In 1911 the Sheffield Choir of Sheffield, England undertook a world tour in what was described as the “First Musical Festival of the British Empire”. Leaving Liverpool on 17 March 1911, they proceeded first to the United States and then Canada. From Vancouver they crossed the Pacific aboard the s.s. Zealandia to Brisbane, arriving on Saturday 10 June. Here they were provided an official reception and performed an afternoon and evening concert. They then rejoined the Zealandia to continue their voyage to Sydney where they arrived on Monday 12 June.
The choir and their performances were well received and 1000’s turned out to hear them sing.
On 21 June the 220-member choir set off for New Zealand before returning to perform in other Australian states. Their departure and voyage from Sydney aboard the Wimmera was reported in The Musical Times as follows:
At 5.30 in the afternoon of June 21, amid cheers and singing of thousands congregated on the wharf, the S.S. ‘Wimmera’ left Sydney for Auckland, New Zealand, with a very heavy list of passengers. Some of these intra-colonial vessels, built to meet the every-day wants of their own every-day travelling public, do not usually expect the sudden onrush of two hundred and twenty-four ‘extras,’ hail as they may even from the ‘tight-little-Isle’ ; consequently—without any beating about the bush—it was an inconveniently-crowded ship that encountered the worst storm at sea experienced in those parts during seventeen years. On the night of the Coronation of our beloved King and Queen, singers who were physically able to do so foregathered in the saloon, and sang ‘God save the King’ to the terrifying accompaniment of breaking crockery from within and the crashing of mighty waves without. Thankful hearts sang the Master’s praise in hymns of thanksgiving when on Sunday the North Cape of New Zealand loomed on the horizon…
The voyage to Auckland was also reported in the New Zealand press and was also recorded in the book of the tour by the Choir’s conductor, Dr Henry Coward.