He was one of the last officers to be evacuated from Gallipoli, and was killed in the final days of the battle of the Somme, but amid the horror of the First World War, Frederick Septimus Kelly always found beauty and comfort in music.
A decorated soldier, Olympic gold medallist and celebrated musician and composer, Kelly wrote music in the trenches of Gallipoli and in his dugout on the Western Front, his friends often laughing at his habit of wearing gloves to protect his pianist’s hands.
His compositions though were largely lost and forgotten until recent times, but the Australian War Memorial’s musical artist-in-residence, Chris Latham, is determined to change that.
Kelly’s work has been recorded as part of the Flowers of War project and features in The Lost Jewels, a concert program of lost musical treasures that Latham unearthed to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War. Kelly’s work, the Somme Lament, which was written in the basement of a bombed-out house in Menil-Martinsart in France just two weeks before his death, also features in a program called The Diggers' Requiem.
“Frederick Septimus Kelly was one of the great cultural losses of the First World War. But as an Australian who had largely studied and worked in England, he fell between two stools, claimed by neither country, his music largely unknown,” Latham said. “He was a composer of undeniable genius … and in the coming years, it will become clearer just what kind of talent we lost.”