Archive | April 2023

Susannah and the Free Voice – now on video!

The first time I heard Susannah Lathlean sing I truly did feel an almost unbearable yearning for something I didn’t even know I’d lost.  Her voice does that to you – conjures up the passions of the past, hints at a sublime future, makes you feel…oh, I dunno! You have to hear her to understand what I mean. 

A great deal of expert training has turned a naturally beautiful voice into something special; she can range freely around an octave or two and at the same time knock your heart around.  And her repertoire is flexible – I have heard her sing traditional folk songs, gritty Leonard Cohen ballads, rock, blues and jazz.  Her rendering of the old torch classic Cry Me a River is the best I have EVER heard, by anyone, anywhere.  I used to sing this song myself, in a nightclub, but could never do it so well. 

For years now Susannah has been teaching singing in her own unique way and what she teaches goes way beyond singing; in her own words: 

“For me – and my clients – it’s about learning to connect and stand with yourself in a much deeper way than ever before. Singing in front of others brings up so much vulnerability, self-doubt and fear and I aim to help people acknowledge those feelings and not be held back by them. And to finally express what’s inside them in an authentic and heart-felt way. I truly believe everyone has a unique and beautiful sound and so much so much healing, joy and freedom happens when that sound is allowed to be fully expressed. Finding your voice while freeing yourself. 

 Hence the name of my business is Free Voice. “

Susannah holds in-person sessions on Tamborine Mountain, where she lives, and on the Gold Coast. And now she has a new website and is offering a free on-line mini course that anyone can sign up for. And she’ll also be offering remote one-on-one coaching sessions via live vide through the website, plus more in-depth courses and workshops.  

So wherever you live in the world, if you love to sing and yearn to do it to your fullest ability, you can share in Susannah’s unique approach to vocal development. 

This is not an ad! Susanah is a friend and I have other friends who have been taught by her to marvellous effect. I love her dedication and vision. As well as her voice.

Hilligei – the story of Hilda Geissmann-Curtis

Hilda Geissmann was an ordinary woman who, for a short period of time, lived an extraordinary life by becoming one of Australia’s first significant photographer/naturalists.

Descended from German immigrants, in the latter part of the 19th century Hilda moved with her parents and six siblings to Tamborine Mountain, then a remote and isolated rainforest plateau in south east Queensland. They were a hardworking pioneer family who built the mountain’s first guesthouse as well as a general store. These were managed by Hilda’s mother, the redoubtable Elfriede, because her father, Willem Felix Geissmann, soon departed for the ill-fated Cosme colony in Paraguay, never to return. Hilda and her sister worked in the guesthouse while her brothers felled the mighty rainforest trees and ran a timber mill, with one brother also operating a transport business to get visitors from Brisbane and the hot coastal plain up to the cool green heights of the mountain.

The Geissmann children soon learned the secret ways of the mountain, with its deep gorges, lush rainforest, waterfalls and steep cliff faces. Hilda, in particular, studied the habits of birds and plants until she got her first camera, a huge and cumbersome Thornton-Pickard with a wooden case and silver plates which had to be processed with the greatest finesse. Hilda first did this in the guesthouse bathroom until she received a darkroom as an engagement present from her husband-to-be, local farmer Herbert Curtis.

Hilda’s photographs and articles were soon published in various newspapers and magazines, earning her a modest fame which led to her being much in demand as a local guide to visiting naturalists from around the world. Her exquisite orchid studies were particularly prized and she corresponded regularly with orchidists and ornithologists of the day.

And then, she gave it all up! Nobody knows why, but she stopped taking photographs and seems to have maintained only a distant interest in natural history after World War 11, concentrating instead on her role as farmer’s wife and mother, growing cutflowers to make ends meet. Fortunately for birdwatchers, orchid lovers and rainforest enthusiasts her work lives on in her articles and photographs.

Hilligei tells Hilda’s story, using local history, family recollections, letters and articles to reveal what little we know about a modest woman whose achievements, though equally modest, were ahead of her time.

I was first introduced to Hilda by a friend who had known her in extreme old age and who thought her story deserved to be told. She was right. I was privileged to have access to a small collection of letters, photographs, diaries and writings as well as undertaking research in the Queensland State Library and the University of Queensland’s Fryer Library. I hope people who read this book will come to love her as much as I did!

Hilligei is available as an ebook on Amazon and in print form from Under the Greenwood Tree bookshop on Tamborine Mountain. All proceeds go to Tamborine Mountain Landcare, which I am sure is just the way Hilda would have wanted it.