An end of an era

Friday 11th of December 2015 was a very significant day in my life.

I said a sad farewell and happy retirement to a mentor who discovered and nurtured my singing voice.

Not many of you will know, but I left home at the age of 12 to attend a boarding school in Adelaide.  I came from a small seaside town about 80 km’s away which meant that boarding was the best option for me.

I can still vividly remember Mum helping me unpack my belongings into my four-bed dormitory and then having to say a very teary goodbye.  There were many ‘firsts’ during my time there and for the first few month’s all I wanted to do was to go home.

Communication home was an occasional phone call along with the compulsory Sunday letter which we were required to write after attending Chapel.  We had three school terms back then and we were allowed to go home on an ‘exeat’ only twice during the term.  This meant being away from family for 5-7 weeks each time.

Not long after arriving at the School all students were required to undertake a singing test to see whether we were worthy of a place in the much celebrated Girl’s Choir.

It was at this ‘audition’ that I met Mr Colin Curtis who would go on to have a HUGE impact in my teenage years.

I knew that I could hold a tune as I had been ‘discovered’ when I was in Year 2.  Mrs Telfer recorded me singing Silent Night on cassette as a surprise for my parents.  It is long lost now, but Mum takes great pride in telling everyone that my ‘talent’ was discovered at such a young age.

Mr Curtis accepted me into the ‘training choir’ whilst I was in Year 7 and in Year 8 I was one of the youngest to be granted entry into the Pembroke Girls Choir.

Pembroke Girls Choir European tour programme

For those of you who are much younger than me, or who don’t live in Adelaide, this choir was THE choir.  It was well celebrated not only in Adelaide, but Australia wide and also overseas.  When we travelled on our first European tour in 1984/85 we sold out every one of our 30 odd performances.  Pretty impressive considering it was our first tour and the calibre of music they are used to from their own backyard.

I had opportunities to perform with my closest friends in cathedrals, the Festival Theatre, Carols by Candlelight, in outdoor arena’s, hospitals and more.

All of this wouldn’t have been possible without the dedication, hard work, persistence and belief of my mentor.  He took a shy country girl and gave her the courage and opportunity to share her talent with an audience.  He pushed me out of my comfort zone and even though it still terrifies me to sing in front of an audience, I love the exhilaration of performance.

At the reception

Mr Curtis was my unofficial Dad.  The Choir was my Family.

During those formative years I found myself gravitating towards those who shared my passion for music.  Those who sang by my side.  Those who supported me through the many solo’s that I was lucky enough to perform.  Those who were there when my Dad was diagnosed with cancer just before I sat my final year 12 exams.  Many of these girls are still my closest friends.

Colin, Meg, Michelle and I

With two of my best friends who sang beside me, Meg and Michelle. Oh, the stories we could tell ….

The Pembroke Girls Choir became my ‘home’ and when it was time for me to graduate I was heartbroken.

Jubilee 150 photo

Over the last almost 30 years (oh my God that hurts to write that!!) I have sung at countless weddings, funerals and been a member of two choirs that Mr Curtis has directed – and Friday night was his ‘swan song’.

At the amazing age of 81 Mr Curtis is hanging up his baton and starting his very well-deserved Retirement.

It has been an absolute pleasure to be able to share the last 34 years singing with him and without him having belief in me I can 100% say that I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

Kapelle - final performance

So, to those of you who have asked to hear me sing, Mr SBB recorded the solo that I performed at the farewell carols service.

I hope you enjoy it and thank you for allowing me to share this very special tribute on my page.

x Kate


Do you have a mentor?  What have they helped you with?


  1. says

    Oh Kate, your beautiful voice gave me goose bumps. It was truly breathtaking.
    Thank you for sharing such a lovely story. What a gift to have a mentor guiding you for so many years.

    • says

      Thanks Tine. I was SO lucky to have him guiding me through the trials and tribulations of teenagehood. He was like my surrogate Dad and I am forever grateful for him discovering my gift.

  2. says

    Wow, the end of an era indeed.
    I know Pembroke well, having grown up in Heathpool and attended Seymour College. Several of my friends went to school there.
    Singing in the choir is such a magical experience. Being a small part of such a beautiful collective sound is amazing.
    I am so gratified to hear of your continued association with Mr Curtis and the impact he had on your life.
    My grandmother taught music at several Girls’ schools in Adelaide. Thanks to their influence through my father music has been an integral part of my life for as long as I can remember.
    Thankyou for sharing this post and I hope one day we have the chance to meet. I suspect we may know a few people in common, Adelaide is not a very big place really.
    Take care and Merry Christmas to you and yours.
    PS My favourite Christmas Carol is “Most Highly Favoured Lady” not sure of the name but I love it.

    • says

      It is lovely hearing of your past and that music has had such a big part of your life too. It would be interesting to compare notes as to who we know in Adelaide as it is a very small place as you would know. There is no such thing as 6 degrees of separation here – it is more like 2!

      I love that carol too 🙂

      PS I would love to meet if you are ever in Adelaide xx

    • says

      Not many do Mel 🙂 I don’t do a huge amount of singing anymore which is a big shame. This concert was probably my swansong as I am not sure when I will do it again. I will never say never though 🙂