From the Archives

As we’ve been celebrating the tremendously creative, diverse and thoughtful HSC works created by the class of 2020, we cast a look back to the Arts at Loreto Normanhurst over time.

As some of our earliest records indicate, music has been at the very centre of the Loreto Normanhurst tradition. Concerts were held annually since the establishment of the School in 1897; they were often advertised in the local newspapers and programmes for the occasion showcased a largely classical repertoire of Bach, Chopin and Verdi. In October of 1901, NSW Government Railways organised a special service between Milson’s Point and Hornsby for parents and friends to attend the concert at the Convent. The Sisters were responsible for teaching music, with many students going on to sit public examinations or continue their study at the Conservatorium of Music.

This appreciation of music has only continued to grow across the decades. Now an annual event, the Music Festival has been a joyful celebration of creativity, spirit and collaboration since its introduction in 1972.

An excerpt from Sr Deirdre Browne in the Loreto Normanhurst School Magazine 1972 reads:

“The concert was just wonderful for me. Everyone who took part in it showed earnestness and thoroughness in preparation, excitement and enthusiasm in performance. It was one of the happiest musical evenings I have ever known.”

This year marked a first as the concert was virtually-hosted. Even without a physical audience, the soloists, ensembles, choirs and conductors of the 2020 Music Festival demonstrated the tenacity and love there is for this School tradition.

Drama performances have been a popular pursuit for many Normo girls across the decades. Students are often involved in all elements of the production, such as acting, costuming, props, set design and directing. According to the Loreto Australia IBVM Annual Magazine 1945, it was Form IV that had the privilege of organising the School plays across the 1940’s. Margaret Finnan (Class of ’45) wrote an article recalling the excitement of hosting student-led performances:

“… We were immensely enthusiastic, and we believed that if our enthusiasm did not wane, all other obstacles would be overcome… Yes, like all other aspiring artists, we had our moments of despair, but were always fortunate in having some cheery soul to impress upon us, ‘we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better…'”

The performance of “My Fair Lady” in 1967 showcased another student-led production. A delightful programme of the occasion was lovingly crafted under Helen Powell, documenting the wide variety of creative roles Normo girls took on to stage the production*.  

Across the decades, girls at Normanhurst have been able to pursue creative arts such as photography, fine arts or pottery with Mother Evangeline, design and technology, and textiles. In more recent times, HSC courses such as History Extension, Aboriginal Studies and English Extension have allowed students to think critically as they produce major works that are reflective of their own contexts.

From the very beginning, a deep love of the arts has linked Normo girls across time. Creativity remains at the very centre of a Loreto education, ensuring girls leave Normanhurst with essential creative skills for the modern workplace but more importantly, fantastic memories of their years here.


Rachel Vaughan

Records Manager

*My sincerest thanks to Patsy Shannon for her generous donation of the My Fair Lady programme.