Review: The Three Waratah’s: 15th Anniversary Concert Newcastle City Hall

November 20, 2011 Off By R B

The Three Waratah’s: 15th Anniversary Concert Newcastle City Hall

Featuring: Waratah Brass, Waratah Girls Choir and Waratah Male Voice Choir

In the presence of Lord Mayor Councillor Mr John Tate and Lady Mayoress Mrs Cathy Tate

Nestled 7 Kilometers North West of Newcastle City can be found a parcel of land that in 1871 was Incorporated with its own elected Municipal Council, Mayor and containing several major industrial works. The area was home to a major Colliery that gave this region its name WARATAH.

So what is it about a very small suburban area that makes us come today to celebrate a 15th Anniversary? Simply that this old industrial area has been home to some of the finest music ensembles found anywhere in this Country.

This suburb has been responsible for the formation of three very fine musical combinations which today present the 15th year of a major concert that has become an institution in this region.

Waratah Brass formed in 1884 is a band that has a reputation world wide as one fine band. It has one title that undoubtedly may never be matched or beaten. That being having won the prestigious “Ern Keller Band of The Year” contest 10 times. They have also won numerous State Band Championships over the years as well. Entertain- yes, play- most certainly, delight- yes indeed.

Waratah Girls Choir formed in 1982 by Wynette Horne is considered one of Australia’s and the world’s best female choral groups. This is not simply a group of young ladies that sing but an ensemble that performs at a level rarely heard anywhere. Now led by Artistic Director and Conductor Lindy Connett (daughter of the founder) this group have travelled the world and will in 2012 perform in Rome. Whilst there they will be granted a performance before his Holiness The Pope. What an honour for this group and this City.

Waratah Male Voice Choir started life in 1966 in the back streets of the suburb in a Church and for many years was religious based. Now a non denominational choir they are well known throughout the region as an enthusiastic group of men who truly enjoy singing and show this by their performances.

When you put these groups together in the wonderful surroundings of the acoustically pleasing Newcastle City Hall you have one set of performers that will make any audience amazed by the quality of a concert presented by this combination of ensembles. This concert was the 15th year of the format “The Three Waratah’s” and it certainly did not disappoint.

Waratah Brass commenced the afternoon led by its Musical Director Steven English and from Crown Imperial (Walton/ Wright) it was apparent that this was to be a good musical event. The playing was stately, well balanced and pleasing. A lovely arrangement by Darrol Barry of the theme Somewhere Out There was nothing short of a delight with its rich melodic lines and superb Tenor Horn work of Leonie Wilks. Then versatility showed forth with the sheer forceful sound of jazz work Sing Sing Sing (Woodfield).

The band had vacated the stage and Waratah Girls Choir (WGC) entered with poise and precision with presentation second to none. They proceeded to present several works including for this portion Cantate (John Leavitt) and the popular Leonard Cohen Hallelujah. This was simply wonderful and the audience showed they loved the rendition with great prolonged applause.

Throughout the afternoon several collaborations of groups performing together conducted by one of the groups directors occurred with the first being Waratah Male Voice Choir (WMVC) and WGC. Lindy Connett showed her abilities when she came forward to play the Violin with the 2 groups being led by WMVC leader Peter Brock. Banks of Doon a lovely Scottish air of Robert Burns was pleasing and bought a sound one usually associates with Choirs of the Rhonda Valley, Wales. Gaberiella’s Song (Nillson/ Backman) with several soloists of WGC was splendid and sitting in the audience comments flowed about the wonderful sound and clarity of the number.

As an individual performing ensemble WMVC led by Musical Director Peter Brock looked the part in obvious well presented uniforms. With an average age of 74 years one could say what does this group have in common with performers from the Brass Band and Girls Choir of much younger years. Quite simply they love singing and performing and show this with every rendition they give. They are highly enthusiastic and have many quality singers within their 30 member size. This was apparent in works such as their moving rendition from ‘Les Miserables’ Bring Him Home (Schonberg/ Leavitt) and There is Nothing Like a Dame (Rogers/ Hammerstein).

Following an interval we were granted the pleasure of hearing Waratah Junior Girls Choir (WJGC) led by Jan Mitchell. This Choir consisting of 26 members most much younger then the Senior Choir were a pleasant addition to this major concert. The audience loved them and each item was eagerly applauded with great interest. Their renditions of Firefly (Andy Beck), Keep The Flame Alive (Ian Jefferson) and Shake The Papaya Down (Dwyer/ Walker) were excellent. Keep up the great work!

WGC major contribution to the second half of this afternoon was a presentation of melodies from the musical Hairspray (Sharman/ Huff). This was conducted by Lindy Connett and also featured an ensemble of players from Waratah Brass. The girls had changed into clothes reminiscent of the 1950’s and this made the effect of the music even more life like.

Waratah Brass not to be left out were very busy during the second half accompanying soloists, choirs and also performing individual works. Mention needs to be made of Flugel Horn Soloist Clarence Lung who played the difficult piece Children of Sanchez (Mangione/ Gilge) with consummate ease. This was a first class presentation by both soloist and Band and a true highlight of this concert. The audience simply appreciated every note and there were many to say the least. This was quickly followed by the circus march of Karl King The Melody Shop with the band keeping to the composers intention of starting fast and keep going fast right to the end. A good version indeed well received by all.

Steven English then conducted all three groups in the Anthem from Chess (Andersson/ Rice/ Ulvaeus) which was a fitting end to an enjoyable afternoon in the wonderful setting of Newcastle City Hall. This was the last listed item on the printed programme but we were soon treated to an encore of the famous André Crouch classic My Tribute arranged by Barrie Gott. What a terrific end to a fine time of music making by what must be one of Newcastle’s Highlight concerts on the Musical Calendar.

Thank you



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