Getting to know Jonathon Welch AM

Getting to know Jonathon Welch AM

How did you first get started in your musical career ?
I was very fortunate to go to Melbourne Boys High School and had many amazing experiences, opportunities and wonderful teacherswho mentored my passion for music and singing. I then began my career as a professional singer in 1980 singing with the Victorian State Opera Chorusand went on to tour with the very first production of ‘Pirates of Penzance’ at the end of 1983 for 18 months, where I eventually landed a contract to work with the Lyric Opera of Queensland, then Australian Opera in 1998 where I spent 6 years. It was such a wonderful period of my life and I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to work with so many extraordinary singers, conductors and directors that I learned so much from.

What training did you have ?
My vocal training began with private singing lessons with the legendary Melbourne teacher Bettine McCaughan. I then went onto study with Max Speed in Sydney and Donald Smith OBE, the great Australian tenor when I lived in Brisbane. I also had periods of time studying in London and Germany,and you are always an ‘eternal student’ when you have a professional as a singer and musician, which is what I love so much about this work.

What have been some of your highlights ?
Given I have been in the music industry for over 40 years now, there have been so many highlights for me, especially as I’ve diversified my career across singing, conducting, composing , recording and teaching. I suppose getting to perform with one of my great idols and inspirations, Dame Joan Sutherland in the Merry Widow in 1988 would have to be one, and then returning to Sydney Opera House almost 20 years later with the Choir of Hard Knocks would be another memory I will always treasure. But every performance is special to me in some way, no matter how large or small and I cherish every moment I have to share my love of music with whoever I’m working or performing with.

Where has your music taken you ?
I’ve been very fortunate to perform around the world in some of the greatest concert halls and opera houses including Carnegie Hall, New York,Royal Albert Hall, London, Manchester Cathedral in Edinburgh, St Peter’s in Rome, the Basilica Notre Dame in Montreal, Canada, Uganda in South Africa,and Sydney Opera House many, many times.

What have you enjoyed performing the most ?
I suppose I’m lucky to experience several very different facets of music making and performing, as a singer, a conductor, a composer hearing my own works performed by someone else and a teacher hearing my students shine up on stage. Each of them is totally different and unique in their own way.

Tell us some of your challenges that you’ve faced .
Having a career in the music industry is not for the faint hearted, especially as a freelance artist! I suppose some of the most challenging times have been the uncertainty and insecurity of work and knowing where your next job was going to come from, especially over the past 2 years during the pandemic when I list 90% of my work, just as so many people did. It makes performing now even more special though and I’m grateful to still be able to work in the industry that I love.

This upcoming concert of Harry Secombe songs – does it have a special meaning for you ?
The music and story of Harry Secombe is in many ways the soundtrack of my teenage years. My mother had all his records that I would listen to him singing,and then we would turn the radio on and listen to him in the ‘Goon Show’. The music that he sang eventually became the music that I would study and it was also a snapshot of the era that I grew up in. It still holds many special memories for me, and I just singing the great tenor classics that he recorded, and I dreamt I would one day be able to perform. He also showed me how you could diversify your talents as a performer, and in many ways, my own career path has been just as varied as his given that I’ve also performed, worked on television, recorded and hosted many a concert in my day as well. And that it can be done with so much fun and joy, that’s been so important to me as well.

Sankofa #3
Sankofa #4