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Judith Durham memorial service: An emotional evening in Melbourne filled with music

It was only fitting that a memorial service for Australian music legend Judith Durham should be an evening filled with music.

The lead singer of folk group The Seekers died in August aged 79, following complications arising from a long-standing lung disease.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Remembering Judith Durham with Athol Guy

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Crowds filed into Melbourne’s Hamer Hall to the sounds of live jazz for the service on Tuesday evening, hosted by Julia Zemiro and Brian Nankervis.

Wurundjeri elder Aunty Di Kerr offered a welcome to country with her own teenage memories of the star singer.

“Morningtown, we all thought we were going on a train to Mornington because we lived in Moorabbin,” she said, referencing the Seekers tune Morningtown Ride.

Soprano Deborah Cheetham then sang Long Time Living Here with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra string quartet.

Deborah Cheetham was among the performers at a state memorial for Seekers singer Judith Durham. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS) Credit: AAP

Then the Australian Children’s Choir sang the national anthem, before Vika and Linda Bull sang a duet accompanied on ukulele and double bass.

Judith Durham’s nephew Tony Sheehan gave a eulogy including stories from her childhood, growing up with a father who played the piano and a mother who hoped her children would be musical.

“Hazel’s abiding wish was that her children not be tone deaf,” he said.

“She got her wish.

“Divine singer, voice of a generation and faultlessly generous soul, we will miss you, but we are so proud of you.”

The Seekers lead singer Judith Durham will be honoured at a state funeral. (Alan Porritt/AAP PHOTOS) Credit: AAP

The near-full hall watched recordings of The Seekers 50th Anniversary Golden Jubilee Tour, with the hit songs I’ll Never Find Another You, A World of our Own, Georgie Girl, and I am Australian.

David Campbell performed The Carnival is Over, and Judith Durham’s older sister Beverley Sheehan also sang accompanied by Melbourne jazz band The Syncopators.

“This could be the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,” she said.

There were also recorded tributes from the likes of Kate Ceberano, Paul Kelly, Jimmy Barnes, Joanna Lumley and Rick Springfield.

Paul Kelly related working on a song with Judith Durham, and when he mentioned that Morning Town was his daughters’ favourite song, she sang it to the children for their bedtime.

Judith Durham has been honoured at a state funeral in Victoria. Credit: AP

“That was Judith, kind hearted, generous, and loved to give other people joy,” he said.

“But behind that sweetness and gentleness there was a hidden steel, a strong independence of mind.

“She quietly and firmly went her own way, danced to her own drum.”

Durham made her first recording at 19, and achieved worldwide fame after joining The Seekers in 1963.

The band, also including Athol Guy, Keith Potger and Bruce Woodley, climbed the charts in the 1960s with hits including The Carnival is Over, A World of Our Own and Georgy Girl.

Judith Durham in the 1960s. Credit: Getty

They became the first Australian band to achieve major chart and sales success in the United Kingdom and United States, eventually selling 50 million records.

Durham embarked on a solo career in 1968, recording with The Seekers again in the 1990s.

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Australian music legend Judith Durham has died in Melbourne aged 79.

Australian music legend Judith Durham has died in Melbourne aged 79.

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