One thing about the Poms, they know how to sing! The concert hall resounded for over three hours with British music and at every opportunity the capacity audience roared along to golden classics like Jerusalem, Land of Hope and Glory and Rule Britannia. It was the twenty first and final Best of British concert and I was well out of my depth, not only because I had to keep checking the lyrics (sorry, not a pom), but I wasn’t wearing red white and blue.
When compere David Hawkes (Curtin FM) asked if there were any ten pound poms in the audience it seemed like half the crowd raised their hands, which gives you an indication of the average age. Several audience members had attended all 21 of the last-night-at-the-proms-styled concerts.
The hugely successful tradition is the brainchild of conductor and entrepreneur John Christmass who pulled out all the stops for the last concert. Guest soloists included the Alasdair Kent with his shining tenor voice, Mark Alderson with his flair for the dramatic, the sweet-voiced soprano Alexandra Bak, the polished tenor Matthew Reardon, pure-voiced Josephine Christmass, limber David Grace and the entertaining Justin Friend. David Grace also took to the stage with his ukulele for some George Formby favourites and David Murray joined the orchestra on bagpipes for two Scottish numbers.
The New I Voci Singers sparkled in several choral solos and the Perth Pops Orchestra under conductor Jessica Gethin were diligent accompanists across a wide range of repertoire, coming most alive in a Beatles tribute medley.
As 10:30pm came and went I was the only one thinking about dressing gown and slippers – the old time rockers in the audience were only just warming up. But as streamers and balloons floated down and the British nostalgia took over I found myself waving a Union Jack flag furiously. A fitting tribute was paid to the remarkable octogenarian John Christmass whose closing words were, “If you think I’m done you’re wrong”. Christmass is moving on to new projects but hinted that other organisers were keen to continue the Best of British tradition. It felt like an important part of Perth’s music history had been honoured.
Copyright The West Australian May 2012