William Flynn (d. 1981) grew up in Melbourne. He played the cornet at primary school and later studied the violin, clarinet and saxophone. He formed his own band, the Billy O’Flynn Band, which performed in Melbourne in 1928 and also toured Tasmania. In the 1930s he toured with various American bands in China, Russia and Japan, worked with J.C. Williamson and other companies, and was musical director of Legionnaire Records. During World War II he served with the Australian Army and was its chief musical arranger.
After the War, Flynn returned to Melbourne and worked with various ensembles and was musical director for Jack Davey at radio station 3AW. In 1949 he was appointed musical director and joint conductor (with Verdon Williams) of the new 3DB concert orchestra, which performed popular and light classical music. He wrote the musical accompaniment for various radio serials and arranged a weekly program, ‘The William Flynn Show’. The orchestra was disbanded in 1952. In later years he worked with many Melbourne singers, bands and his own orchestras and made a large number of recordings. He was also musical director of Spotlight Microgroove Records.
The Library purchased the William Flynn collection of sheet music and musical arrangements from Flynn in 1977. Further musical arrangements were acquired from his widow, Pat Flynn, in 1984.
The William Flynn Collection contains about 1750 musical scores and is arranged in the following series:
- Musical arrangements by Flynn
- Radio 3DB orchestral scores and parts, both printed and manuscript
- Musical arrangements by Flynn for Radio 3DB
- Radio 3DB vocal scores
- Miscellaneous material
- Radio 3DB radio shows, scripts and music
There are about 950 music manuscripts comprising arrangements by Flynn for light orchestras and dance bands, mostly dating from 1949-52. They have such titles as Caprice for strings, Flying down to Rio, Girl I left behind me, Greensleeves, I want to be happy, I’m in love with Vienna, Melody for two, Rosalie, Someone to watch over me and Symphony of spring. The composers are not usually identified, but they include Hoagy Carmichael, Noel Coward, Mack Gordon, Victor Herbert, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers and Vincent Yeomans.
The printed scores and parts are mostly works of overseas composers and range from concerti, symphonies, orchestral suites and overtures to operetta, waltzes, mazurkas, ballet music, marches, opera arias, folk songs and songs from musical comedies. The breadth of the collection is illustrated by some of the composers: Frederic Chopin, Eric Coates, Leo Delibes, Antonin Dvorak, Oscar Fetras, Rudolf Friml, Edvard Grieg, Victor Herbert, Victor Jacobi, Jerome Kern, Fritz Kreisler, Franz Lehar, Franz Liszt, Ivor Novello, Jacques Offenbach, Sigmund Romberg, Johann Strauss, Arthur Sullivan, Peter Tchaikovsky, Émile Waldteufel and Haydn Wood. There are also published works by a few Australian composers, such as May Brahe and Alfred Hill.
The manuscript scores comprise arrangements by colleagues of Flynn, in particular Rolf Atkinson, Sam Dunn, Isador Goodman, Robert Hughes, Elford McHonnegger, Ern Pettifer and Verdon Williams. There are a small number of scripts and programs of 3DB programs, including series such as ‘Concerts for you’ and ‘twentieth century hits in chorus’.
The William Flynn Collection is kept together as a formed collection within the Music Collection. The scores have been catalogued individually and the call numbers have the prefix MUS Flynn N.
A substantial collection of sound recordings, which formed part of the Flynn Collection, are now held in the National Film and Sound Archive in Canberra.