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Ada Jemima Crossley

1871 – 1929

Ada Jemima Crossley (1874-1929), singer, was one the first in a line of Australian-born divas to achieve an international reputation in the late 19th century. Taught to sing by her mother as a child in the tiny South Gippsland settlement of Tarraville, Crossley knew the rudiments of music before she could read. At age 14, conductor Sir Frederick Cowen declared her to have a beautiful and pure voice that was at risk of being ruined without adequate training. She was sent to Melbourne for professional coaching and at age 18 appeared in her first official engagement in a concert at the Melbourne Town Hall. She left for Europe in 1894, studying first with Sir Charles Santley in London and then for several months in Paris with Melba's teacher, Madame Mathilde Marchesi, who considered her one of her best pupils. She made her London debut in May 1895 and was soon singing in festivals throughout Britain. Crossley became known for her 'dignity, fine poise and style' as well as the 'luscious richness' of her voice and was commanded five times to sing for Queen Victoria. Audiences appreciated her generosity in giving encores, often referring to her as 'Ada of the Voice'. She made a successful tour of the USA in 1902 and was then engaged by JC Williamson to visit Australia and New Zealand. Percy Grainger was among her entourage when she arrived home in September 1903 and he accompanied her again on her second Australian tour in 1907-08. Grainger recalled Crossley as possessing 'a glorious voice and rare interpretive gifts in every style of music that she essayed' and as a performer who aroused 'frenetic enthusiasm' whenever she sang. She was also renowned for the hospitality and support she showed to Australian singers newly arrived in London. She retired from professional engagements in 1913 but continued to sing at charity concerts.

Updated 2018