestors, written by Cecil Parkes son in Law,  Gregor Mc Shane the husband of Cecil’s daughter Cecilie.

Book about my Musical Heritage Introduction to Book "Prodigy"


My European Music Heritage.

My great Grandfather Albert Parkes and his three sons Cecil, Kingsley and Milton had a profound effect on the Australian musical scene between 1900 to 1940.  Cecil is the older brother of concert pianist Milton (My grandfather) and youngest brother Violinist Kingsley.   Albert took on the role as their guardian on tour, their tutor and their business manager.   Continue reading to find out about Albert’s inspiring performing and teaching career…


Left – Cecil Parkes
Centre – Albert Parkes
Right – Milton Parkes

Before arriving in Australia

Albert Parkes (b.1868) was a celebrated concert violinist from Covent Garden, Manchester and was taught by a pupil of Joseph Joachim, the famous Hungarian violinist and composer.  By the time he was 17 he was playing in the Halle Orchestra in Manchester UK which still exists today.

Emigrating to Australia

1 of 8 children Albert at the age of 20, and his family emigrated to Australia in 1889 during the depression. Sailing on the SS Liguria on December 21 1888, not long out of England, Albert played the fiddle for dancing on the deck.  Albert helped to organise a concert on board at which he performed and found a pianist and singing skipper onboard to accompany him.

Performing on ships must run in the family.  I have had the opportunity to perform on ships in over 120 countries across Europe, Mediterranean, South America, Alaska, Canada, China, Japan and South East Asia.  Touring around the world has also inspired me greatly to learn, perform and record music from many cultures.

Albert Parkes, Cecil Parkes, Milton Parkes

Sitka Alaksa – Native American Inuit Totem Poles

This is the ship I performed on from Vancouver to Sitka and back.  The tour went for 4 months where I had the fortune to see the glaciers of Juno and Ketchikan and Old Fronteir town Skagway.

Having a strum in front of the glacier in Ketchikan

As Alberts family arrived in Australia during the depression, Albert’s income from playing and teaching kept his family going by offering music lessons as his father James, a cabinet maker and wheelright could not find work.

Albert taught at Carlton College then at the Conservatorium of Music, Melbourne (Later Melba Memorial Conservatorium of Music), Allan’s and Glen’s music stores.  Almost all of the violinists in the Williamstown Symphony Orchestra were his pupils and many were to take their place later in professional orchestras.  Albert would conduct the Williamstown Orchestra at the renowned Ballarat Competitions with great success as did many of its members in the individual sections.  Many famous Australian artists from Melbourne and Victoria claimed their first success at the Ballarat Competitions and virtually launched their career from there.   Albert was called on to conduct choirs, orchestras and opera at the Princess Theatre which still exists today.

Princess Theatre (source

Albert Parkes played as a section leader of the Second Violins in an Orchestral Concert organised by George Allen of Allen & Company, Music Shop proprietors and publishers in 1892 in the Melbourne Town Hall to a full House. The concert was a triumph and was followed by the creation of an organisation headed by Carl Pinchoff, Austrian consul, who, with his wife, controlled the Albert Street Conservatorium, Madam Wiederman, John Mackay, Felix Meyer, James Barrett and others.  The result was that concerts were given continuously until 1902.  The programme for July 27 1901 shows that Mr A Parkes in the Violins and Mr F Dierich, Alberts’ teacher in Australia, as orchestral leader (known today as concert master).

Alberts wife Lillian was also a violinist and pianist and taught the piano in her early adult years. Albert continued to teach until the 1940’s after having retired from professional playing in 1922.


When I found out about my musical heritage, especially when I saw my Great Uncle Cecil feature on the first music filmclip in Australia

I was inspired to record an album called Virtuoso as a homage to my Great-grandfather, Grandfather and Great Uncles which features music they would have performed, arranged for Spanish Guitar. 

As a THANK YOU for being one of my subscribers I want to give you a sample from this album for free – no strings attached. Pardon the pun.

Download my version of Flight of the Bumblebee by Rimsky-Korsakov by clicking here.

If you like the track you might also consider checking out El Vito. It’s my latest album and it’s full of Spanish Classical and flamenco Guitar tunes including songs from Carmen that I have loved performing for decades.

I hope you have enjoyed gaining some insight about my Musical Heritage, the path that my ancestors laid out before me.

Milton Parkes, Kingsley Parkes, Cecil Parkes









From front to back Cecil Parkes, Kingsley Parkes, Milton Parkes on piano

Stay tuned for the following posts which continues the story about Albert Parkes and three sons Cecil, Kingsley and Milton and how they influenced the Australian musical scene from the 1920’s onwards. Cecil’s brush with fame with dignitaries such as Dame Nellie Melba and Lillie Langtry and how Cecil featured in the Strad trio with his wife on piano on the first Music Filmclip in Australia.

Mc Shane, Gregor, Prodigy. New Zealand : Southern Lights Auckland, 1991.

Information shared about my family has been sourced from the book Prodigy, written by Gregor McShane, the Son in law of Cecil Parkes.  Most of the foundational information for the book was gathered in tape-recorded interviews with Cecil Parkes in 1980. His brother Kingsley and Cecil’s wife May were interview in 1986. Linda Phillips O.B.E., composer and music critic, was also interviewed in that year.  Cecil and May’s daughters, Margaret and Cecilie and Noela Fagan, daughter of Cecil’s brother Milton contributed.

There are no comments yet, add one below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *