Review – T150 Concert on 2nd April 2016

Those among us in the capacity audience in the Civic theatre to celebrate Townsville’s 150th anniversary had a real treat of a birthday present. The Variety concert would have had about 97% Townsville connected content and showcased what talent is in Townsville.

Ex Kirwan boy Kurt Phelan was a charming host and made some great 20thC songs his own with some interesting arrangements. Like-wise for Luke Kennedy who also sang one of his own compositions and different rendering of now classic songs. David Campbell also gave us perfect covers of, amongst others, Bobby Darin and Sammy Davis Jr. works.

The Barrier Reef Orchestra showed its versatility yet again. It accompanied the singers perfectly and shone in its own right with Brahms Hungarian Dance No. 5. The 1RAR Band was also superb and in its element when backing Jade, Kurt, Luke and David. Conductor Maj. Glenn Rogers was at the centre of it all, effortlessly conducting the diverse variety of music presented. I’m told “Glenn’s calm approach during rehearsals came to the fore during the one and only rehearsal with David Campbell. Glenn quickly picked the changes David asked for which translated to a freshness during the performance. Glenn is also a remarkable arranger and produced an orchestral arrangement of one of Kurt’s original songs. So moving was the music it brought tears to Kurts eyes as he sang it with the Orchestra”. Both the Orchestra and the 1RAR Band were on the stage the whole evening, only getting a break when the two dance companies were performing.

But even with such a high standard set it was the ladies who were the sensation of the evening. Greta Sheriff was spot on – she had the poise, the looks, the moves and a fantastic vocal range. Jade O’Halloran was all sultriness and emotion in Skyfall and Bronwyn Douglass, the mezzo soprano who won 2015 Australian Concerto and Vocal Competition vocal section, showed us why she is winning yet more awards. As part of Bronwyn’s prize she was to sing with the Orchestra but unfortunately all the Orchestra’s dates at the theatre (pre-booked 2 years ago) were unsuitable for Bronwyn as she is very much in demand. We were very fortunate that the Variety Concert provided the Orchestra an opportunity to perform two of the best known arias in opera with her – Habanera from Carmen and Mon Coeur from Samson and Delilah. Too little I know but every second was wonderful and we are grateful for that.

Combined choir and soloists from Townsville Choral Society and North Queensland Opera and Music Theatre ensemble gave us excerpts from Les Miserables. What can be said except well done you again. It is these group’s high standards and professionalism that nurture young talent like Luke, Greta and Kurt and others (same as for the BRO who have had many young players go on to tertiary studies in music). The highlight of this section for me was Alex Thomas singing Bring Him Home but Soloists, Ensemble and Orchestra all combined to give us a memorable moment.

I have heard of some towns being “nests” which seem to produce multiple sports and artistic greats. This concert showed us Townsville can certainly be considered a “music nest” and can be proud of all its performing arts companies. Richard Florida in Rise of the Creative Class wrote that creating an environment that encourages artists, writers and geeks is an important engine for economic growth in the post industrial world. I feel that Townsville has a head start in this.