Vale Patricia Brown
It is with great sadness that we farewell Patricia Brown, musicologist and choral director of UNSW, who died on Tuesday 18 April. Patricia was laid to rest following a funeral service on Tuesday 2 May at St Canice’s Catholic Church, Elizabeth Bay.
Heralding from Brisbane, Patricia studied music at the University of Queensland, and was the first Music Librarian at the National Library of Australia. She accepted a position at UNSW in 1972, becoming an absolute powerhouse in music performance and musicology. She continued performing with the Leonine Consort and Grainger Consort while developing new programs in the small but flourishing music department at UNSW. Patricia served as Chorus Director for over fifty different works for UNSW Opera, performing in numerous opera productions and twice with UNSW’s Australia Ensemble.
In 1975, Patricia established UNSW’s first choral ensemble, The Dowland Singers. This was the beginning of an enormous contribution to the campus community at UNSW - The Dowland Singers later became the Collegium Musicum Choir and Burgundian Consort, which Patricia directed from 1975 until the end of 2002. As Choral Director, Patricia engaged over 1400 singers spanning the entire UNSW community in repertoire from across centuries of western music. With uncommon energy and relentless dedication, Patricia produced quality performances at UNSW for 28 years, working with singers from absolute beginners to the highly accomplished. She asked a lot of her young scholars, and they respectfully always stepped up to the challenge.
With her husband and colleague, Roger Covell, Patricia produced recital documentaries, operas, choral and instrumental programs, commissioned new works, undertook research projects and publications, and taught hundreds of students. She continued her own research, awarded a PhD from UNSW in 1996 for her thesis “Sempre Libera”: changes and variation in singing style in Verdi’s “La Traviata” from the first century of operati sound recording. Patricia could be formidable with her high academic expectations, but also showed ferocious loyalty and great kindness to her students and colleagues. She was keen to give opportunities to those who showed musical strengths, and conceived projects to best exemplify their skills and talents. Patricia was feisty, passionate, and completely dedicated to her work of in music.
Patricia sang, conducted, played, and even danced, aside from her work as researcher and educator. In 2017, Patricia's contribution to the musical life of UNSW was honoured through the awarding of an Honorary Fellowship through the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.
Following her final performance with the two UNSW choirs in 2002, a Sydney Morning Herald review noted “The choir sang from the heart in a witty and touching tribute to their fine leader”, the choir’s allegiance to Patricia clearly palpable to the audience. Patricia’s leadership, musicianship, vitality and unwavering dedication provided UNSW with a strong foundation for choral performance, and contributed to the UNSW community in a unique and immeasurable way.
Patricia had boundless energy, a great love of birds and birdsong, of the Australian bush, and of music and its histories. She loved to travel throughout Europe, where she took in all of the musical, cultural and historical treasures on offer. She lived a life dedicated to music and music-making, and we are all the richer for it.