Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Bye Bye Perth Entertainment Centre

August 22, 2011
The proscenium arch of the Perth Entertainment Centre exposed during its demolition

Demolition of the Perth Entertainment Centre

There seems to be a lot of demolition going on in Perth at the moment, and a lot of my childhood seems to be going with it. The Francis Street Museum building is going, the big shed on North Quay in Fremantle (we did a primary school visit to that one!)  But the demolition that evokes the most nostalgia is that of the Perth Entertainment Centre.

When it opened in 1974 it was the biggest  proscenium arch theater in the world, with a seating capacity of 8003.  It was also bright orange (good 1970s style).  An aside: who remembers the bright blue (Perth, now cream coloured Rydges Hotel) and bright red (Sydney) Flotta Lauro buildings of the same era?

It was a great building for spectacles, not so great for anything more intimate, even in its theatre configuration (where they closed off the upper tiers of seating).  That said, I’ve got lots of happy memories of many many shows there, starting with very first show, Disney on Parade, and ending with Phantom of the Opera in 1998 (four years before the Centre was mothballed in 2002).

What did I see there?  These are what I remember (with the help of a look through my programme collection), and yes, given the venue my list is skewed to big spectacles, most of them presented by impressario Michael Edgley.

  • Disney on Parade (1974/5, I think I remember some Disney on Ice as well but don’t have a programme to confirm the dates)
  • London Festival Ballet with Rudolf Nureyev (1975 and 1977)
  • The Mikado (1977, with June Bronhill, more on that later)
  • Siberian Cossaks (1976)
  • The Great Moscow Circus on Ice (1978)
  • Evita (1980, matinee, front row seats, confronting and fabulous)
  • 1980 or 1981 chaperoned a friend’s daughter to The Police, hated how loud it was (I’ve always been funny that way)
  • David Bowie,  Serious Moonlight (1983, nearly missed it as I was out sailboard racing and had to be brought in late by the rescue boat)
  • International Ice Spectacular with Torville and Dean (1984?)
  • Richard Harris in Camelot (1984)
  • Torville and Dean the World Tour (1986)
  • Rocky Horror Show (1988, with a VERY young Russell Crowe playing Eddie/Dr Scott “1988 looks to be a productive year for Russell” says the programme!)
  • The Great Moscow Circus (early 90’s, don’t have a programme but I remember going!)
  • Phantom of the Opera (1998)
  • Numerous church and school things…
The most memorable concert for me was The Mikado in 1977.  Just as the second act opened lumps of metal and scaffolding poles rained down upon the stage, knocking out one of the chorus.  The production was stopped, I’m not sure but I think the classic call: “Is there a Doctor in the house?” was made, and it was announced that the show would be postponed while they made the stage safe (we later heard that the frame of a projection screen up above the stage had disintegrated).  June Bronhill came out in front of the curtain, still dressed and made up as Yum Yum, and sang to us during the delay (for 20 minutes or half an hour, I don’t remember exactly how long, it was a considerable length of time).  She would say “this is a little art song by so and so”, lean over the pit and ask the orchestra to “give me an A” (or whatever note was appropriate) and sing.  Then, when everything was made safe, she went back into character and performed the second act of Mikado.  A real trouper, we were all her slaves for life!

If you want to see some pictures of the Entertainment Centre over the years, there are some treats in the State Library of WA’s pictorial collection!  I have more demolition pictures in this set on flickr.  If you want to read some other Perthites waxing nostalgic over the Ent Cent, have a look at this blog entry and comments from The worst of Perth.


The Badpiper is (not) stalking me…

June 24, 2011

My local council is big on practical things.  Over the years I’ve had, free or at minimal cost, a worm farm, a compost bin, a free immobilizer for my old car, and they mow the verge 3-4 times a year.  Over the border, by contrast, my sister’s local council does bread and circuses really well.  Which is why I usually get an invite to a free concert in the park once or twice a year.  These concerts can be a mixed bag – Mental as Anything were brilliant, Shannon Noll was memorable for all the wrong reasons (me having to go to the police station afterwards to give a statement  regarding an incident I witnessed) – but the best concert of all for the old rocker in me was the Hells Bells AC/DC tribute (oops sorry, “we’re not a tribute band we’re a respect band”) concert.  And at that concert I first heard The Badpiper.

Awesome, leather kilted, mohawk wearing, punk rock bagpiping!  Belting out AC/DC on the flamethrowing bagpipes!  (OK, I may have cultural pretensions but I did grow up in a suburb where AC/DC were king… so how can I not love The Badpiper)

Since then I’ve seen Cam McAzi wowing the crowds at the Fremantle Street Arts Festival (follow him on facebook for dates and times of upcoming gigs on the busker’s pitch outside the Freo Markets).

So what could I do when I read this on his facebook page…

EDINBURGH FRINGE FESTIVAL SPECIAL!!! Buy any Badpiper album from the website and receive my first album, “Music for the kilted generation” absolutely free, includes postage anywhere in the world. Please help me get to Scotland to rock the festival.

