Dr Victor Edward Galway

Victor Edward Galway was born in Colchester, England on 24 May 1894.  Galway became the most prominent musician in Dunedin, New Zealand during the second quarter of the twentieth century.  

A chorister at the age of five, he studied the organ from age 12 with Frederic Ely.  His family migrated to Australia, and he graduated with a Bachelor of Music from the University of Melbourne in 1915, studying the organ with Dr W.G. Price, the Melbourne City Organist.  He was organist of St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Brisbane, from November 1913 until his appointment to First Church of Otago, Dunedin; he arrived there in August 1919.

At First Church he performed well-attended monthly organ recitals, and by 1924 the choir was able to perform Mendelssohn’s St Paul.  He took on the conductorship of the Royal Male Choir in 1920 (held for 17 years), and of the Choral Society (1922-26 and 1928-31). 

In 1923 he graduated as a Doctor of Music from Melbourne University.  The next year he began to give lectures at the University of Otago for the Workers’ Educational Association; in 1925 he was appointed lecturer to the newly-created Music Department.  In 1930 he was appointed Dunedin City Organist, following the opening of the Dunedin Town Hall.  At first he gave three recitals each month, many of which were broadcast.  In 1931 his Sunday performances were attracting audiences of two thousand.

His repertoire was large and eclectic, and a contemporary remarked that he could be relied upon ‘to hold popular audiences while maintaining artistic standards’ (quoted by Vernon Griffiths in Music in New Zealand, May 1931 p. 37).  One notable recital was an all-Wagner programme given in 1936 (his Ride of the Valkyries was a particular public favourite); he also periodically gave all-Bach concerts.  His skills as an organ accompanist were frequently praised in newspaper reviews.

In 1939 he was appointed to the new Chair of Music at the University of Otago, and soon after to St Paul’s Cathedral, Dunedin (1940-46 and 1953-55), where during the war the Cathedral Choir gave annual performances of Messiah and St Matthew Passion.  For a period from 1947 he was Dean of Arts at the University of Otago.

Dr Galway also worked widely as a competition judge, a public lecturer and broadcaster.  He was a composer, mostly of choral music, some of which was published by Oxford University Press.  His organ works include a Sonata (1922).

Following a stroke in 1954 he retired, dying on 9 July 1960.

From an article by John Drummond, published in Dictionary of New Zealand Biography,