George Tolhurst

George Tolhurst (5 June 1827[1] – 18 January 1877) was an English composer, resident from 1852 to 1866 in Australia.

Born in Maidstone, Kent, George emigrated to Melbourne with his father, where he practised as a teacher of music.[2] He returned to England in 1866, and died in Barnstaple in 1877. His one large-scale composition, the oratorio Ruth, was first performed in Prahran in Melbourne in 1864, and repeated in London in 1868. Tolhurst is therefore notable as the composer of the first oratorio composed in the colony of Victoria. Though well received by early audiences, Ruth was generally derided for bathos and technical ineptitude in the musical press, and by the early 20th century was generally regarded as the worst oratorio ever composed.[3] It was revived in a re-orchestrated and abridged version at the Royal Albert Hall, London, in 1973, conducted by Antony Hopkins and revived in another format in 2007.


  • 1858 "O, Call It By Some Better Name"[5]
  • 1864 "The Post Galop"[6]
  • 1864 "Christmas in Australia"[7]
  • 1864 Ruth



  1. ^ "George Tolhurst 1827–1877". Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  2. ^ "Music and the Drama". The Argus. Melbourne. 25 March 1865. p. 2 – via Trove.
  3. ^ Feste (January 1920). "Interludes". The Musical Times. 61 (923): 21–25. JSTOR 908478.
  4. ^ Tolhurst, W. H. "The Heart That's True". Williams's Musical Annual and Australian Sketch Book for 1858. Melbourne: W. H. Williams. pp. 19–20 – via Trove.
  5. ^ Tolhurst, George. "O, Call It By Some Better Name". Williams's Musical Annual and Australian Sketch Book for 1858. Melbourne: W. H. Williams. pp. 28–30 – via Trove.
  6. ^ "The Post Galop". The Illustrated Melbourne Post. 25 June 1864 – via Trove.
  7. ^ "Christmas in Australia". The Illustrated Melbourne Post. 24 December 1864 – via Trove.
  8. ^ "Tolhurst's Ruth [sound recording]" – via Trove. Recorded in the Emmanuel United Reformed Church, Cambridge, on 9 March 2007, in aid of Comic Relief.

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