Wendy would be the first to tell you that she owes her rekindled love of singing and music to Jon.
He has been her inspiration, support and best critic. Life has dealt Wendy her fair share of blows, but it is this wealth of life experiences that add to her passionate renditions of jazz standards.
Theirs is one of those rare relationships that works both on stage and off.
"You could say I developed my life long love affair with music while still in the cradle.
My father often related that on the occasions when he would sing me to “sleep” with his beautiful tenor voice, and then try to tiptoe from my room, I would sit bolt upright in my cot, demanding… “More?”
My father’s own mother had a beautiful voice and his Aunt Myrtle, her sister, was a professional singer, had been one of JC Williamson’s Vaudeville girls at the Tivoli Theatre in Melbourne and had also performed in musical comedy and light opera during the early 20th Century.
Nan always used to quip that she, herself, had a better voice, but Myrtle had more confidence! Indeed, both Myrtle and Nan encouraged me to sing for them at a young age, and my great aunt would have me practise the piano in her company.
Musical ability ran in Dad’s family. A cousin of his, Jack Green, was a regular singing act on early live radio in Melbourne. My sister, Lorraine, and I were fortunate in that we both inherited these abilities. We both sang and played piano and I would have to say that she played a huge part in developing my love of music and I can remember spending hours with her at her piano... She loved and listened to everything from Beethoven to Simon and Garfunkel… I was in total awe of the way she played. I would sit and listen and watch for ages…. My parents ran a dairy farm in North Eastern Victoria until I was almost five. They had three children, my brother Alan and my sister Lorraine being 20 and 18 years older than I respectively. We had a piano in the lounge room, my sister having been taught whilst at school and apparently, I would spend hours thumping away with a passion trying to emulate my sister and other relatives.
During this time, Mum was very involved with the church and the local clergyman, Mr Perry, used to visit our home often. He would have me sing to him and would often comment, “The child has perfect pitch!” I loved singing for him as I was always so well received! When the farm was sold (with the piano, much to my disappointment) and we moved to the southern Melbourne suburbs, I recall arriving home from school one day to a “surprise”… an upright Ronisch piano of my own! With me still only six, my sister was asked to start my musical tuition. It is difficult to teach one’s sibling as the level of discipline required to keep a six year old’s attention from the television is huge! Loved my TV!
After a few lessons, my mother decided to engage a piano teacher much to the relief of my sister. This was Miss Black, from whom I continued learning for 10 years! Although being schooled in the classics, I thoroughly enjoyed buying sheet music for most of the popular songs at the time and accompanying myself for hours in the front room of the family home.
There was always music in our home. Dad was a fan of Gilbert and Sullivan and every musical that was ever shown on the silver screen. He had dozens of records and when Mum presented him with a KREISLER Radiogram, complete with microphone, I was in heaven! A childhood friend, Helen Bitmead, and I would spend hours singing along to records with the mic and pretending we were pop stars… What a HOOT!
During my school days, I was always involved in anything and everything musical. I can remember being in prep, and being a fan of the musical television show “Bobby Limb’s Sound of Music”, I was often chastised by the teacher for trying to sing to and entertain the class with the songs I learnt from the show! I think at this point, my natural desire to entertain shone through…
Throughout primary and secondary school, I was involved with choir and Madrigal groups and school musical productions. I was thrilled, when at the age of sixteen I was approached by the head of music of my secondary college and asked if I would like to have formal voice tuition, as I had, in her words, “a strong voice”. I can remember being on cloud nine and arriving home to announce in rapture to my parents that I would now be a singing student! Lessons began soon after and singing engulfed my world… through music at school I became very close friends with a girl named Fiona Baddington, who now sadly, has passed away...
Fiona and I would spend HOURS locked away in her bedroom listening to records…. We were involved in music together at school and sang duets walking around the school yard at lunchtimes… I suppose we were a little ODD in retrospect! We shared a wacky sense of humour and a friendly sense of competition hung between us… thank heavens we both scored the same mark for our final singing exam! We performed a duet in the school production of SALAD DAYS and were both recipients of MUSIC awards embroidered on our school blazer pockets in year 12. Fiona was one of the most talented people I have known during my life and she sadly passed away a couple of years ago after a life long battle with Crohn’s disease. She is sadly missed for her energy, positive outlook, courage and talent.
I remained in the tuition of Gay Hosie, a student herself of Dame Joan Hammond, for 5 years, achieving Grade 6 AMEB level in Classical Singing and entering Eisteddfod competitions. I never felt I had a voice which responded naturally to Lieder and the operatic arias… I had been exposed to a MYRIAD of different styles during my life to date, and I must be honest here, that the classics were not a style I gravitated to naturally. During my early twenties I continued lessons from a wonderful singer called Kaylene Carruthers, who performed all the well-known ballads in a sensitive, folksy style. I was 27 and pregnant with my second son at the time. A subsequent divorce and remarriage put my musical pursuits on the back burner for several years though I would find myself singing along to radio and on occasions humming tunes I knew.
Moving to the Mornington Peninsula, I was fortunate to meet and have a few lessons with Cheryl Beattie, a singer with a classical background herself, who had lived and recorded in London and is now the singer with the fantastic band, SHINE. She provided a great deal of encouragement and provided the right approach to build my technique again and reignite my dormant musical passion, which at this point, in my forties, I needed!
Jonathan and I met during this period. We were both “licking our wounds” from failed marriages and were both a bit “world weary” I suppose. Our first conversations were always about various artists and music, this being a breath of fresh air to me… I had found my soul mate! I went to watch him play at a local winery and found him AMAZING!! We got together over a bottle of champagne one October afternoon and the rest, as they say, is “History”. He has been an inspiration, a mentor, a ‘slave-driver’ and a never-ending source of encouragement to me… it is wonderful to share life and a great love of music with him! Indeed, our whole blended family are musical! Music to all our boys is like the air they breathe …. Without it, there is no life.
“The way you changed my life…. No, no… they can’t take that away from me!”