Vale, Jeannie Kelso AM
Many people in our community will remember Jeannie Kelso when she lived in our area and added to our lives by offering us her magnificent operatic voice in many situations. Sadly, she died recently in a car accident in Adelaide, where she lived over the last few years.
Jeannie Maxwell Kelso was born in Blantyre, Scotland near Glasgow in 1939 and loved singing from a very early age, especially with her grandfather. She migrated to Australia in 1960, settling in Adelaide where she had a number of relatives. Even though she worked as a dental nurse, she spent a good deal of time singing, mostly Scottish folk-songs, with various groups.
In the late 1970s, Jeannie was married and moved to Sydney where her four children grew up. She made friends with numbers of accompanists, including Robert Goode, who was an Associate Organist of the Sydney Town Hall. The concerts she performed with him at the Town Hall were particularly popular and, in the mid-1980s, she was approached by Opera Australia to audition. Her audition was successful and she became a truly loved and respected member of its Chorus.
Jeannie mentored and developed friendships with many younger singers and taught music at schools in Newtown and Alexandria. She was an active member of the South Sydney Uniting Church when it was a very small congregation, playing our piano and organ as well as her harp, and leading our singing for many years. Jeannie could have seen herself as living fully by simply offering her singing, but she was also committed to social justice. She organised free concerts, helped establish a homeless shelter in our church hall and the Community Garden behind our church and supported many other projects for vulnerable people. We recently held a memorial service at South Sydney Uniting Church for Jeannie and with members of her family and friends gave thanks for her life.
Jeannie had what can only be described as a natural silken voice, with a huge range of notes and a style which seemed to spring from her heart and touch the lives of those who listened. She offered this wonderful voice to many groups, organisations and causes, with endless generosity.
When she retired to Adelaide Jeannie established the Hope and Harmony Choir in 2008. This choir welcomes anyone who enjoys singing and members include many local residents from supported residential facilities. There was never a time when Jeannie didn’t give to others in many ways and those of us who listen to her sing on her CDs have our hearts lifted and find new energy for offering what we can do for others. We can imagine her wonderful voice spreading into the heavens as she takes her place beyond life. Vale, Jeannie Kelso. We will always remember and celebrate all that you have given to us.