DALLEY-SCARLETT, ROBERT (1887-1959), musician, was born on 16 April 1887 at
Darlinghurst, Sydney, son of Robert Campbell Scarlett, public servant, and his
wife Emily Florence, née Hancock. The prefix to his surname was adopted on the
insistence of his godfather William Bede Dalley, and was later hyphened. Educated
at Sydney Grammar School, he was a clerk with the Sydney Municipal Council in
1905-12. He had learned piano from S. Gordon Laver and organ under Arthur Mason,
city organist, while young, and was soon serving as organist in suburban churches,
singing in choirs and conducting amateur choirs and orchestras. In 1912, he became
organist and choral conductor to Christ Church Anglican Cathedral, Grafton.
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Australian Dictionary of Biography
Robert Dalley-Scarlett was an organist, conductor, and composer who was a pivotal musical figure in Brisbane for 40 years. Initially a clerk with the Sydney Municipal Council, he became organist and master of the choristers at Christ Church Cathedral, Grafton in 1912, returning there after serving briefly in the First World War.
Appointed organist of St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Brisbane in 1919 and remaining there until 1932, he held a series of similar posts in that city, including Valley Methodist Church (1932-1934), and All Saints, Wickham Terrace (1934-1941). He also conducted the South Brisbane City Choir (1920-1925) and the University of Queensland Musical Society (1920-1930, 1938-1941), giving a number of first Brisbane performances of works by Renaissance composers and Bach.
In 1934, Dalley-Scarlett obtained a doctorate of music from the University of Adelaide through external studies. Aside from his church and choral posts he was an active participant in professional dialogue through his involvement with the advisory board on music to the University of Queensland, and he was a founding member of the Musical Association of Queensland. He was also critic for both the Australian Musical News (1934-1937) and the Brisbane Courier Mail (1945-1946, 1952-1959).
In 1941 Dalley-Scarlett gave up private teaching and organ playing to assume a full time position with the Australian Broadcasting Commission, working as music presentation officer, acting music supervisor, and music arranger. He was a prolific composer, and was founding president of the Queensland Guild of Australian Composers (1940-1943). His many works include choral, orchestral, and chamber music, and solo works for organ. Relatively few of his works have been published though many were broadcast or performed locally.
During his lifetime Dalley-Scarlett accumulated a personal library of some 5000 volumes, now held at the Fisher Library, University of Sydney. His scholarly interests lay principally in the music of Handel. He possessed nearly 150 first editions of Handel and his contemporaries. From this collection he produced numerous performing editions, and wrote extensively on performance practice of the eighteenth century. He ran two successful Handel festivals in Brisbane in 1933 and 1934, and conducted the Brisbane Handel Society from 1934. Under his direction, the Society broadcast all the Handel oratorios, and in the 1950s gave annual unabridged performances of the oratorio Messiah.