With AYO National Music Camp upon us we remember Professor John Bishop (1903-1964) and take a moment to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his passing.
‘There was Prof, Prof, washing at the trough… In the store, in the store… There was Prof, Prof, speaking like a toff… In the quartermaster’s store!’
The raucous ‘choir’ of about 150 voices sang these irreverent words to the old army song The Quartermaster’s Store while waiting impatiently for the camera to be set up for the official photo of the 1955 National Music Camp. No one was smiling more broadly and indulgently than John Bishop, the co-founder a few years earlier, together with Ruth Alexander, of the National Music Camp Association, and now the object of the ‘choir’s’ incantation. The all-round good humour was almost palpable, as Professor John Bishop was the much admired, revered and respected music educationist known with great affection to all present, and to whole generations of previous Campers and members of the future Australian Youth Orchestra.
John Bishop’s vision embraced not only Music Camp and AYO but also the arts generally, and his drive, persuasive ability and leadership led among other things to his joint founding of the Adelaide Festival of Arts, Australia’s premier arts festival. His contributions to music education particularly as Elder Professor of Music at the University of Adelaide were characterized by an innate ability to add excitement to the studies of generations of music students exposed to the wonders of music and the enrichment it brings to young lives.
This year commemorates the 50th anniversary of John Bishop’s death. The musical organization of AYO he was instrumental in bringing into existence now has an enviable international reputation, an achievement barely dreamt of during his lifetime, but one of which he would surely be proud.
At one of the many memorable appearances as performer during the light-hearted student revues at National Music Camp in the ‘60s just a few years before his death, John Bishop read the Ogden Nash verses for an impromptu performance of the Carnival of the Animals. The verses include the following:
The lion is the king of beasts,
And husband of the lioness.
Gazelles and things on which he feasts
Address him as your highoness.
For a few days afterwards Music Campers addressed each other as “your Highoness”, partly in ironical imitation and partly deferential towards their much-loved “Prof”. His smile of acknowledgment was unmistakeable, and for many, unforgettable.