… but take up the offer and buy two CDs.  What I wasn’t expecting was to receive them hand delivered in my letterbox wrapped in a note that said:

The Badpiper is (not) stalking me!

Thanks Badpiper!  I’m enjoying the music!

And for those who were wondering, yes this is the same Badpiper who wowed the judges on last year’s Australia’s Got Talent.

Oranges and Sunshine – Charity and Ghosts

June 17, 2011

Empty Cradles / Margaret HumphreysAround about 1994 I was browsing in New Edition bookshop in Fremantle and picked up a copy of Margaret Humphreys‘ book Empty Cradles.  I glanced at the beginning, began reading and was hooked.  I bought the book, took it home and read it straight through.  Now that compelling, horrifying, compasionate book has made it to the screen as the equally compelling, horrifying, compassionate film Oranges and Sunshine.

This is the story of the foundation of the Child Migrants Trust.  Of how, in 1986, Nottingham Social worker Margaret Humphreys’ work with adoptees led her to two women who’s lives had been devastated by forced child migration.  At first skeptical that Britain could’ve sent children across the world without parents or foster families, Margaret (Emily Watson), with the support of her husband Merv (Richard Dillane) works to find the women’s families.  To help them she visits Australia and makes the discovery that child migration affected more than just a handful of  children.  Her work snowballs as more and more “orphans” (as they were called, though many had parents living) come forward for assistance.  David Wenham and Hugo Weaving play Len and Jack, two of these damaged men, men who were promised the “Oranges and Sunshine” of the title, but for whom the reality was hardship and abuse.  Margaret and Merv’s lives are taken over  by the the quest to find the now grown children’s families before it is too late.Oranges and Sunshine

Directed by Jim Loach (son of Ken Loach) Oranges and Sunshine is a brilliant recreation of the mood of the book, the acting is understated, with Watson, Wenham and Weaving conveying worlds of emotion in the tiniest gesture.  My only quibble is that as a West Australian I had some trouble accepting Adelaide and South Australia as stand-ins for Perth and Western Australia (I had the same problem with Shine) but it’s not a criticism of this brilliant and moving film.

Margaret’s work for Child Migrants was recognised in Australia in 1993 when she was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia, and in Britain this year (2011) when she received a CBE.  The West Australian Government apologised to Child Migrants for their treatment in 1998, the Australian Government in 2009, and the British Government in 2010.

Go and see Oranges and Sunshine – no Australian or Briton should miss it.

I’ll leave you with another moving tribute to Child Migrants, Charity and Ghosts by the Stillsons.

How many librarians does it take to change a light globe?

June 16, 2011

It’s been a busy and slightly trying week so here’s a video essay of library humour guaranteed to improve the mood:

An old joke retold (as dramatised by me using Xtranormal):

For those of us battling with introducing new technology:

For those of us who’ve had one of those days with the customers:

Even though some of those customers may be kind’ve cute!

We may feel the desire to take this approach:

It could be worse (or why we only allow pencils in rare book reading roooms):

We can always go home and read in peace and quiet:

Thanks to all the people who’ve shared these videos with me over the years…


How many librarians does it take to change a light globe?

I don’t know but I can look it up for you!

Let the songs do the talking…

December 13, 2010

Most amused by this quote from the review of The Eagles concert at NIB Stadium Perth:

If it wasn’t for the hall-of-fame-quality collection of songs and pristine playing, the show would’ve been tearfully dull.  The Eagles barely move, make the odd joke but ultimately let the songs do the talking.

Peaceful easy feeling / Ara Jansen The West Australian 13 December 2010  Today p. 6

Well Ara, that’s what’s called a concert, and the guys on stage are musicians… They don’t have to use flashy production because their work is good enough without it!

Christmas at sea: of Sting and Robert Louis Stevenson

December 8, 2010

Its that time of the year and I’ve started listening to my Christmas playlist on my iPhone.   I’ve been particularly touched by the beautiful and melancholy Christmas at sea from Sting’s Winter/Christmas album of 2009 – If on a winter’s night.


Album cover for "If on a winter's night" by Sting

If on a winter's night / Sting

Today I discovered that the lyrics are selected verses from a poem of the same name by Robert Louis Stevenson,  originally published in Ballads, 1890. (On the album Stevenson’s words  are interleaved with a Gaelic song from the Isle of Skye Thograinn Thograinn sung by Mary McMaster).  Stevenson came from a family of lighthouse engineers and was a sailor himself so it’s no wonder he captured the feel of beating off a lee shore in bad weather so evocatively.  I commend both the song and the poem to my friends, particularly those that sail in square rig…

Christmas at Sea

The sheets were frozen hard, and they cut the naked hand;
The decks were like a slide, where a seaman scarce could stand;
The wind was a nor’-wester, blowing squally off the sea;
And cliffs and spouting breakers were the only things a-lee.

