Percy Jones was a monumental figure in the development of both Australian church music and music education. He came from a family of influential musicians. His father Percy was bandmaster of the prizewinning St Augustine's Orphanage Band and a music teacher at both Geelong Grammar and Geelong College. His sister Dorothea was a noted singer, and his brother Basil became director of the Queensland Conservatorium of Music.
Jones showed an aptitude for music at an early age, and by the age of ten had come to the attention of Percy Grainger. Whilst still at school he decided that he would study for the priesthood. In 1930, Archbishop Daniel Mannix sent him to study at the Propaganda College and the Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music in Rome, where he completed his Doctorate in Music. He was ordained as a priest in 1937. His nine years in Europe included visits to the Abbey of Solesmes to study Gregorian chant.
Jones returned to Melbourne in 1939, and with his comprehensive musical and liturgical expertise was appointed by Mannix to several distinguished positions in the church. He was Diocesan Director of Music for the Archdiocese of Melbourne from 1940 to 1975, and Director of St Patrick's Cathedral Choir from 1942 to 1973. Through his teaching and performing, and as director of the Catholic Hour on Melbourne radio from 1940, he worked towards a renewal of liturgical music-making.
Jones published several major hymnals, including the Hymnal of St Pius X (1952) and the Hymnal of St Pius X: New Edition (1966), as well as numerous smaller collections of liturgical music that served the changing needs of the time. He was an advisor to the International Committee on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) from 1964 to 1975, playing an international role in the musical and liturgical reforms following the Second Vatican Council. On his retirement in 1979, he was made a Foundation Fellow of the Melbourne College of Divinity, in recognition of his contribution to the ecumenical movement.
During the 1940s, Jones began collecting Australian folk songs. He went on collecting tours in Victoria and NSW and copied down words and music that people sang to him. He published his arrangements of the now well-known Click Go the Shears and Botany Bay in Burl Ives' Folio of Australian Folk Songs. During the 1950s, he was a driving force in the establishment of the Victorian Schools Music Association, the National Music Camp Association, and the Australian Youth Orchestra. He was also a Vice-Director of the Melbourne University Conservatorium from 1950 to 1972.
Tribute prepared by the National Library of Australia.