11 July 2023

The Young'uns who faced the English before second Ashes Test

| Edwina Mason
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female opera singer with Aussie Test cricket team

Former Young resident Louise Callinan says her memories of watching cricket on television with her dad Leo came to the fore as she stood in front of the Pavilion at Lord’s before the start of the second Test. Photo: Screenshot.

Let’s rewind time a little, back through the jabber about the recent Ashes Test cricket series to a monumental moment that everyone but those from Young missed.

Even the thousands gathered at Lord’s were hushed to silence.

On a ground where white on green and a dash of red takes centre stage, for a few minutes a dark-haired woman in white commanded all attention as she performed the Australian national anthem at the start of the second Test.

But what wasn’t widely known was that as Louise Callinan – a mezzo-soprano – stood in front of the Australian cricket team she was one of two people who grew up living and breathing the fresh country air of Australia’s cherry capital.

Both of them were also students at St Mary’s Primary School.

If there’d been a high five between her and Nathan Lyon it might have been obvious, but there was nothing, zero indication, not even a smile, wink, lamington or Vegemite sandwich that these two were hometown bros.

And life went on.

But for the rest of us, it was as sublimely sweet as our famed cherry pies and of enormous consequence.

Louise told About Regional that being at Lord’s and performing had brought up an exhilarating roller-coaster of emotions.

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That’s saying something.

The world-renowned opera singer was the first Australian to be accepted into the Young Artist Program at the Opera National de Paris and was also the winner of that company’s prestigious AROP prize.

opera singer Louise Callinan

Louise Callinan before her performance at Lords. Photo: Louise Callinan.

Louise has sung with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, l’Orchestre national d’Ile deFrance, Theatre du Chatelet, the LA Opera, Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Opera Australia, Israeli Opera, Opera de Rennes, Angers Nantes Opera and Theatre de l’Opera Luxembourg. Her performances read like a lifetime European operatic concert tour.

Louise’s first singing teacher was her dad.

That man – Leo Callinan – was one of the longest-serving principals of Young Public School, a man so popular in town, he bordered immortal, for when he passed away everyone was shocked.

But as Louise stood before the stately Pavilion at Lord’s, she said it took her right back to summers at home in Young glued to the television watching cricket with her dad.

Watching and being there, she found, were two different things.

“I’d never been to Lord’s before, and let me tell you, it’s such a special place,” she said.

“People had told me how remarkable it is, but I didn’t fully grasp the rich tradition until I experienced it firsthand. The energy was electric and I took a few minutes before my performance to take it all in. I wanted to enjoy the moment and just soak up the atmosphere – something I’ll never forget.”

Louise credits her dad for giving her the best start possible in singing.

“I am deeply grateful,” she said. “Though he may be gone, his spirit continues to guide and support me on days like this.”

There was also someone else there for her.

Over the other side, in front of the English players, was her husband Rodney Earl Clarke, an Englishman, who performed God Save the King with great care and concentration, Louise said, given the recent lyric change from ”queen” to ”king”.

“It’s not every day you get to go head-to-head with your own husband for a high-profile gig,” she said. “We embraced it and had an absolute blast, even capturing a little bit of fun rivalry on camera.”

Just weeks earlier, she’d stood on another famous ground – The Oval, home to Surrey County Cricket Club – to perform the national anthem before the ICC World Test Championship between Australia and India.

“A jaw-dropping audience of 123.6 million viewers was in India alone!” Louise said. “I never, in my wildest dreams, imagined singing for such a massive crowd.”

So did she and Nathan meet?

Aussie Test cricketers

Just behind Louise and joining her in singing the Australian national anthem was another Young local in Test cricketer Nathan Lyon. Photo: Screenshot.

“I would have absolutely cherished the opportunity to meet him and engage in a conversation. He’s a truly remarkable athlete, whose relentless dedication has propelled him to the pinnacle of sports today. We didn’t cross paths until we were on the field, where he was well and truly in the zone,” Louise said.

But Louise’s mother Margaret Callinan, who taught at St Mary’s Primary, took a little bit of pride in knowing she once took Nathan to cricket and recalls clearly his talent and love for the game from a young age.

“While Mum may have now relocated from Young to Sydney to be closer to my brother and sister, she was very much on the phone, ensuring all her friends in Young knew I’d be singing the Australian anthem at the Ashes!” Louise said.

She said the response to her performance had been astonishing.

“Singing at this high-profile match has also allowed me to reconnect with so many old classmates and friends from Young,” she said.

“Seeing my Facebook and Instagram accounts light up with heartfelt good wishes and messages has made me really happy. This bit of contact was such a highlight, especially considering how busy and spread out we all are these days.”

And it will endure.

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“The exhilarating experience of performing in front of our national team and the electrifying crowd at Lord’s, while receiving the sincere and unwavering support of countless people back home, will forever be etched in my memory,” Louise said.

Just as deep as the memories of a life travelling with her siblings between regional eisteddfods with her parents and granny, Mary Leahey of Tubbul.

“Together, they made sure we never missed out on these amazing experiences,” Louise said.

“I also grew up singing with the Young Theatre Company, at Mass in St Mary’s Church and the school musicals at Young High School – all were incredible experiences that filled me with real joy.”

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