Jo Muhrer (Laurence) was born in Melbourne, Victoria. Jo was a musically gifted young woman who could sing in seven different languages. By her mid-twenties she had toured most American and European countries. In 1962, she was introduced to Ugo Ceresoli (who she would later marry) and his Latino-Italian ‘Mokambo Orchestra’. This sparked an interest in Latino-Italian music that would continue for the rest of her career.
Jo Muhrer (Beverly May Laurence) lived in Carrington Avenue, Seaford, a Melbourne bayside suburb (‘La Fiamma’, 1966). She developed a passion for music from a very young age and, at just sixteen, auburn-haired Jo began to perform in public singing opera arias and operettas (‘I.E.’, 1982). Jo was a musically gifted young woman and by the time she reached her mid-twenties she had already toured America and many European countries with a Continental vocal group (‘The Age’, 1967).
However, it was not the world of opera that really attracted her musically. Jo preferred the Italian sound where ‘she could sing with remarkable colour and a magnitude of tone’ (‘I.E.’, 1982). In 1962, an introduction to musician Ugo Ceresoli, sparked an interest in Latin-Italian music that would continue for the rest of her career. Ugo was an Italian migrant and an accomplished accordionist, headlining ‘Ugo Ceresoli and the Mokambo Orchestra’. A chance encounter, at a Mokambo ‘ballo Italiano’ where Jo was asked to sing a number with the band, led to many unforgettable evenings with the Mokambo Orchestra and ‘the commencement of a musical and personal relationship’ with Ugo (Whiteoak, 2007).
In 1967, Jo won first prize at the Australian Festival of Italian Songs, held at San Remo ballroom in Carlton, with her rendition of ‘Tu Sei Come Una Nuvola’ (‘You Are Like A Cloud’) and second prize with ‘Come Mai ‘(How). She was the only Australian to enter the festival (‘The Age’, 1967). Although she was unable to speak Italian, Jo could sing in Italian and many other languages very naturally. These languages included Hebrew, Portuguese, Turkish, French, German and English, reflecting the extensive travelling she embarked on in her twenties and her interest in other cultures.
By the mid-1960s Jo was engaged to Ugo and working at his music store in the heart of Melbourne’s Little Italy in Carlton (‘La Fiamma’, 1966). Ugo and Jo married in 1970, when Ugo was 43 years old, and their daughter, Melinda, was born later that year. They moved homes twice between 1970 and 1980 but always remained in Carlton, close to their family and other Mokambo Orchestra members (Australian Electoral Commission, 1977 and Australian Electoral Commission, 1980).
By the 1980s Jo was working at the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA), one of the most prestigious music schools in Australia. Here she ‘oversaw the organisation of concerts, musical performances and their educational purposes’ (‘I.E.’, 1982). Jo’s daughter, Melinda, who has inherited both her parents’ love of music, now also works at the Victorian College of the Arts, teaching courses in Contemporary Voice (Ceresoli, 2014).
Jo and Ugo later divorced (Ceresoli, 1996). Jo, a valued member of the music community, now teaches singing lessons privately from her home in Heidelberg Heights, Victoria.
Australian Electoral Commission. (1977). Australia, Electoral Rolls, 1903-1980. Retrieved April 1, 2014, from Ancestory.com: http://search.ancestry.com.au/cgibin/sse.dll?gsln=Ceresoli&gsln_x=XO&gss=angs-c&pcat=35&h=87587609&db=AUSelectoralrolls&indiv=1&ml_rpos=7
Australian Electoral Commission. (1980). Australia, Electoral Rolls, 1903 - 1980. Retrieved April 1, 2014, from Ancestory.com: http://search.ancestry.com.au/cgibin/sse.dll?gsln=Ceresoli&gsln_x=XO&gss=angs-c&pcat=35&h=98850013&db=AUSelectoralrolls&indiv=1&ml_rpos=14
Ceresoli, M. (2014). Melinda Ceresoli Biography. Retrieved April 1, 2014, from www.melindaceresoli.com: http://www.melindaceresoli.com/%E2%80%A2_biog
Death certificate for Ugo Ceresoli (Certified copy). Reg. No. 5628/1996 (1996). Deaths in the State of Victoria, Public Records of Victoria, Victoria.
I.E. (1982, 7 26). Jo Muhrer 16 dopo anni. Unknown, n.p.
La Fiamma. (1966). Jo Muhrer's life centres round Italy. La Fiamma, n.p. The Age. (1967, October 5). Victory Song for Jo - In Italian. The Age, p. 4.
Whiteoak, J. (2007). Mambo Italiano: Ugo Ceresoli and His Orchestra Mokambo. Italian Historical Society Journal, 58-72.