'Felix Werder [Bischofswerder] was born in Berlin in 1922 but fled the increasingly difficult political situation in Nazi Germany in 1935. On arriving in Australia with his father in 1940 [on the 'Dunera'], Werder was interned for four years as a political prisoner. During this time he produced a large number of his early compositions - many of his fellow internees were musicians and, once they had instruments to play upon, the lack of music led Werder to write fragments of the scores of Handel and Mozart from memory, later progressing to his own imitations of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century music' (Australian Musical Centre). 'In the early 1970s, he worked with electronic music ... At that time he also began working with his group, Australia Felix, which experimented with graphic notation, free improvisation and other contemporary techniques, and made several successful tours of Europe from the 1970s through the early 1990s' (obituary by Warren Burt in 'Resonate' Magazine). The key piece is a lengthy letter (one page foolscap, 5 January 1981, on 'Australia Felix' letterhead) thanking Barry Jones - at that time a federal MP - for his assistance in trying to get Werder's orchestra a government grant for an overseas tour. The numerous mistypings, corrections and underlinings in red ink hint at the mood of the writer and the tenor of his letter, sent 'for the records'. Werder believes the grant was not forthcoming because he (personally) had been the recipient of a $2400 grant a few years earlier. The present 'application was not for myself but for the above group of which I am but a member. So .... prior personal convictions, though they might show that I am pretty good, have no bearing at all on the present case'. And of course 'there are some groups, from the Australian Opera to smaller ensembles that are on a yearly grant to amuse the rising middle classes. Now, I hope that you agree with me, a Prolonged German Tour, which features our leading composers, and supported by various German Broadcasting Commissions as well as the Goethe Institute, and culminating in the International Festival at Saarbrucken, is pretty prestigious and if "these activities were considered to be of a low priority in the context of the Board's programs", might one ask ...' etc etc. The earliest letter ('anno 212 Mozart', presumably 1968) is a cryptic verse; one other letter (undated) and the card (1997) contain interesting thank-you notes. The final letter (June 1993), which continues to rage against the Australia Council, accompanied his 'latest opus, it might amuse you' (present now as a photocopy: a three-page composition 'From Blake's "Songs of Experience"', dedicated to Barry Jones, 'who dances and sings out of the same Hymn book'). A small but important archive. Provenance: Collection of The Hon Barry Jones AC.
Provenance: Collection of The Hon Barry Jones AC.