Farewell to a gifted musician, a beautiful soul and a true friend

With the passing of my dear friend Denise, I wanted to take this moment to reflect on the contribution that she made to the musical community of Mackay.

Denise was an outstanding musical talent. I first knew Denise when she was a fellow piano student of Sister Mary Anunciata at St Patrick’s Convent, Mackay, where she gained both the ATCL and LTCL for pianoforte. I remember her competing in the Grand Pianoforte Championship at the Mackay Eisteddfod wearing a stunning blue satin evening gown, playing Debussy’s “Clair de Lune”. At the same time she was also playing the piano in the orchestra for Colin Bailey’s Variety Shows at the Theatre Royal, where Jack and Brian Sturgeon were among the cast, along with Betty Meskell, Betsy Thorning, and many others.

When I set up my dancing studio in 1964 Denise was my pianist, playing for all the classes in the old CUSA Hall in River Street. She was so versatile, playing Classical, Jazz, and Tap equally well. She could also transpose at sight which was a unique gift. Denise played for all my dancing students for exams and eisteddfods long before the days of reel and cassette recordings. We also had a live orchestra for my early studio recitals with Denise at piano. Denise was the original pianist when we formed MMCP, and played for a myriad of shows.

I loved to attend the Friday night dances at the Parish Hall where she played in the band with Ted Durelli, Scampi Cameron and others. How many weddings and 21st Birthdays did she enhance with her band and their music, and then also playing the organ for so many church services. She also served as Treasurer on the committee for the Queensland Ballet Friends here in Mackay.

Our journey together continued as she was the first director of the music programme for Theatre Arts Mackay when we transitioned from Warralong Dance Centre to include music, singing and drama.

A lovely lady, generous of spirit, who could be found all over Mackay sharing her grand talent. Mackay certainly has lost another Musical icon.

I will always be in her debt for what she added to my life.

Rest peacefully Denise. Xxx