Marsh, The Spell that Beams in Woman’s Eye

For voice and piano. Sydney, 1850-2. Text: Sir Thomas Livingstone Mitchell.
Edited by Richard Divall
Australian Music Series – MDA031
ISBN 978-0-9925673-0-9 / ISMN 979-0-9009655-0-9

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Stephen Hale Alonzo Marsh was born in Sidmouth, Devon on either 4 February 1806 or 4 January 1805. His father, John Marsh operated concert halls in Sidmouth and the young Stephen made his musical debut there in 1817 at the age of eleven. Marsh married in 1826 and studied keyboard and also harp with the pioneer of the modern instrument, Nicholas Charles Bochsa (1789-1856). In England Marsh composed a considerable number of works, which were published by the noted music houses of Chappel and Co and Wessell and Co. including a Grand Sacred Cantata The Spirit of Music.

MDA031 pic1Following his sister, Marsh and his wife immigrated to Sydney in 1842, on the same ship as the explorer and his friend, Dr Ludwig Leichardt. During the voyage the composer wrote several works on immigration, and later Marsh was to compose two works on Leichardt. In collaboration and in competition with Isaac Nathan, he gave numerous concerts in Sydney, some of them orchestral concerts. For thirty years Marsh made an active contribution to music and composition in Sydney and in 1872 departed Australia for Yokohama, before finally settling in San Francisco where he died on 21 January 1888.

Sir TMDA031 pic2homas Livingstone Mitchell was one of Australia’s most dedicated explorers. Mitchell saw service in the Peninsula Wars and specialised in the drawing up of maps and gathering topographical intelligence for the campaign. An active and enquiring man, he was appointed Surveyor-General of New South Wales in 1828, succeeding the explorer John Oxley. He was a keen admirer of poetry and during the period, several of his poetic works were published in Sydney journals and newspapers. Fifty-five of his own poems survive, and he did a complete translation from the Portuguese of the epic poem Lusiads of Luís Vaz de Camões.

Mitchell’s three verses of The Spell that Beams in Woman’s Eye were set by Marsh probably around the same time as Nathan’s setting of The Meeting of the East and the West, also to a poem by Mitchell. The song was published on two pages, possibly by the music house of Henry Marsh. Only the first verse is set to music, with verse two and three being  printed below the score on the final page. The only copy of the song is found in Volume VII of the Papers of Sir Thomas Mitchell, (M 3122), held in The Mitchell Library, which is named after him.