Pioneering musical ladies

Continuing our theme of women from our community’s past we look today at two musical ladies.


Chloe Gordon

For many, Chloe Gordon needs no introduction. Violet Mabel Addis was born in 1913 to Thomas and Martha (nee Fleming). She attended Lismore School and left to help around the home, as many girls did.

While the Addis family booklet claims most of the family were musical, Chloe was truly talented. Even before she could reach the pedals, Chloe won competitions, although her Chloe Gordonfirst teacher said she’d never be any good as she just wouldn’t practise her scales!

While she could read music it was her natural ear that made her a must at any function or concert. Her first official debut was at the age of 12 playing at a concert at the Lismore Hall, many more would follow. As a young girl, she played the music for silent movies in Mayfield. When she was 16 she moved to Ashburton and formed hr own band, the Miss Addis’ Band, which became Mrs Gordon’s Orchestra when she married henry Gordon in 1932. A temporary halt of 2 years occurred after a car accident, but when she recovered she formed a new band The All Stars.

Chloe’s ensembles entertained throughout the wider Canterbury area, playing at concerts, wedding, 21sts and other parties. They were out most weekends playing at the many dances hosted by groups or locations. She also played for the tap dancing competitions and the Ashburton Operatic Society. She was honoured at a special function to mark 50 years of public playing. Chloe loved entertaining and playing music. She gave freely on her time and talents for any charity that asked and visited Tuarangi rest home every week to entertain the residents.

In 1974 Chloe released her first album Take a Break with Chloe, followed by Come Alive with Chloe, both were very popular. She was working on a third album when she died.

Chloe died in 1980.


Alice McLean

Alice Mary Griffiths Rowley was born in Christchurch in 1870 to Joseph and Alice Henrietta (nee Gundy). Alice’s mother died the year after she was born. The Rowley’s were a musical family with both Alice’s father and Grandfather involved in the Christchurch Musical Union, as well as other groups. Her Aunt Mary was a very accomplished pianist and singer.

As a young girl, Alice showed great talent and learnt piano and musical theory and composition under her aunt Mary. Alice was educated at the Christchurch Girls’ High school, being the youngest girl ever admitted, being only 7 years of age when she entered.

After leaving High School Alice began a course of study at Canterbury University, where she eventually graduated with a Bachelor of Music. In doing so she became the first women in either Australia or New Zealand to do so, and only the 11th in the British Isles. As part of the degree she composed a cantata (a small opera), Prayer and Praise. She went on to compose many other songs and large works.alice Mclean

In 1892 Alice married Donald Mclean, of ‘Kinraid’, Tinwald. Before that Donald was manager of Lagmhor Estate. The couple had two children and while she was raising them Alice concentrated on her compositions rather than public appearances.

Donald died in 1906. She remained in Ashburton and in 1908 she married John Forrester, of the Lands and Survey department. Alice became involved in fundraising for the war effort, playing at numerous concerts, often featuring her own compositions. A lullaby which she provided the music for was featured the in fundraising publication Lady Liverpool’s Gift Book, and a song she composed the music to: One flag one throne, was sung throughout the empire.

In 1920 Mr Forrester died. In 1931 she married again, this time to Walter MacKay, who was a brother to Jessie McKay lyricist of the lullaby Alice had provided the music to.

Alice died in 1940.

One of her daughters was Alice May McLean, who later married Ross Brodie. Mae Brodie studied at the Melbourne Conservatorium 1935-1936, was a well-known singer throughout Australia and New Zealand, but she also gave concerts in such exotic places as Rome, Milan and Budapest.

By Kathleen Stringer



  1. Chloe and Music dealer Warner Harris pose with her album Take a Break in 1974.
  2. Alice McLean

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