JONATHON WELCH Occupation: Conductor, opera singer Age: 61 Status: Married Best known for: The Choir of Hard Knocks Currently promoting: his new single, Grateful.
My mum, Olive, was a great pianist and church organist; she’d sneak out to smoke cigarettes while the Presbyterian minister was conducting the sermon. She died from lung cancer in 1983. She also loved to go to the football on Saturdays and scream her lungs out for the St Kilda AFL team. She had a great kindness and generosity. Mum made sure we always had concerts in the house – a lot of activity revolved around the piano and it was our place to come together. It inspired me with my professional singing career.
My maternal aunts, Elsie and Ida, were important figures in my life. Aunt Elsie never had children and we became her surrogates in a way. I would stay at her dairy farm in the foothills of the Dandenongs. She drove a Citroën with a running board on the side and the gear stick in the dashboard. She had mental health issues, was in and out of psychiatric hospitals, and would live with us sometimes.
My father, Kenneth, left when I was 10. It had a huge impact on us all, but it meant I was also very much in the hands of maternal influences after that. The women were strong and very close. My father married four times and two of my stepmothers are still alive – Joyce is 94 and Louisa is 84. My parents were married for 27 years and Dad has been dead for 25.