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Feliz Navidad

Another year, another Carols by Candlelight! And that’s another year almost gone. On the plus side, our weather curse seems to be finally broken – it wasn’t too hot or too cold or raining or windy or having to battle a battalion of flies. Goldilocks weather (I know, we were a little freaked too). If anything it was a little cool but that just meant we were very grateful for our jackets (which makes a nice change). There was no wind or even a breeze (at least where I was sitting) so no fly away music.

But enough! You don’t want to hear yet another weather report from me (at least I don’t think you do). It’s very safe to say that it was another magical evening filled with wonderful music, plenty of Christmas spirit and a few good laughs. Perfection, in other words. But as the very best place to start is the beginning, that’s where I’ll take it from.

The evening started with All I Want for Christmas, sung by Katherine John. Always a very popular number and a good way to kick things off. It must be noted that Katherine was kept very busy – not only was she performing but she was our MC for the evening (assisted by two very cheeky elves!).

It was then time for some very special guests – Santa and Mrs Claus! Making their way in from the Christmas Parade, there were a lot of children very pleased to see them and to listen to Santa (who had a bit of a Canadian twang. He must spend a decent amount of time holidaying there). Santa then introduced us to Paul from the Salvation Army who had a Christmas message to share with us all.

We were then ready for the musical part of the evening. Things got going with one of our instrumental numbers, Deck the Halls (but not as you know it!) while the Roleystone Theatre Choir made their way onto the stage. Here they sang Rocking Around the Christmas Tree and Feliz Navidad. Katherine was then back for another solo, this time performing Santa Baby, which is a little bit of a jazzy number. She was then joined by the rest of the Classic Sounds Choir, singing an a capella rendition of Santa Claus is Coming to Town. This was very well received with a knock out solo turn from a very young lady. You know you’ve done good when people cheer half way through a performance. We then joined them for O Holy Night, making sure we were breathing in all the right places! The Roleystone Theatre Choir then made their way back onto the stage and we had our combined adults choir for the evening. They performed a Christmas medley including Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Silver Bells and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. As they made their way off stage we played them out with Jingle Bell Rock.

But the stage didn’t stay empty for long. We were joined by choirs from three different schools – Armadale Primary School, Clifton Hills Primary School and John Wollaston Anglican Community School. Together they did a fantastic job and I think they had a really good time. As a group they sang Little Drummer Boy, Three Drovers, Aussie Jingle Bells and Happy Christmas. The last was particularly notable with different choirs singing different parts which is not only tricky to do but tricky to rehearse separately! So their efforts are to be noted and they really did do a wonderful job.

Which brings us to one of the most anticipated moments of the evening. The Mayor made his address and led us all in the countdown (which was very loud and enthusiastic) to switch on the lights! He was assisted by the two mischievous elves who certainly made their presence known throughout the evening! With the Christmas trees and some of the trees in the park all lit up, the only possible follow-up was Let the Bells Ring (yes, you guessed it, I really enjoy playing this one). This led us into our final bracket for the evening.

With all the singers back on stage for the final part of the evening, we seemed to fly through Jingle Bells, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Silent Night, Away in a Manger, Deck the Halls and Joy to the World. With the final speeches and thank yous done (which are very important as these events do not come together without people working very hard and planning for a very long time) it was time for the penultimate moment of the evening. All performers on stage for We Wish You a Merry Christmas because you really can’t finish with anything else. And we do wish you a Merry Christmas (and a Happy New Year). We then wrapped things up with Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer but the version we’ve referred to throughout rehearsals as the ‘awesome one’ (which it is, so no hyperbole here). If the Carols were a movie, this would have been the closing credits (where the majority bolts towards to exit but a few people stay until the lights come up or the end). And let me say that there is sometimes a reward for sticking about (I know because I am one of those people). In this case it was awesome Rudolph.

So that’s it from us for 2016! We’re going to enjoy our Christmas break now but it is a little bit shorter this year – we’ll be back on the 11th January as 2017 is going to be a big year for us. I could tell you more but that’s not how cliff hangers work (and if every TV show can do that, why can’t I?). Stay safe and we’ll see you next year!

Feliz Navidad!

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One Hundred

Summer is here and the time is right, if you’re that way inclined, for dancing, possibly in the street. Or if you like a bit more structure, the time is right for an assortment of popular characters and local organisations having a bit of a wander through the streets of Armadale while other people stand on the side of the road and watch. If you’re confused (don’t worry, I am too), what I’m trying to say in my usual convoluted way is that there is less than one week until the Christmas Parade. Which means less than one week until Santa Claus comes to town (for a quick visit, not the main event). Which means less than one week until the City of Armadale’s Carols by Candlelight. Which means I am over excited, like a little puppy when everyone else gets home (definitely not as cute though).

Put it in your diaries people! Friday, 2nd December from 6.00pm. It’s always a really wonderful event and if you do lean towards Grinch like tendencies at this time of year, this is sure to banish them. I always think there is something wonderful about outdoor concerts at night and when you add a bit of Christmas sparkle, it becomes magical. Not to mention it’s the closest I’ll ever get to being in a made-for-TV Christmas movie (if you don’t love them in all their kitschy joy, I don’t want to hear it).

So it’s back to the rehearsal room to make sure we’re pitch perfect for the most wonderful concert of the year.

