In the beginning was St Mary's - singer

04:50, Aug 31 2014
Opera singer Jonathan Lemalu.

An internationally renowned opera singer says he is indebted to a Southland man for guiding him on his musical journey.

Dunedin-born Jonathan Lemalu now lives in London, but remembers when he was a choirboy under St Mary's Basilica organist Dr Raymond White.

"I have a huge sense of loyalty and debt to him," Lemalu said.

When he heard about the basilica parish's plans to refurbish their organ and buy another, he offered to perform a concert to help them raise the $150,000 needed.

Lemalu is touring with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, performing Haydn's Creation, and will spend his days off between concerts to perform in Invercargill.

He has sang at the basilica before, most recently in 2013 when he performed Handels' Messiah.


"I really like it there, it's beautiful." Lemalu said many people had the opinion that churches were for worship, not for entertainment, but he thought differently.

"I won't be singing Beyonce ... I'll be doing the building justice.

"Music is such an important part of life ... that's the way I was brought up. Music can complement worship."

He planned to sing pieces from Bach's Passions, and perhaps something from Stanford, which was biblical music, he said.

He hoped people would come to support their community, he said.

"It's a pretty historic place ... it's not really about me," he said.

Lemalu will perform at the basilica on Monday night.

The Southland Times