Our main event for the 2019 Seniors Festival was a concert by the 100-strong Open Door Singers. They really are unique entertainment. As Lesley Wing Jan says: “around 120 audience members enjoyed listening to the choir, singing along to some of the songs, tapping their feet to the music and conversing over a cup of tea or coffee at the end of the performance” As the concert was sold out, we also made a profit. Thanks to Bill Naim for originally introducing us to the singers.
The Open Door Singers wowed us again (by Debra Forbes)
Shaun Islip drew his wonderful Open Door Singers together for the our final musical event for the 2018 Seniors Festival.
The Eltham Community and Reception Centre has a magnificent auditorium and then a beautiful break out area overlooking the parkland to the reserve beyond. We had one hundred voices on stage in perfect harmony almost blowing the roof off with the power of their songs.
Shaun, with his engaging style, drew the audience into his web of engagement. It did not matter if it was a dance with one of the audience members, a solo performance by individuals of his choir, or the drawing the audience into the song of the moment. It was a truly uplifting experience.
The choir sang a vast repertoire of songs ranging from Nessun Dorma to Oh what a Night and everything in between. Singing in the Rain, a medley from West Side Story, Don’t Bring Me Down Bruce, Waterloo by Abba, and A True Friend from Muriel’s Wedding. The performance exceeded an hour in total and it was a delight to see the many happy faces leaving the auditorium to share the supplied afternoon tea, saying “wasn’t that wonderful“.
An engaging hour with chamber music and a recorder ensemble (by Graham Parslow)
Eltham High School is renowned for its music education and contributed four of its most promising string players to create a classical chamber orchestra group of two violins, a viola and cello. The music began with a lively Latin melody, La Mariposa composed by Lorie Baum. A more sedate selection of tunes followed, including part of a J.S. Bach concerto. The Eltham students finished with A Gaelic Overture by David O’Fallon. Allowing for the age and experience of the performers, it was a delight to see these potential virtuosos performing for us.
An ensemble of six far more mature players took the stage next to entertain with their recorders. We were told that we may have acquired an aversion to the humble recorder from indifferent experiences in primary school (and there seemed to be general agreement to that assertion). So it was that the Deepdene Dashers, named after the veteran train that served Deepdene for many years, took to their recorders to show us a quality of music that we may not have anticipated. The group were playing recorders that covered bass notes through to high treble. An outstanding item was a rendition of Calliope, a piece composed to mimic the timbre of the unusual Mississippi Steam Organ.
A tribute band that rocked our souls in the bosom of Abraham (by Graham Parslow)
When you get to a certain age, some broad strokes of history become clearer. The post WWII baby boomers were the first ever generation born into an age when youth had a significant voice. That voice was loudest when raised in song. Bob Dylan wrote much of the script for the angst of a generation that saw what was wrong with the world in the 1960s. This earned him a Nobel prize for literature when hindsight showed how profound his words were (and continue to be). Peter Paul and Mary gave harmony and soul to many of the songs of faith, optimism and protest in the 1960s.
And so it was that a TARDIS from 1962 landed at the Eltham Bowls Club at 2pm on Sunday, 14th October. Out stepped a group titled The Don’t Think Twice Trio, aka Eric, Wendy and Janet. Eric teased perfect chords and arpeggios out of his guitar as Wendy added sonorities from her guitar. Janet surprised and delighted with her solo parts in a low register. In harmony they took us through songs that were mouthed in synchrony by the assembled audience of 60 souls, made young again as the song sheet of our youth flowed harmoniously around the hall.
Wendy treated us to some history that was a welcome guide to the context of the songs that we were hearing. Peter, Paul and Mary were formed in Greenwich Village New York in 1961. The trio was composed of tenor Peter Yarrow, baritone Noel Paul Stookey and alto Mary Travers (Mary Travers died in 2009 and Yarrow and Stookey continue to perform as a duo).
They recorded their debut album, Peter, Paul and Mary, in 1962. It included Lemon Tree, 500 Miles, and the Pete Seeger hit tunes If I Had a Hammer and Where Have All the Flowers Gone?. The album was listed in the Billboard Magazine Top Ten for 10 months, including seven weeks in the No. 1 position. It remained a main catalogue album for decades to come, eventually selling over two million copies. If I Had a Hammer and Blowin’ in the Wind came out of the 1963 March on Washington, best remembered for the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech. The Bob Dylan song Blowin’ in the Wind was one of their biggest hit singles. They also sang other Dylan songs including The Times They Are a-Changing and Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.
