Rainbow Theatre

Rainbow Theatre was an Australian symphonic art-rock band that released the 1975–76 albums The Armada and Fantasy of Horses on Clear Light of Jupiter.

Members: Julian Browning (guitar, Mellotron, keyboards), Ferg McKinnon (bass), Graeme Carter (drums), Steve Nash (saxophone, clarinet, congas), Frank Graham (trumpet), Don Santin (trombone), Keith Hoban (vocals, organ), Ian Relf (trombone), Tricia Shevenan (flute), Chris Stock (oboe), Karin McGechie, Stephen Daunt, Nya Murray (violin), Rowan Thomas (alto violin), Sara Glenie (violoncello)


Rainbow Theatre formed in 1973 when Melbourne guitarist–keyboardist Julian Browning teamed with bassist Ferg McKinnon and drummer Graeme Carter. They soon welcomed singer Mary Rose and reedist Steve Nash.

As their sound evolved, Rose cleared for singer Keith Hoban. Trombonist Don Santin and trumpeter–cornetist Frank Graham completed the band’s sextet configuration, which recorded their first album with keyboardist Matthew Cozens and the Victorian Opera Company Choir.

Browning found a home for the project on Clear Light of Jupiter, an experimental label started by producers Daniel Janecka and Jeremy Fiebiger (co-owner of Pipe Import Records, Melbourne’s source for progressive European releases).

The Armada

Rainbow Theatre released their debut album, The Armada, in 1975 on Clear Light of Jupiter. 

A1. “The Darkness Motive” (13:47)
       a. “Flourish” (1:29)
       b. “Overture” (2:51)
       c. “First Theme” (6:25)
       d. “Second Theme” (2:52)
A2. “Song (Guerdon . . .)” (1:35)
A3. “Petworth House” (5:51)
B1. “Song (Shall . . .)” (1:35)
B2. “The Armada” (15:03)
       a. “Scene At Sea” (2:21)
       b. “Dominion” (2:20)
       c. “Centuries Deep” (1:32)
       d. “Bolero” (5:24)
       e. “Last Picture” (2:30)

Sessions took place at Allan Eaton Studios in St Kilda, Melbourne, with engineer Mike Wilson.

Bass – Ferg McKinnon
Drums, Timpani, Gong – Graeme Carter
Guitar, Mellotron – Julian Browning
Piano, Organ – Matthew Cozens
Tenor Vocals, Lead Vocals – Keith Hoban

Alto Vocals – Helen Modra, Pauline Ashleigh
Bass Vocals – Evan Zachariach, Peter Cox
Soprano Vocals – Helen Grad, Sue Twigg
Tenor Vocals – Barry Skelton

Saxophone, Clarinet, Flute – Steven Nash
Trombone – Don Santin
Trumpet, Cornet, French Horn – Frank Graham

Julian’s father, George Browning, painted the album’s cover.

The Armada appeared as the second LP release on Clear Light of Jupiter (CLOJ 778), between titles by Steve Maxwell Von Braund (Monster Planet, 777) and a reissued title by Krautrockers Agitation Free.

CLOJ  extracted “The Darkness Overture” as a single (2:55); backed with an edit of “Petworth House” (3:20).


After The Armada, Janecka and Fiebiger asked for an immediate followup and offered to finance the project. Singer Keith Hoban took up organ while Nash and Santin cleared, respectively, for saxist–clarinetist Martin West and trombonist Ian Relf. Rainbow Theatre became a nine-piece with oboist Chris Stock and flutist Tricia Shevenan.

Once Janecka and Fiebiger financed the sessions, they lacked sufficient funds to press the record and cover. Browning footed the printing costs with his own label, Rainbow Theatre Music.

Fantasy of Horses

Rainbow Theatre released their second album, Fantasy of Horses, in late 1976 on RTM–CLoJ.

A1. “Rebecca” (3:04)
A2. “Dancer” (11:16)
       a. Staircase
       b. The Big Time
       c. Spin
       d. Theatre
       e. Farewell
A3. “Caption for the City Night Life” (4:17)
B. “Fantasy of Horses” (16:26)
     a. Early Light
     b. Frolic
     c. Trappers
     d. Captives
     e. Frolic
     f. Escape
     g. Cliff Edge

Recorded At – Armstrong Studios 24 Studio 2
Engineer – Gil Matthews

Bass Guitar – Ferg McKinnon
Drums, Percussion – Graeme Carter
Vocals, Organ – Keith Hoban
Guitar, Keyboards, Producer – Julian Browning

Flute – Tricia Shevenan
Oboe – Chris Stock
Saxophone, Clarinet – Martin West
Trombone – Ian Relf
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Frank Graham

Cello – Sara Glenie
Viola – Rowan Thomas
Violin – Karin McGechie, Nya Murray, Stephen Daunt

Later Activity

In its final months, Rainbow Theatre endured constant flux as musicians dropped in and out of the band, which folded in 1977 as domestic obligations took precedence.

Julian Browning studied Composition and Conduction at La Trobe University. He established a market-research company for the building industry and took up orchestral composition, inspired by the works of Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss, and Jean Sibelius.

Ferg McKinnon became a geography teacher and published two novels.

Graeme Carter became a mechanics engineer and lecturer.

Keith Hoban established a legal practice.

Frank Graham became the first trumpet in the Hawthorn Symphony.

Browning later built his own house near Olinda Forest in the Dandenong Ranges, east of Melbourne. The environment, with its bird habitat, inspired “Eagle Odyssey” from his 3rd Symphony.

Browning’s Classical Works

In 2006, The Amrada and Fantasy of Horses received their first proper CD reissues on Aztec Music, an Australian archival label established by onetime Aztecs drummer Gil Matthews. Each disc contain a bonus Browning classical piece, recorded with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Martin Rutherford.

“Icarus (From Symphony No. 8)” (11:20)
    a. Icarus And Daedalus
    b. Ascension
    c. Labyrinth Gothica
    d. Icarian Sea

“Eagle Odyssey (From Symphony No. 3)” (13:17)
    a. Over Silvan
    b. With Storm
    c. Fields and Falls
    d. Arboreturn
    e. Return


  • The Armada (1975)
  • Fantasy of Horses (1976)


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