David Russel Gallasch - Pianist, Organist, Composer, Teacher & Mentor
Born 24 September 1934 Hahndorf, Died 16 May 2008 Everard Park
The following information was extracted from Reg Butler's computer working files.
David Gallasch, well-known personality in South Australian musical circles and beyond, died recently. Of mixed German-Polish extraction, his paternal ancestors belonged to that well-known band of Prussian Lutheran refugees who arrived in South Australia early in 1839 to escape religious persecution in their homeland. The Gallasches settled at Gruenthal [now called Verdun], where down through five generations, the family still follows market gardening pursuits on the original holding.
Another local gardening and orchardist clan of English-German descent, the Sandows, marked David’s mother’s family. Both his parents had close blood ties with nearby Hahndorf, at the time of their son’s birth still called Ambleside in the wake of post-World War 1 anti-German feeling. It was in the former Hahndorf College building [now known as the Hahndorf Academy], run at that stage as a private hospital by his mother’s aunt Nurse Bertha Schmidtke, that David was born on 24 September 1934.
David grew up near the pioneer Gallasch home property which his father and uncle, George and Bert Gallasch, share-farmed. Receiving his primary education at the local Verdun Primary School, David later attended Mount Barker High School, where he matriculated to go on to Adelaide University to complete his AUA and Bachelor of Music degree at the Elder Conservatorium. David studied piano under well-known and respected teachers Clemens Leske and Lance Dosser and organ under equally revered John Horner and Jack Peters.
David’s extended family – Gallasches, Kramms, Wittwers, Storchs, Gregors - many living locally, were a musical lot, both in their homes, at school and in the two large Lutheran Church congregations and the Town Band in neighbouring Hahndorf. However, it is doubtful whether many of them ever considered making music a full-time career. Long hours as market gardeners, farmers or storekeepers appeared the only practical solution.
Young David Gallasch thought otherwise. More than anything, he desired to support himself through his musical talents. Evidently, teaching music early engaged his mind, because he began instructing his youngest sister Vi to play the piano when he was only fifteen.
David became a peripatetic teacher of piano and theory at St Peter’s, Sacred Heart, Kings, Immanuel and Scotch Colleges as well as privately.
Also true to his musical bent, David became a church organist at the age of twelve, presiding over the harmonium at his local Verdun Methodist Church. Some in the congregation thought they were singing to a recording, until a small head emerged over the top from time to time.
Paid duty as a church organist came David’s way when he commenced playing at St Peters Presbyterian Church in 1955. Three years later, he began a five-year stint as organist at Clayton Congregational Church at the top of the Parade, Norwood. Later, David accepted the post of organist and choirmaster at Christ Church North Adelaide, from which he retired just 45 years later, in 2007.
At Christ Church, the wider world beckoned. During 1965-1966, David lived to England. There, he gained his Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music. David taught music, religion and art at Camberley Secondary Modern School, and became relieving Organist at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst.
Almost incredibly, David saw a newspaper advertisement in The Times Educational Supplement for a full-time music teacher at St Peter’s College back home in sunny South Australia. For the rest of his life, David liked to intrigue people by claiming that he secured this job because he had posted his application in Britain.
During his fifteen years at Saints, David taught every upper primary school student how to read and appreciate music, sing, and to play the recorder.
To his students, David was much more than a music teacher; he was their friend and mentor. With gentle and continuous encouragement, his goal was also as much about developing people and equipping them to live life well.
For encouraging young people in church music, David helped to organise Choir Camps in May school holidays for fourteen years.
The first performances of the Elizabethan Opera Company in the Theatre Royal, Adelaide, in 1956, found David on stage as an extra in two Mozart operas. He was told not to sing, but could not resist joining in the choruses!
David wrote a small Opera, The Missus, performed by the Intimate Opera Group, the forerunner to the SA State Opera Company, at the 1968 Adelaide Festival of Arts. After that, he wrote music for later Festivals and also for a number of church and civic occasions.
In 1992, David helped to re-establish the Hahndorf Liedertafel which had been in recess since the First World War. He organised concerts at the Adelaide Town Hall, the Hahndorf Institute, various churches and aged care facilities.
On 7 September 1957, David married Ruth Daddow, a fellow student from Mount Barker High School. Thus began a fifty year partnership.
They became proud parents of Fran, Phillip, Paula and Lilly, and delighted grandparents of twelve grandchildren. David and Ruth supported each other loyally in wide-ranging professional involvements.
Beginning in 2002, some six years of intermittent fragile health failed to quell David’s great dedication to the playing and nurture of music. He never lost his infectious enthusiasm. That loving God whose worship David had spent a lifetime enriching called him home peacefully and apparently without pain on the evening of 16 May 2008, as he lay down on his bed to rest for a while.
To honour David’s life and achievements, a huge crowd of mourners assembled to support the family at a movingly conducted full choral funeral service held in Christ Church North Adelaide, followed by a dignified simple committal in the Hahndorf Cemetery. David’s son, Phillip, captured the essence of the moment well in an inspiring eulogy for his father, concluding with:
| At the close of life the question is – | Not how much you have got | But in how much you have given … | Not how much you were honoured | But how much you have loved and served. |
Reg Butler (cousin)