Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Heidelberg's favourite music teacher

Mr Renn Wortley, a long-time member of the Heidelberg Historical Society, will be the guest speaker at next month's Heidelberg Historical Society Meeting. His talk is on:

MADAME MARY CONLY: A Brilliant Australian Soprano in Edwardian England

Fitzroy-born soprano Mary Conly arrived virtually unknown in London in 1902, aged 27.  Within a year she was well on the way to widespread recognition as a first rate professional concert and oratorio singer.  She was a “dramatic soprano”, her voice noted for its beauty and sweetness of tone, coupled with immense power.

For a decade she appeared regularly in London and across regional Britain as a soloist with the leading choral and orchestral societies of the day, in company with the best principal vocalists in the land.

In 1913 Mary finally returned to Australia and her house Koonung, Ivanhoe Parade, Ivanhoe.  She continued to accept engagements as solo soprano in oratorio with the principal Melbourne choral societies, including from its inception in 1920 the Heidelberg District Musical Society (later renamed Heidelberg City Choir).  Madame Conly also taught singing to private students at her home studio in Ivanhoe.

She suffered a stroke at her Ivanhoe home in August 1930 and died there a couple of days later, aged 56.   She was survived by her husband John Jarrett (died 1934), whom she married in Melbourne in 1900.  They had no children. Mary Conly’s admirers placed a monument over her grave in the Warringal Cemetery, Heidelberg in memory of “a brilliant artist and soprano of international fame”.

Renn was born in Ivanhoe in 1947, and attended Ivanhoe Grammar School.  His family were well-known in Heidelberg district business and musical circles for more than 60 years after World War 1.  He grew up hearing lively and affectionate stories of Mary Conly.  She was the singing teacher of many of his extended family.

Renn Wortley is a retired solicitor who served Monash University as its senior in-house legal counsel for 24 years until 2007.  He is an active baritone singer in music theatre and community choirs, and an enthusiastic amateur historian.  His successful pursuit of research clues was gratefully acknowledged by Ann Blainey in I am Melba (2008), her award winning biography of the legendary Australian opera diva.

When: Tuesday, 12th August 2014 at the Uniting Church Community Centre, Seddon Street, Ivanhoe at 8pm.  Ph: 9455 2130.  Free.

All welcome.

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