Growing up in a singing and dancing family taught this parliamentary maestro a musical trick or two.

My mother Kathleen Congreve was an opera singer, so music was part of our house and from when I was very small I can remember attending recitals where she was singing. I have memories of wonderful parties full of music and musicians, singing and playing. In my head I still hear my mother rehearsing Senta’s aria. She had a collection of wonderful evening frocks because she dressed up to sing on the ABC. That was back when they would dress up to sing on radio! When I got a bit older I used to dress up in them.

As a child I learned to sing – I think I made my appearance on radio aged eight – and to play piano. I don’t play well at all, but I do love to listen to it played well. Although I never considered it as a career, I use my singing training every day when speaking. Diaphragm control and that sort of thing is very important. I remember as a kid being fascinated when people would measure their waistline. If they wanted it to...

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