Star catches up with first singing teacher

International opera singer Jonathan Lemalu and his longtime singing teacher Honor McKellar. PHOTO...
International opera singer Jonathan Lemalu and his longtime singing teacher Honor McKellar. PHOTO: CHRISTINE O’CONNOR
Grammy Award-winning opera singer Jonathan Lemalu was yesterday happily reunited with his first singing teacher, Honor McKellar.

After being unable to sing in public during a sometimes ‘‘brutal’’ year in Europe because of Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, London-based Lemalu has just performed four concerts in seven days during a New Zealand tour and is ‘‘hungry’’ for more.

‘‘I just forgot how much I love doing this,’’ he said.

He met Miss McKellar at the Yvette Williams Retirement Village yesterday for the first time since returning to his home city, Dunedin, early this year.

She taught him privately when he was at Otago Boys’ High School and at the University of Otago, where he studied law.

‘‘It’s wonderful. He’s just the same - which is a good thing,’’ Miss McKellar said.

Bass baritone Lemalu (45) said she was his ‘‘first ever singing teacher - she is the reason I am what I am, no doubt’’.

‘‘She taught me to find joy in the singing on and offstage and in the practice room.

‘‘This is not always easy when you do it at a high level consistently for many years and it’s easy for it to become a job instead of a joyful privilege.

‘‘I am grateful to have her infectious support and encouragement all these years, and I still check in on her to ask her thoughts on various subjects,’’ he said.

It would be an honour to have Miss McKellar, his ‘‘musical mother’’, with him as a special guest during his Mother’s Day performance at the Dunedin Town Hall this Sunday, he said.

She would be sitting beside his mother Aliitasi Lemalu, godmother Gillian Lady Deane and his wife, opera singer Sandra Martinovic, the ‘‘mother of our children’’.

Last November the university held a function to mark Miss McKellar’s 100th birthday.

She is a former New Zealand mezzo-soprano opera singer and the university’s first executant lecturer in voice and received a QSM in 1989, for services to music.


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