1930 - 2000
The Story of the making of
The opera by Kevin Fenner and John Joseph Jones.
Chapter One: Margaret's Story
The idea to write an operatic work based on the life of
C.Y. O'Connor came into the head of Margaret Dylan Jones, the
librettist's then 24 year old androgyne offspring, while on a coach
trip over the Nullabor plain. Margaret was returning to Perth after a
three-year sojourn in Sydney, where she had been working as an
The year was 1985, and she was still seven years away from completing
the Bachelor of Music (composition) degree she had almost completed
with Roger Smalley before heading east. Margaret had continued
composing, just a little. And, after taking up singing while in Sydney,
she was very keen to embark on something grander, utilizing voices,
especially an opera.
Opera subjects don't grow on trees, she thought to herself as the coach
moved on through the Western Australian wheatbelt, where the few trees
offered a welcome contrast to the no-trees Nullabor. She was staring
out the window when she noticed the large silver-grey pipeline lining
the edge of the road. An idea hit her with a force equivalent to the
tremendous rush of water that must have been surging through that pipe:
the life of the famous engineer who built the pipeline would be a
PERFECT story for an opera.
Eventually Margaret was back at university composing under the tutelage
of Smalley. In preparation for the big project she wrote a couple of
pieces as 'studies', including 'Concerto for CY O'Connor' (strings and
tenor voice). She read all she could find about O'Connor, and took
photos at the O'Connor museum and the Mundaring Weir (not far from
where she grew up). She went twice to a play about the engineer. A
couple of local writers were approached about writing a libretto, but
nothing came of it. Margaret even started to write a libretto herself,
out of desperation.
Exactly why it took several years for her to turn to her father, a
prolific writer of poetry, short stories and plays, is one of those
father-child mysteries that linger. Eventually, around 1988, Margaret
asked her Dad.
Predictably, Margaret didn't like the way John was going about it. It
wasn't her way of doing such things. After humming and harring over her
father's offering, she said "Thanks, Dad, but no thanks". But John was
So, a full libretto was produced (which is published by Hovea Music
Press). A composer was found: another local Perth composer, Kevin
Stay tuned for the next chapter!
© 2002 Hovea Music Press
Works by John Joseph Jones published by
Hovea Music Press
- Poetry As Such No.1 and No. 2
Poems of Celebration
- ...where eucalypts green-tip the sky: musical settings
by Margaret Dylan Jones
Tuart Forest, Ludlow
Yellow Tingle Tree
My page About
John Joseph Jones
- Synopsis of Pipedream,
the opera about C.Y. O'Connor.
Other sites with more information about John:
© Hovea Music Press
2002 & M D Jones 2010