A night of music to farewell Judith Durham

·3-min read

It was only fitting that a memorial service for Australian music legend Judith Durham should be an evening filled with song, ending with a standing ovation.

The lead singer of folk group The Seekers died in August aged 79, following complications arising from a long-standing lung disease.

The remaining members of The Seekers, Athol Guy, Keith Potger and Bruce Woodley, took to the stage of Melbourne's Hamer Hall to pay tribute.

It was a surreal experience to be onstage without Judith, Keith Potger said.

"Judith was a taker and a giver. She took with humility the inevitable and well deserved praise for her incredible talent. She gave love unstintingly and honestly, and this included her singing buddies, Athol, Bruce and me," he said.

He recalled how she had fought the effects of a lung disease for most of her singing career, but had forced herself to go onstage night after night to give knockout performances.

The band shared a song Bruce Woodley had written two decades ago, that The Seekers had unearthed and recorded recently - their very last song together, titled "Carry me".

Earlier in the evening, soprano Deborah Cheetham sang Long Time Living Here with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra string quartet, the Australian Children's Choir sang the national anthem, and Vika and Linda Bull performed a duet accompanied on ukulele and double bass.

Judith Durham's nephew Tony Sheehan gave a eulogy including stories from her childhood, growing up with a father who played the piano and a mother who hoped her children would be musical.

"Hazel's abiding wish was that her children not be tone deaf. She got her wish," he said.

"Divine singer, voice of a generation and faultlessly generous soul, we will miss you, but we are so proud of you."

The near-full hall watched recordings of The Seekers 50th Anniversary Golden Jubilee Tour, with the hit songs I'll Never Find Another You, A World of our Own, Georgy Girl, and I am Australian.

David Campbell performed The Carnival is Over, and Judith Durham's older sister Beverley Sheehan also sang accompanied by Melbourne jazz band The Syncopators.

"This could be the hardest thing I've ever had to do," she said.

There were also recorded tributes from the likes of Kate Ceberano, Paul Kelly, Jimmy Barnes, Joanna Lumley and Rick Springfield.

Paul Kelly related working on a song with Judith Durham, and when he mentioned that Morning Town was his daughters' favourite song, she sang it to the children for their bedtime.

"That was Judith, kind hearted, generous, and loved to give other people joy," he said.

"But behind that sweetness and gentleness there was a hidden steel and a strong independence of mind, she quietly and firmly went her own way, danced to her own drum."

Durham made her first recording at 19, and achieved worldwide fame after joining The Seekers in 1963.

They became the first Australian band to achieve major chart and sales success in the United Kingdom and United States, eventually selling 50 million records.

Durham embarked on a solo career in 1968, recording with The Seekers again in the 1990s.