The Mirror News

Larger than Life

 YARRAM has another wonderful mural to add to the other 17 works already completed by Mongolian born, Melbourne based street artist, Heesco Khosnaran.

The larger than life portrait on the Mechanics Hall is of world-famous contralto singer Ada Jemima Crossley who was born on March 3, 1871 at Tarraville, Gippsland, Victoria.

After being in lockdown in Melbourne Heesco was finally given a work permit which allowed him to come and do this latest piece.

He said it makes him very happy to be back in Yarram.

“I was feeling really fresh after such a long break and we were just so lucky with the weather. Half an hour after I completed it the rain started and pretty much hasn’t let up.”

According to Eric Greenaway, the man who had the idea to do all the murals in the first place, the response to Ada’s one has been overwhelming.

“Not many people know about Ada Crossley or the connection between her and the Titanic,” he said.

Eric first heard about Ada when a woman called Sally Finlay, who used to live on the farm next to where Ada grew up in Tarraville, messaged him on Facebook and told him there should be a mural of Ada done.

Sally is an expert on all things Ada and says that from the age of 15, Ada had played the organ and led the singing at Tarraville Christ Church and other local parishes. 

She debuted as a professional Contralto Singer in November 1889, giving a series of famous Promenade Concerts with the Melbourne Philharmonic Orchestra and became the principal singer for The Australian Church.

In 1894, Ada travelled to London and after meeting Dame Nellie Melba, and reducing her to tears with her performance, Melba recommended Ada to the best operatic vocal tutor of the time – Mme Marchesi in Paris.

From 1896, she carved a significant career as a Contralto singer with a repertoire of over 500 songs, ranging from Gluck and Handel to Richard Strauss, and she sang in English, German, French, Italian, Norwegian, Danish and Russian.

Ada sang before Queen Victoria and soon became a royal favourite, singing at many ceremonial occasions as a requested soloist. 

It was around this time that she made several successful tours of many countries – Europe, South Africa, the United States, New Zealand, and Australia. Whilst in New York, she played Carnegie Hall and made the first vinyl gramophone record for the Victor Company ‘Red Seal’ label.

The famous Australian painter, Tom Roberts, also painted her portrait which still hangs in the National Gallery, Canberra.

On May 20, 1910, at the height of the British Empire rule, the Sovereign King Edward VII passed away and it was Ada that the royal family chose as the Soloist to sing at his funeral. 

Which brings us to the sinking of The HMS Titanic. Eight band members, chosen to play the hits of the day for the passenger’s entertainment picked up their instruments and played songs from their repertoire while everyone else rushed to the lifeboats.

Survivors say the last song they heard played  was ‘Nearer My God To Thee’ as the ship went down, a song made popular by Ada in her numerous world tours. This was corroborated by the discovery of the floating violin case of the band leader, Wallace Hartley, which contained the sheet music arranged by Lewis Carey and made famous by Ada. 

Ada was the only vocal soloist invited to perform at the Titanic Memorial Concert held a short time later on Empire Day, May 24, 1914 at The Royal Albert Hall.

This was a public holiday and huge crowds gathered in their thousands to watch and listen. 

She sang in front of 7,750 royalty, dignitaries, and stewards. The afternoon ended with the auditorium rising as one to reprise “Nearer My God to Thee”. Nearly all present were in tears.

Ada married an eminent throat specialist, Dr Francis Muecke, and revisited Australia in 1908-09, with Percy Grainger among her supporting artists. 

She continued to sing at charity concerts, especially during World War I and performed at the Mechanics Hall in Yarram and raised money for the Hospital across the road.

“I was born in that hospital,” said Eric. ”I am particularly honoured to have been able to fund this Ada Crossley mural,” he said.

“I would really like to acknowledge Wayne Tindall who has done all the designs for the various murals and who has worked tirelessly for the last 12 months making all this come to life.”

Friends of Heesco Town is a not for profit group made up of Eric Greenaway, Wayne Tindall, Paul Frost, Garry Stephens and Heesco Khosnaran who have all brought their skills to the project.

Wayne said he particularly wants to thank local builder Darren Young who has provided the scissor lift, free of charge, for every painting.

The funding has come from the business and building wall owners with additional support from Eric and other donors. A further 7-8 murals are planned along with a calendar, booklet, and coffee table book.

T Shirts, posters and postcards are available from Artichoke Books or The Ship Inn in Yarram.

“I would like to thank the Wellington Shire for this Ada mural because they allowed us to paint on the wall of the Mechanics Hall,” said Eric. 


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