True Love of Music
Fremantle musician and writer Melanie Hall is about to release her first published work of fiction. The Choir of Gravediggers is an historical novella, based in late nineteenth century Melbourne. The book is written mostly about her great-great Grandfather, Charles Truelove. An enigmatic figure who worked as a choirmaster and cemetery manager, Truelove was at the centre of a series of ‘grave’ scandals in East St Kilda.
Melanie’s Grandfather, Bryan Hall, became fascinated with Truelove in the 1960s. Knowing very little about his own, rarely spoken of grandfather, he was surprised at a train station newsagent one day, when he flipped open a book to the article titled ‘Truelove in a Graveyard’. The book, ‘Great Scandals in Australia’s Strange Past’ by George Blaikie, sparked a lifelong curiosity in Bryan. Who really was Charles Truelove? Why did the family rarely speak about him, and hide his portrait? What really happened at the East St Kilda Cemetery?
After Bryan became ill in 2008, he shared his research into the family history research with his grand-daughter, and then UWA History student Melanie. His research included many historical photographs, prints from microfilm, newspapers articles, family trees, and much correspondences with the St Kilda historical society.
Melanie later traveled to Melbourne and trawled through archives at the State Records Office and State Library of Victoria, as well as visiting All Saints Church and East St Kilda Cemetery, which became the setting for the novella.
‘The Choir of Gravediggers’ was originally submitted as a creative writing honours dissertation in 2010. Sadly Bryan passed away before it was finished, but he was very pleased knowing that his grand-daughter had taken interest in the story.
In the novella, fact and fiction are cleverly woven together to give the reader a taste of what nineteenth century Melbourne may have been like; with a particular focus on choral singing and cemetery management, as the title suggests.
Melanie, also a musician, along with several siblings and cousins, including another local Tashi Hall (Tashi, Regular Hunters), and Jack Hall (Arlo Esnat, 44th Sunset), sees the book as a celebration of the musical heritage in her family, and also a homage to her Grandfather, who was so intrigued by the eccentricities of Charles Truelove.
‘The Choir of Gravediggers’ was accepted for publication by Ginninderra Press in 2015. Bryan’s wife Jennifer passed before the book was printed, but she was very happy to know that the story of her husband’s beloved Grandfather would finally be told.