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A wonderful journey

Wednesday, 31st July, 2019

Claire McCrae with her Ladies Vocal Duet first place award which she won with Judith Saliba at the first Broken Hill Eisteddfod in 1970. PICTURE: Callum Marshall Claire McCrae with her Ladies Vocal Duet first place award which she won with Judith Saliba at the first Broken Hill Eisteddfod in 1970. PICTURE: Callum Marshall

By Callum Marshall

Claire McCrae started singing when she was a young teenager in the late 1940s, bringing her vocal talents to the local Eisteddfod when it started up in 1970.

With the Eisteddfod marking its 50th anniversary this year, she recalls how she got into singing and the performances she’s given over the years.  

While dancing was the talent that Claire was interested in at first, she soon got into singing thanks to her sister.

“I was only 14 and I used to go to dancing class,” she said.

“But then my sister started to learn singing and enrolled to be tutored by Mabel Dulfer.

“When she came home and was singing around the house I wanted to do it too. Having a big sister that could do those things was lovely.

“So I nagged my mother and eventually she said, ‘okay, we’ll see if she’ll take you.’ By this time I was almost 15.

“So Mabel Dulfer, around 1948-49, took me and it just sort of flourished from there and then I joined the Philharmonic in 1950 and I’ve been there ever since, so it’s been a wonderful journey.”

Although she’d been singing for years leading up to it, Claire said her first Eisteddfod performance with Judith Saliba was a nerve-wracking one.

“I performed a duet with Judith Saliba and we won first place,” she said.

“It was Prendero Quel Brunettino, (‘I’ll Take The Brunette One’ from the Italian opera ‘Cosi Fan Tutte’/’All Women Do The Same’ by Mozart.)

“Judith was learning singing from my singing teacher so that’s how we got together and formed the duet.

“We worked on that one, and that was what our teacher decided would be nice to do for the Eisteddfod.

“We were nervous because it was a big experience for both of us - sigh of relief after you’ve done it, your knees shaking, hoping you’ve done well.

“And in those days it was really quite new. The only places we sang were at our singing teacher’s concerts or perhaps a little afternoon at one of the churches.”

Although she’d just won first place with Judith at that first Eisteddfod, Claire said she took several years off from performing after having a child. 

She was back in 1974 though, taking home an honourable mention in the Musicians’ Club aria championship.

And over the next several decades Claire featured prominently in the Eisteddfod, winning awards for her solo, duet and trio performances.

Those that stood out, she said, were winning the aria award in 1994 for ‘One Fine Day’ from Madam Butterfly and a trio performance with Lorraine McIntyre and Vicki Armstrong of the Nightingale in 1999. 

Claire said that tapping into the right emotion of a song and conveying that successfully was what made for a good aria performance.

“You have to portray that to the audience, to make them feel part of it.”


* This year’s 50th anniversary Eisteddfod will take place from August 17 to 21 at the Civic Centre. The Eisteddfod Committee is also looking for photos or  documentation of the first Eisteddfod to put on display. If you have anything to share, you may email it to podnars@aapt.net.au or call Merrilyn Podnar on 8087 7633.

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