Voice from Forbes backs this year's Canberra Enlighten illumination

Enlighten 2022 | The National Library of Australia

The voice of Forbes' very own First Nations opera singer, Lorna Beulah, has rung across Canberra through the capital's Enlighten festival.

As images of women in the performing arts have been projected across the National Library of Australia each night for two weeks, the voice of the Forbes-born soprano has underscored the projection's finale.

Not only that, but the sound is the only known recording of the 'nightingale', and was recorded right here in Forbes' Presbyterian Church Hall.

Lorna Beulah singing in Martin Place on National Aborigines Day, 1964. (Call number: Government Printing Office 2 - 34587; digital order number d2_34587). Image State Library of NSW.

Lorna Beulah singing in Martin Place on National Aborigines Day, 1964. (Call number: Government Printing Office 2 - 34587; digital order number d2_34587). Image State Library of NSW.

The recording, captured by Jack Cundill between 1962 and 1965, was on reel to reel tape at Forbes and District Historical Society.

For a long time nobody could play it but it was labelled, so its significance was recognised, and a number of years ago local Rob Willis OAM was able to preserve and archive it with the National Library of Australia.

The recording is a little more than 30 minutes from a concert arranged by the ladies of the Presbyterian Church for senior citizens.

"The recording is extremely significant as it is the only known recording of her but also gives an idea of the content of a concert in this era," Mr Willis said.

"It also highlights the change in Australian accent and the social culture of the day."

In the recording Lorna performs several light operetta pieces including an aria by Puccini, "Songs my mother taught me" by Dvorak and "Thanks be to God".

Beulah's soaring soprano has been heard by visitors to the illumination, as the images of Opera Australia stars, alternative rock icon Ella Hooper, prominent pianist Winifred Atwell, and acclaimed actor, writer and director Leah Purcell are projected onto the National Library.

There's also a feature on circus performers as part of the Library illumination, and if you look closely you'll also see the image of Con Colleano, wizard of the wire with a connection to Forbes, included.