Australian Dictionary of Biography

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McKean, Lorna Crawford (1914–1963)

by Brian Pope

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

Lorna Crawford McKean (1914-1963), soprano, was born on 13 August 1914 at Arncliffe, Sydney, youngest of three daughters of native-born parents Robert Crawford McKean, schoolteacher, and his wife Jane, née McManus. Lorna received early piano tuition from her mother and formal education at Bexley Public, Cleveland Street Intermediate High and St George Girls' High schools. She left school to concentrate on full-time piano studies with Elizabeth Coleman and singing lessons with Ruth Ladd.

A talented actress who performed at (Dame) Doris Fitton's Independent Theatre, McKean loved music. She studied singing at the New South Wales State Conservatorium of Music, giving lieder recitals and performing operatic roles such as Pamina in Mozart's The Magic Flute and Eurydice in Gluck's Orpheus and Eurydice. McKean was awarded a Layman Martin Harrison scholarship, and in 1936 gained teacher's and performer's diplomas in singing. Shortly afterwards she accepted an invitation to join the Australian Broadcasting Commission's wireless chorus, conducted by Joseph Post.

On 9 August 1938 at the district registrar's office, Rockdale, Lorna married Leo Denis Vaughan Hanly, a 21-year-old violinist and a fellow student at the conservatorium; they were to have three children. Hanly had been assisting-artist during Richard Tauber's Australian tour and the Taubers attended the wedding. The newlyweds completed a national broadcasting tour for the A.B.C. before settling in Perth, where Hanly was appointed (1939) leader of the A.B.C.'s local orchestra. His wife soon became active in music circles in the city. When World War II broke out she undertook extensive touring and concert work throughout the State to assist the war effort.

In 1948 Lorna McKean (as she continued to be known professionally) travelled to London with an introduction to the soprano Elisabeth Schumann. She auditioned successfully for the British Broadcasting Corporation and fulfilled a number of engagements, including radio recitals and public performances. In 1949 she returned to Western Australia. Her work in London had impressed (Sir) John Barbirolli, conductor of the Hallé Orchestra. In accepting an invitation to tour Australia for the A.B.C. in the summer of 1950-51, he stipulated two conditions: that the tour take place when the English cricket team was in Australia, and that she should appear as soloist in some of his concerts. Barbirolli's tour established McKean in the front rank of Australian musicians.

She continued her singing career, tackling new compositions, adding to her repertoire, and introducing works by composers such as Claude Debussy, Paul Hindemith and Edgar Bainton to Perth audiences. During the 1950s and early 1960s McKean occupied a prominent position in Perth's music world. Survived by her husband, daughter and one of her two sons, she died of a cerebral tumour on 26 October 1963 at Royal Perth Hospital and was cremated with Congregational forms. John Farnsworth Hall, the conductor of the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, described her as 'a superb artist who was deeply appreciated'.

Select Bibliography

  • Broadcaster, 24 Sept-1 Oct 1938, 29 July 1939, 27 Feb 1946
  • West Australian, 19 Apr 1939, 2, 28 Oct 1963
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 15 Jan 1951
  • family records (privately held).

Citation details

Brian Pope, 'McKean, Lorna Crawford (1914–1963)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 7 May 2021.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2021

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Hanly, Lorna

13 August 1914
Arncliffe, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


26 October 1963
Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Religious Influence