Former Armidale Presbyterian Ladies College student Hester Fraser has just launched her second album ‘Realm’ under her performance moniker Goldheist at a sold-out event held at the Sydney Opera House, and she is currently on her way home to New England for a promotional tour.
“I loved PLC; they had an excellent music department when I was there, which almost certainly influenced where I've ended up now,” Ms Fraser said.
“Armidale is great because it is big enough to support all sorts of wonderful cultural pursuits while still enjoying the serenity of a country town.”
It was probably inevitable that Ms Fraser would end up in the public eye. Her grandfather was former Australian prime minister Malcolm Fraser and her parents Hugh and Jane Fraser founded Voci Stupende to help fledgeling opera singers find a wider audience and patronage. Ms Fraser’s sister Hannah is a formidable mezzo-soprano who is currently studying in Europe.
My sister and I are both classically trained - we started piano lessons around five-years-old, and pursued music throughout our school years,” Ms Fraser said.
“Singing was not something I specifically chose, it was simply my purest form of communication through music, and something I had been comfortable doing from a young age through singing in choirs.”
‘Realm’ features songs which explore mental health issues, environmental concerns, the impact of conflict in war-torn regions, terrorism and political fear-mongering, and the importance of standing up for what you believe in. It also features the song Ms Fraser wrote to perform at her grandfather’s state funeral.
“Grandad was very supportive of all his grandchildren, and of our vast array of chosen careers,” Ms Fraser said. “He was never given to lecturing or offering life advice, but lead by example - for me, the lesson was to be courageous enough to stand up for what you think is right, to be informed, to be pro-active, to be tenacious, and through these means, to approach life with conviction and integrity.”
Ms Fraser wrote her first song when she was in year 5 and it won third place in the Armidale Eisteddfod for Composition
“It was a piano piece,” she said.
“My first song with words was a heady romance featuring angels and fairies and friends - utter poetry, no doubt. I have two albums now. The first, Call Of The Wild, featured my debut single Dust, which I wrote in support of drought relief in 2014. Realm, which is a concept album, is a carefully curated musical journey of songs and stories which reflect the world and issues around us, inspiring conversation and debate.”
One of the songs on the album is about mental health issues and suicide, a subject Ms Fraser is passionate about.
“When I wrote You Were There, I knew it was important subject matter, and I found it a difficult piece to write because I wanted to accurately capture the angst of living with mental health issues, but also the hope and life affirming message that people are strong and can get through things which seem impossibly tough, which was my personal experience shining through,” she said.
“However, I had no idea how profound this song would be as a catalyst for others to share their experiences with mental health problems, telling their stories to me and to each other. This is an incredibly healing process, and the act of reaching out helps to remind people that they're not alone, that someone is always listening. The other thing I've learnt through this song is that mental health issues are incredibly widespread - much more than I had really realised. Talking about it is certainly an important part of breaking the stigmas which plague this issue.”
Goldheist will perform at the Armidale Golf Club on Friday November 17, Barraba Playhouse on Saturday November 18 and the North Tamworth Bowling Club on Saturday January 27.