Do you know who was the most famous woman in the world at the turn of the 20th century? She is buried here in Lilydale, Victoria, in 1931. She is considered to be the first international Australian superstar and cultural icon. She conquered the international world of Opera and reigned as undisputed Queen for the better part of 40 years.
Helen Porter Mitchell was born on the 19 May 1861 at the family home in Burnley Street, Richmond, in Melbourne, Victoria. She was extremely patriotic and as her fame grew, she chose as her stage name, Melba, in honour of her hometown of Melbourne, Australia.
In 1886, she travelled from Australia to London and then on to Paris where she studied singing. She soon became the toast of the town and sang in Paris, St Petersburg, New York, Brussels and London. She had achieved international stardom.
The Australian $100 note with its image of Dame Nellie Melba, honours the brilliant vocalist and opera singer extraordinaire. But not only was she an amazing singer, she is also known for her significant charitable work during WWI. And for raising over 100,000 pounds for the war effort she was awarded the Dame of the Order of the British Empire.
Dame Nellie Melba spent time teaching and investing in the lives of rising young vocalists. She focused on nurturing and cultivating their vocal talents by sharing her musical scores with them, bringing them on tour with her and opening opportunities for them to share the stage with her.
All of this was good and noble, but it was Melba’s music that the people loved. Music is inherent in every society in our world and has the emotional power to touch our hearts and transform us.
That’s why music features in so many of the major events in the Bible, like: When the angels sang at Jesus birth, when the Israelites sang after they crossed the Red Sea, when David played his harp, when Solomon completed the Temple and celebrated in music and song. Even the longest book in the Bible, the Psalms, is a songbook. The words are written to be sung.
Now, the Bible never says, that only those who have beautiful voices can sing. Instead, it encourages all of us to open our hearts and lift up our voices and sing. Over and over the Bible encourages us to sing to the Lord, to sing praises, to sing joyfully and to come into God’s presence with singing.
So, we may not all have voices like Dame Nellie Melba, but we can still be thankful and express our gratitude to God for His many blessings, including music and musicians like the wonderful lady who is buried here.
Psalm 136 says: Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of Gods. His love endures forever.”