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Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Miss Gladys Victoria Cruickshank Petrie, Lyric Coloratura, 1898 - 1990

This week's Sepia Saturday prompt shows a girl playing a harp. I don't have any relatives who were harpists as far as I know, so instead here is a photograph of another musical performer, Miss Gladys Petrie, who was a lyric coloratura singer and a first cousin of my grandfather Oliver Cruickshank. Her mother was Jessie Cruickshank, aunt of Oliver and the only sister of his father Charles. I don't know whether Oliver and Gladys knew each other, but it seems likely because Oliver is mentioned in a letter written home from the Front in World War 1 by Arnold James Petrie, brother of Gladys. I've included two examples of articles found on Trove that describe Gladys's successful musical career. The second article from 1935 suggests she was only going home to New Zealand for a few months, but I believe she did not return to Europe again.  She resided from then on at the family home in Invercargill with her parents and sister and in the Electoral Roll of 1980 her occupation was given as retired musician. She died in Invercargill NZ in 1990 aged 91.

I'm no student of singing or classical music, but according to Wikipedia, "coloratura soprano is a type of operatic soprano voice who specializes in music that is distinguished by agile runs, leaps and trillsThe term coloratura refers to the elaborate ornamentation of a melody, which is a typical component of the music written for this voice. Within the coloratura category, there are roles written specifically for lighter voices known as lyric coloraturas and others for larger voices known as dramatic coloraturas. Some roles may be sung by either voice. For example, Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor was famously done at the Metropolitan Opera for many years by lyric coloratura Lily Pons, whose voice was quite small and light, but more recently the same role was sung there by Ruth Ann Swenson whose voice is larger and duskier, and even more dramatic by Maria Callas who has [cast] a long shadow. Categories within a certain vocal range are determined by the size, weight and color of the voice.
[It is] a very agile light voice with a high upper extension, capable of fast vocal coloratura. Lyric coloraturas have a range of approximately middle C (C4) to "high F" (F6). Such a soprano is sometimes referred to as a soprano leggero if her vocal timbre has a slightly warmer quality. The soprano leggero also typically does not go as high as other coloraturas, peaking at a "high E" (E6).[1] Bel canto roles were typically written for this voice, and a wide variety of other composers have also written coloratura parts. Baroque musicearly music and baroque opera also have many roles for this voice.[2]"

PARIS CALLING. (1931, April 30). Table Talk (Melbourne, Vic. : 1885 - 1939), p. 36. Retrieved October 20, 2015, from

Note: As often happens, Australians are keen to claim successful New Zealanders as their own.

From What Women Are Doing. (1935, October 19). The Australian Women's Weekly (1933 - 1982), p. 23. Retrieved October 20, 2015, from

You can find other information and photographs relating to Gladys and her family here and here. in earlier posts  Both her mother and sister lived to become centenarians.

Now to the present day, and here is a link to a video on the Facebook page of a beautiful young Welsh born Australian singer and harpist from Adelaide, whom we have watched play and sing at festivals here several times. Siobhan Owen is very talented and has been performing in Europe and the United Kingdom for the past twelve months. If you can't open this video clip on her Facebook page, just click this link to read more about her. Enjoy!

      For more Sepian blogs on the prompt this week, click and go to Sepia Saturday #302                    
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