Researching a biography of her mother, opera singer Josie Kean, awoke memories of a remarkable Australian musical figure.

Growing up during the 1940 and 50s our household was noisy and busy. Days began with mum warming up her early morning voice with Lucia’s Mad Scene, followed by Tosca’s Vissi D’arte, then singers arriving for lessons or rehearsals followed by my uncle Larry commandeering the piano to do jazz arrangements for his group The Kean Notes, or working on compositions for brass bands. We kids got a look in to practise piano during the late afternoons while they were busy preparing for performances or just getting on with whatever had to be seen to.

My parents, more bohemian than your everyday mum and dad, raised us in a virtual artist colony in East Melbourne. Their parties on Saturday nights included people from all walks of life, many from the arts world. The wealthy, the poor and the unwashed came to experience the music, and I recall uncles singing duets and patter songs from Gilbert and Sullivan operettas alongside student instrumentalists or singers ‘having a go’ and seizing the opportunity to perform in public.

This strange but highly colourful world of ours...

This article is available to Limelight subscribers.

Log in to continue reading.

Access our paywalled content and archive of magazines, regular news and features for the limited offer of $3 per month. Support independent journalism.

Subscribe now