They heard the surf a-roaring before the break of day;
But ’twas only with the peep of light we saw how ill we lay.
We tumbled every hand on deck instanter, with a shout,
And we gave her the maintops’l, and stood by to go about.

All day we tacked and tacked between the South Head and the North;
All day we hauled the frozen sheets, and got no further forth;
All day as cold as charity, in bitter pain and dread,
For very life and nature we tacked from head to head.

We gave the South a wider berth, for there the tide-race roared;
But every tack we made we brought the North Head close aboard.
So’s we saw the cliff and houses and the breakers running high,
And the coastguard in his garden, with his glass against his eye.

The frost was on the village roofs as white as ocean foam;
The good red fires were burning bright in every longshore home;
The windows sparkled clear, and the chimneys volleyed out;
And I vow we sniffed the victuals as the vessel went about.

The bells upon the church were rung with a mighty jovial cheer;
For it’s just that I should tell you how (of all days in the year)
This day of our adversity was blessèd Christmas morn,
And the house above the coastguard’s was the house where I was born.

O well I saw the pleasant room, the pleasant faces there,
My mother’s silver spectacles, my father’s silver hair;
And well I saw the firelight, like a flight of homely elves,
Go dancing round the china plates that stand upon the shelves.

And well I knew the talk they had, the talk that was of me,
Of the shadow on the household and the son that went to sea;
And O the wicked fool I seemed, in every kind of way,
To be here and hauling frozen ropes on blessèd Christmas Day.

They lit the high sea-light, and the dark began to fall.
“All hands to loose topgallant sails,” I heard the captain call.
“By the Lord, she’ll never stand it,” our first mate, Jackson, cried.
. . . .”It’s the one way or the other, Mr. Jackson,” he replied.

She staggered to her bearings, but the sails were new and good,
And the ship smelt up to windward just as though she understood;
As the winter’s day was ending, in the entry of the night,
We cleared the weary headland, and passed below the light.

And they heaved a mighty breath, every soul on board but me,
As they saw her nose again pointing handsome out to sea;
But all that I could think of, in the darkness and the cold,
Was just that I was leaving home and my folks were growing old.

Robert Louis Stevenson

James E Buttersworth / Ship in a Storm

James E Buttersworth (1817-1894) Ship in a Storm



Sing Australia Tour of Victoria makes the Shepparton News!

November 8, 2010

I’ve been away at Sing Australia’s National Gathering in Melbourne (1300 attendees), followed by a Tour of Victoria (17 hardy souls 2 leaders, a driver and 3500km in a 24 seater minibus with luggage trailer!).  We managed to make the news in Shepparton! (We also were on the  Pride of the Murray when she became pride of Motown for the day – wait for the last few seconds of the clip). I had a good time but I was crook for most of the trip and wasn’t able to sing… ironic really!  Getting better now I’m home…

Shepparton News
05 Nov 2010


Toby at the Fly

September 11, 2010

I have a  playlist in iTunes that I call Divas – it ranges from Ute Lemper and Lotte Lenya via Nina Simone, Cleo Laine and Peggy Lee to Alannah Myles, Carly Simon and k. d. Lang, Kavisha Mazzella and  June Tabor.  So I was surprised that I’d missed hearing of local muso Toby Beard.  Last night I rectified this omission when as part of a friend’s birthday celebrations I went to the Fly by Night Musicians Club to hear Toby (Toby Beard and 15 piece band) launch her new CD Sleeptalk.

Toby playing at the album launch of Sleeptalk at the Fly by Night Musicians Club, Fremantle

Toby at the Fly

Great gig – beautiful woman with a beautiful voice, dreadlocked blonde hair and feisty stage presence, she sang her own songs from her new CD and back catalogue (all new to me) and covered Little Red Rooster, Etta James‘s I’d Rather go blind and When a man loves a woman.  The band included cellos, flute, smoking violin, awesome horns (trumpet, trombone and sax), something I have tentatively identified as a melodica, Mr Jean-Guy Lemire on harmonica as well as the more usual guitars, drums, keyboard and percussion.

The encore evoked Commedia dell’arte,  first Jean-Guy appeared on stage for a mournful harmonica solo, turning to reveal half his face whitened and marked with the black tear of a clown, then the trumpeter echoed the solo, face fully painted,  the theme was then taken up by the white faced violinist, poignant and plaintive (and remiscent of Latcho Drom).   Fom behind us we heard the beat of the drum and we turned and parted to admit the band, faces painted white, each with the black tear or mark, marching funerealy in double file led by two drummers.  Toby had switched her tunic for a red and white striped clowns vest and a top hat hid her dreadlocks.  There was somthing about it that suggested a New Orleans’ funeral for a clown… this was the extended intro into the beautiful C’est L’amour.

A brilliant finish to a great evening…

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