Silent Recordings
Unpredictable Music for
Unreliable Times


Telemetry Orchestra
Tracky Dax


Around The Block
Nocturnal Emissions
Silent Soundtracks
Sounds of Silent
This Show Is About People

Rouseabout Records
Keeping it Real


Bondi Cigars
Cathie O'Sullivan
Creedence Clearwater Revisited
The Celebrated Knackers & Knockers Band
Donna Fisk and Michael Cristian
Eric Bogle
Fiddlers Feast
Gary Shearston
Gordon Lightfoot
Herb Superb
Jim Low
Julie Wilson
Koori Classic
Kym Pitman
Marcus Holden
Mic Conway's National Junk Band
Nyalgodi Scotty Martin
Roger Knox
Russell Morris
Warren Fahey & Luke Webb
Warren Fahey & Max Cullen (DEAD MEN TALKING)


Down By The Billabong
The World Turned Upside-Down
Forte – Golden Fiddlers
Stand Up & Shout

Yesterday's Australia:

Barbara James
Bob Dyer
Bobby Limb
Buddy Williams
Dame Nellie Melba
Florence Austral
Frank Coughlan
John Brownlee
Johnny Ashcroft
Percy Grainger
Reg Lindsay
Shirley Thoms
Smoky Dawson
Strella Wilson
Tex Morton
Tex Morton and Sister Dorrie
Warren Fahey's Diggers

Yesterday's Australia Compilations:

Australian Radio Serials
Australian Hillbilly Radio Hits
Australian Stars of the International Music Hall Voume 1
Australian Stars of the International Music Hall Voume 2
Band in a Waistcoat Pocket
Mastertouch Pianola
Strike up the Band
Stars of Australian Stage & Radio Vol 1
Stars of Australian Stage & Radio Vol 2

Yep! Records
Music Without Compromise


Jenny Morris
Michal Nicholas
The Lovetones
Saints of India
Screw the Pooch

Dame Nellie Melba
'Hello Covent Gardens'
Catalogue Number RRH15

Buy   Buy Buy  

Her most successful recordings including operatic arias and popular songs. Extremely well documented booklet prepared by Dr Brownrigg of Screensound Australia. Includes all Nellie's Covent Gardens 'farewells'.

Dame Nellie Melba is the most celebrated female voice from the first decades of sound recording history.

This programme, selected from her recorded repertoire makes it possible to keep the great Australian singer in the public eye with a single disc which presents a manageable introduction to her work and which is broadly popular in its representation. Melba was quick to see that recordings could be more than an elaborate toy. She seems to have thought, initially at least, of their value as teaching aids.

A notable achievement of this album is that it celebrates the work of the individual collectors who, before the establishing of national sound archives developed, improved and preserved collections of sound carriers that might have disappeared without their care.. In this case the National Film and Sound Archive drew upon the resources of the William Hogarth Melba Collection which it purchased some years ago. This collection, assembled by an Australian collector over many years and from a variety of sources, is especially interesting because of its comprehensive nature. It is certainly of major significance by world standards and is a valuable resource for researchers.

Although much of what Melba recorded might be described as readily accessible to an interested listener – she tended to record familiar, tuneful pieces – this selection has been made to demonstrate a number of the great soprano’s specialties. These range from the apparent warmth and candour of ‘Home Sweet Home’ to the heady climax of Violetta’s aria ‘Ah, fors’e lui’ from La Traviata.

The album has been arranged in an approximate chronology by the first recording date by title for surviving recordings, commencing with her 1904 London recordings and progressing towards the electrical recordings made at Covent Garden in 1926. ‘Auld Lang Syne’ is appropriately last given its place in formal farewells. The programme circles back to the early acoustic material and to the peculiar magic of Melba’s voice.


To study the life of the great Australian diva, a student of vocal art might turn to the works of a number of important scholars. In these the student will find profound admiration and blistering scorn growing naturally out of the same anecdotal evidence. Was Melba the saintly, sweet-natured patron ennobled in her support of innumerable worthwhile causes, generous and benign? Was she a plump, volatile potentate of the empire of song, jealous of rivals and able to destroy their careers, perspicacious in her business acumen, a floozie amongst the ancient royal houses of Europe who plotted with the skill of Machiavelli’s ideal prince?

The answers to questions like these might be found in the pages of the biographies and it is to these that you must turn for the facts and to discover your own balanced view of the evidence. That is, of course, if you need to know the details of the life of Helen Porter Mitchell who was born in Richmond, a suburb of Melbourne, in 1861 and who rose to become the undisputed queen of song in the first decades of sound recording history. Between 1861 and now, there is a complex labyrinth of hagiography and scorn with the truth probably available in a compromise between enthusiasm of the acolytes and the missiles of detractors.

This recording demonstrates something of Melba’s gift. And the items recorded here might well be enough for a listener new to the voice and the style of singing. The voice might be enough to win support for what Melba did consummately. There is no doubt she could sing however as critic John Cargher in his introduction to Melba’s biography noted: “The early horns of the recording machines did not take kindly to soprano voices and Melba’s was certainly not flattered by her discs.”

We cannot alter the fact that Melba’s career came too early for the improvements which occurred in the middle years of the twentieth century and which have given more recent sopranos a considerably better chance of being heard much as they must have sounded in performance. Most of the tracks on this compilation were made with comparatively crude technology. A performer, surrounded cheek and jowl with bits of orchestra, had to bellow into a recording horn trumpet in order to vibrate a diaphragm with its attached stylus which carved a groove in the master disc or cylinder. This wriggly impression made by the air, set vibrating by the vocal cords and concentrated by the bell of the recording horn, became the mould from which a ‘stamper’ could be made; a stamper to punch out multiple copies.

Had Melba been a child in the early 19th century we would have no way of assessing for ourselves how she produced her voice and interpreted music. Even crude mechanical recordings enable us to hear the mannerisms and the quality, however uncomfortable the now unfashionable portamento (sliding between adjacent notes) might be.

Celebrated singers like Cavalieri or Michael Kelly can only remain the tantalizing subjects of contemporary commentators. We know what they sang and what was written especially for them. We have the elaborate scores, the treatises on voice production and style written by or for them. But their voices have been lost. The songs they first interpreted remain. All traces of the living performance have gone. Here then is a record of how Melba sounded on these early discs. Modern recordings would have caught more of Melba’s sounds, would have been more faithful to the living voice, but we should perhaps be thankful that we have this much.

Track Listing:

  1. Comin’ Thro’ The Rye
  2. Come Back To Erin
  3. Old Folks at Home
  4. Home, Sweet Home
  5. O Soave Fanciulla
  6. Caro Nome
  7. Voi Che Sapete
  8. Believe Me, If All Those
  9. Endearing Young Charms
  10. Ye Banks and Braes of Bonnie Doon
  11. Ah! Je Ris (Jewel Song)
  12. Spargi D’amaro Pianto (Mad Scene)
  13. Lo! Here the Gentle Lark
  14. Ah, Fors’e Lui
  15. By The Brook
  16. Chanson Triste
  17. John Anderson, My Joe
  18. Annie Laurie
  19. Songs My Mother Taught Me
  20. Dite Alla Giovine
  21. Covent Garden Farewell
  22. Auld Lang Syne