The songs I would like to highlight for particular mention, as rendered by The Don’t Think Twice Trio, are Early Mornin’ Rain, 500 Miles, Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright, Lemon Tree, Day Is Done, All My Trials, If I Had A Hammer and Blowing In The Wind. The excellent afternoon tea and drinks from the bar completed a memorable day.
By Graham Parslow
A five piece band, an excellent buffet of food and good company collectively made this a memorable evening. The Diamond Creek Community Hall was ideal for nostalgic recollections of occasions in church halls and the like when the participants were much younger. The ninety guests, plus five band members, mixed easily together as people renewed associations and made new acquaintances. The schedule was firmly managed by Bill Naim as MC to ensure that everything went to plan. The orchestra took us down memory lane with “I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts” and many more tunes that took us through to the 1960s. We could have danced all night to “Moon River” and swayed to the “Girl from Ipanema“. Every number was a familiar tune. It was BYO and most guests brought their own favourite wine. It was a bonus knowing that Tony Lee, who led the band while playing saxophone or clarinet, is also a key contributor to U3A courses. Bill the MC also revealed his singing talent with a performance of “Granada” in a rendition that (as the song in English proclaims) was both romantic and gay. It was a great night for participation, setting up the tables, taking them down and having a great deal of fun in between.
by Debra Forbes
First, the singers. My job, after asking volunteers to control the refreshments, was to tend the door. But I had forgotten the U3A banner and I raced back to the OEC to retrieve it only to be horrified, on my return, to find the hall filling with people and that I had lost control of that door. Calm down, Debra, calm down – it was just all ‘the singers’ arriving early, lots of them, huge quantities of them. Shaun Islip had made a special request to his Open Door Singers that this was the premier event for the Seniors Festival and, if there was a choice from their personal calendars, then they needed to be at this event. It seems that they took the instruction to heart: instead of the expected 40 singers to provide us with the entertainment, we had 100 voices on stage and giving their all!
People who arrived early and holding the best seats were treated to extra delights from the singers as they warmed up their vocal chords and provided a good 20 minutes of song and a taste of the repertoire to come.
The room filled, Shaun steadied the singers and the audience, and the event began. The singers, 100 voices rose through the DCCC. If there was any melancholy in the room before this, it was immediately lifted as the voices of these 100 talented singers began their first song. The words of the songs were projected onto the facing wall to encourage audience participation and they did – even our Acting President, Guy Palmer, with his wife Susan, could be seen in the front row throwing their voices into the mix. Songs were drawn from popular music, contemporary favourites and some well-known classics such as You Made Me Love You, Mama Mia and You’ll Never Walk Alone, an amazing medley of songs – favourites from times perhaps more extroverted than now.
Some may remember Franciscus Henri of Hello Mr Whiskers fame, Hello Mr Whiskers came to our schools for our children and did impromptu songs, singing and writing sessions. Franciscus was there as both a chorus singer and a soloist and it was so amazing to hear the strength and depth of his voice.
Perhaps the highlight of the singing was Shaun’s presentation of a collection of songs from Les Miserables, in English. These songs were as moving and powerful as those presented in the musical theatre productions such as Hugh Jackson’s version of Les Miserables.
The afternoon ended everyone on their feet and many dancing to the final tune of Stay With Me.
At the end, door prizes were drawn, which was won equally by the choir and the audience, and there was a yummy afternoon tea for all.
The whole afternoon was terrific. Many, many thanks to the volunteers who came to specially help, the event would not be the success it was without you.
Finally, as a special treat for you, one of Shaun Islip’s helpers videotaped the event, edited it down to around 18 minutes, and placed it on YouTube. If you make it to the end, you’ll find Bill and I attempting a jive – in sneakers! Watch the video on YouTube.
Thanks to the 136 performers and the 500 plus audience members who took part in the program and also to St. Margaret’s Anglican Church for providing a great venue.
For the record, Trek musical launched the week with the maiden Melbourne performance of their opera ‘Such is Life’. Vocalist Janet Vague led ‘J and the Jazzmen’ under U3A member Tony Lee’s musical direction, while Tony also fronted a behind-the-scenes rehearsal and concert by the Diamond Valley Big Band. Franciscus Henri’s glimpse of life as an internationally recognised children’s entertainer, folk singer and composer through his music was a highlight, while the ubiquitous Tony Lee took the stage again with the Dandenong Ranges Big Band. The Diamond Valley Singers, directed by Maxine Lemcke with accompanist Ian Lowe, paid tribute to the music of Charles Schwartz. The program concluded with the 50 strong Diamond Valley Open Door Choir under maestro Shaun Islip in a near sell out finale.