Dame Joan Hammond 1912-1996

Joan Hammond

Dame Joan Hammond

Her ‘retirement’ was only temporary. She gave masterclasses in Australia and Britain, several of which were televised.

From 1975 Hammond headed the Victorian College of the Arts’ Vocal Studies department.

In 1983 Hammond narrowly escaped death when the Ash Wednesday fires destroyed her Airey’s Inlet house with its lifetime’s collection of treasured memorabilia, including the manuscript of a further book of reminiscences.

She was living quietly in Bowral, New South Wales when she died on 26 November 1996.

 

Her ‘retirement’ was only temporary. She gave masterclasses in Australia and Britain, several of which were televised. She became patron of the Melbourne-based Victorian Opera Company, which was then operating on a semi-professional basis. Her commitment, energy and experience helped the organisation to evolve into the Victoria State Opera. She was its artistic director from 1971 until 1976 and remained on the board until 1985. She joined the Victorian Council of the Arts, which advised the state government’s Minister for the Arts. She was also a member of the Australia Council for the Arts’ first opera advisory panel, and an Honorary Life Member of the Australian Opera, serving on its National Advisory Council.

From 1975 Hammond headed the Victorian College of the Arts’ Vocal Studies department. She continued as Vocal Consultant from 1990 to 1993 and taught at the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Music. She also gave private lessons. In 1986 the VSO initiated the annual Dame Joan Hammond Award in her honour. Its recipients include Richard Divall, Joan Carden, Donald McDonald, Ken Mackenzie-Forbes, Elijah Moshinsky, Moffatt Oxenbould, Marilyn Richardson and John Shaw. In 1990, when the award was presented to Dame Joan Sutherland, Nick Enright wrote and delivered a commemorative poem, A Ballad for Two Dames. The manuscript, signed by Hammond, Sutherland and Richard Bonynge, is preserved in the National Library of Canberra.

In 1983 Hammond narrowly escaped death when the Ash Wednesday fires destroyed her Airey’s Inlet house with its lifetime’s collection of treasured memorabilia, including the manuscript of a further book of reminiscences. In 1992 she completed a book on the art of singing, but it remains unpublished. Hammond’s long, productive relationship with the VSO ended in 1993, after she made some critical, if constructive, comments in a television interview. To her considerable distress, she was isolated from its future activities. She was living quietly in Bowral, New South Wales when she died on 26 November 1996.

Joan Hammond’s personal papers are preserved in the National Library in Canberra. Her sheet music collection is at the University of Melbourne Conservatorium and the Arts Centre’s Performing Arts Collection holds her awards, as well as many programs, photographs and clippings and the replacement ‘O My Beloved Father’ Gold Record.

Joan Hammond’s remarkable, unmistakable voice, bright in colour, vibrant and full-toned, is enshrined on around 150 78 rpm sides and a further seven LP albums. Many have been remastered and reissued on CD, a timeless tribute to a highly disciplined but warm and generous artist who effortlessly transcended the barriers normally raised between popular and classical music, and between art and sport.

Frank Van Straten, 2007

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Biographical references

Joan Hammond: A Voice, a Life, Gollanz, 1970
A Tribute to Dame Joan Hammond, Booklet published for the tribute to her memory, Melbourne Concert Hall, 17 December 1996