Kahans Close is a small street in the Gresswell Grange Estate in Bundoora. It is named after Dr Daniel Kahans who worked at Larundel in the 1960s and 1970s. He was one of the more colourful psychiatrists and a performing musician around Melbourne.

Daniel was born in Shanghai in China in 1934 and his parents migrated to Australia in 1947 to NSW. His grandparents lived in Shanghai as well, and his Russian grandmother is described in his cello and spoken performance piece ‘Shanghai Rickshaw’ from La Mama Theatre in 2010, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFJ8tNWTtks

Daniel Kahans from Youtube – filmed by Aaron Claringbold

As a child in NSW Daniel studied cello with the famous British cellist William Ewart (Gladstone) Bell. He also studied music with the composer and conductor Sir Eugene Goossens. Daniel graduated in Medicine in 1959 from the University of Sydney and then went to the UK and studied psychiatry in London, graduating in 1966. He had married Jillian Shepherd in Sydney in 1962. She was also an accomplished cellist and became a highly regarded cello teacher in Melbourne. She was also an artist. Daniel and Jill moved back to Australia to Melbourne in 1968 and had four children. They lived at Larundel for many years and then moved to the nearby suburb of Lower Plenty.

Music Therapy at Larundel

Dr Daniel Kahans is famous for introducing music therapy to Larundel Mental Hospital in 1971. Along with Dr Denise Grocke (nee Erdonmez), who had trained in music therapy in the USA, they conducted therapy sessions in many wards, but particularly for patients in Fawkner House. Patients in this ward had intensive group therapy in music, drama and dance which was unique in Victoria. Denise Grocke (now Emeritus Professor Grocke) worked at Larundel for ten years, then set up the first music therapy course at the University of Melbourne in 1978, with the help of Dr Kahans and Dr Percy Jones.

Daniel Kahans also operated a busy private psychiatry practice at Wingrove Cottage in Eltham from 1971 and subsequently published many academic papers on various aspect of mental illness and the role of the psychiatrist and music therapy (for example, see Kahans and Calford, 1982). He classed this work as ‘psycho-aesthetics’, which he defined as the psychology of art forms including music therapy and art therapy. Aspects of the therapy included singing, group improvisation, music and movement, sometimes resulting in a formal group performance. Jane Refshauge amongst others, worked with Dr Kahans in this program, see http://www.dtaa.org.au/conference/speakers.htm

Dr Kahans performed many of his original avant-garde musical and spoken word works in Melbourne, including many at La Mama Theatre in Carlton, working with his wife Jill Kahans who performed as both actor and director.

Larundel Hospital and the Arts

Visual and performing arts were encouraged at Larundel with the Occupational Therapists working with art practitioners. Margaret Lasica, a well-regarded ballet performer and teacher, taught dance and movement to patients at Larundel. Margaret Lasica (nee Weiss) had come to Melbourne from Vienna in 1939 and she performed with Melbourne ballet groups such as the Modern Dance Ensemble.

Dr Cunningham Dax fostered the practice of art therapy at Larundel and Mont Park, and art works have been archived in the Dax Collection at the University of Melbourne, see https://cv.vic.gov.au/stories/creative-life/making-sense-art-and-mental-health/cramped-conditions/

Many visual art works from the later period of 1987 – 1997 are maintained by the La Trobe University Art Institute at Bendigo, see https://www.latrobe.edu.au/art-institute/collections  In the 1990s practising artists worked with the patients.

The use of music, art and drama therapy in the health sector has expanded since these Larundel days into general hospitals, aged care facilities and palliative care centres.

During the recent COVID-19 pandemic Royal Melbourne Hospital music therapists produced popular YouTube videos for their patients and the community see The Royal Melbourne Hospital – Scrub Choir 2.0 sing “I’ll stand by you” by The Pretenders | Facebook

And  ‘We Wish You’ by The RMH Scrub Choir – YouTube

 

Prepared by Kathy Andrewartha 2020.

 

Resources:

Daniel Kahans bio for musical performance in Eltham in 2014 with photograph https://elthamsouthfineart.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/poster-daniel-khans.pdf

History of the Australian Music Therapy Association   https://www.austmta.org.au/content/history

Interview with Denise Grocke https://voices.no/index.php/voices/article/view/2277/2032

Kahans, D. and Calford, M. B. (1982). The influence of music on psychiatric patients’ immediate attitude change toward therapists. Journal of Music Therapy, 19 (3), 179-187.

Musical performance in Sydney at age 17, Daniel Kahans

https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/130955255?searchTerm=daniel%20Kahans

Performance at La Mama 2010, Daniel Kahans describing a ride with his grandmother/babuska in a ‘Shanghai Rickshaw’ with spoken word and cello https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFJ8tNWTtks

Report of Dance Movement Therapy Conference 2015 http://www.dtaa.org.au/conference/speakers.htm