*And if you’re wondering about the title of this post, it would be because we’ve reached our one hundredth post milestone. Only took four years!

Walking On Sunshine

At last, a proper taste of summer! Now I know for those of you who love winter and the cooler weather this is extremely bad news but you’ve had your turn (and to be fair went a little – okay, a lot – overtime). But for those of you that are like me and love the warmer months, happy days are ahead!

Why do I love summer so much? For one, the sun is out. It’s warm. I don’t have to put on multiple layers to reach a comfortable temperature. Indoors. Forget going out. Bears have the right idea. Just sleep through the whole thing. Though somehow I don’t think that’s going to catch on with the human species. And I know people feel too hot to be bothered sometimes but that’s it precisely! It is too hot to be bothered so let’s all just find a cool spot and have a little lie down (a philosophy I find extremely appealing. Especially if I happened to have a book on me). And it’s light enough and warm enough to be outdoors before and after work. Excellent for enjoying a light source that doesn’t come from tubes or globes.

Summer means enjoying the outdoors. It’s chatting with the neighbours in the street. It’s sitting on the verandah, watching the sun go down. It’s lazing by the pool or heading to the beach. It’s fruit salad and icy poles. It’s the buzz of cicadas that sound like the heat is a bit much for them. It’s outdoor gigs that don’t get cancelled. It’s dresses and sandals. And sun cream. It’s barbeques with guest lists of five that swell to twenty. It’s the radio hits that drift from open car windows. It’s the classic summer tracks that mingle with fairy lights in a dark backyard. It’s the concerts in the parks, the buskers in the streets, the portable speakers at the beach. Summer means Christmas is coming! (And that is the most wonderful time of the year).

On Friday, the 2nd of December you’ll have the chance to combine two of the best aspects of summer – outdoor concerts and Christmas! It’s always a magical evening for kids of all ages (even the really big ones better described as adults) so well worth coming along.

And if summer is a dreaded season for you, one that you loath with a passion I hope you can find one little thing to love about summer. Even if it is only when it comes to an end.

Music on the Green

At last, third time lucky! The sun was shining, the birds were chirping and the flies were out (we could have done without those but at this point we’re not going to quibble). Yes, you are interpreting this correctly – we finally got nice weather so we didn’t have to cancel! And what a day it was. We were down in Byford so plenty of fresh air and the sky seemed to go on forever. All I can say is that when the nay-sayers were insisting the world was flat, the yay-sayers should have sent them on a quick trip down to Australia and told them to look up. That would have sorted everything out (I know there is a lot of historical inaccuracy there but you get my point. The sky was a like a giant dome. And which provides the better story? The first or the second with its overtones of Stephen King’s The Dome. Or confusion with a coffee-house chain).

But enough rambling babble! Due to limited parking we were lucky enough to be transported to the venue by Bus West. So we have to say a big thank you, it really is much appreciated. And not only that, things are always off to a good start when you head out on a road trip (albeit a very short one but you still get that on the road vibe. And immaturity from normally impeccably behaved adults. Ahem).

After getting the show on the road, we got the show started with Amparita Roca. A really great Spanish march so if any audience members were sitting in their deck chair taking a nice doze in the sun, we soon put an end to that. Up next was Hello Dolly followed by Music from the Incredibles, The Hunger Games, and Kartoon Kaleidoscope. All really popular pieces, all a lot of fun to play.

The next piece was I Am The Doctor, from Doctor Who. A great favourite with all the Whovians in the band and if you’re like me and have never seen an episode (please don’t hurt me) then it’s still a really great piece. Full of atmosphere and if you’re playing it, a lot of internal counting. Puttin’ on the Ritz, Dixieland Jam and And All That Jazz rounded out our first bracket. But instead of stopping for a break, we just powered through. Well, we couldn’t keep our audience waiting could we?

Up next was Pirates of the Caribbean which would have been a good time to be one of the kids on the playground. Could you imagine playing outdoors, letting your imagination run wild while your own personal soundtrack provided by a fifty-piece concert band played? Let’s just say I know what I’m getting myself for Christmas. And no, I’m not too old. You’re never too old to have a go on the swings (yes, they were always my favourite). You just have to make sure you get the one that’s big enough to fit an adult bottom.

Just before the final section was Billy Joel in Concert (see, we really had something for every age and every musical taste). Now this final bracket is not an official section but I can’t help but think of it as Maestro’s Bracket (even though that sounds like some kind of wall fixture). This was made up of McArthur Park, Morning Train and Super Hits of the 90s (which included the greats like The Show Must Go On, Everything I Do, Go West, Macarena – yes, really – My Heart Will Go On and Believe. Listening and playing it just makes you want to go to a 90s dance party). This is Maestro’s Bracket because she has a great, undying love for this pieces and some pretty vigorous conducting to go along with it. So as you can see, she does have pretty good taste. And a fondness for cheese. But don’t we all?

That leaves us with one more gig before we are done for another year. Get out your diaries and mark in Friday, 2nd December. That will be the City of Armadale’s Christmas Carols. There is a Toy Parade beforehand and a very special visitor part way through the evening, so perfect for the whole family. And it will be held at the amphitheatre at Memorial Park so there will be more music on the green before the year is out.

Deja Vu

Though I think deja vu is more when you have a feeling that a situation is unnervingly familiar and not the exact same thing happening again. Now I think that’s called good/bad luck depending on the situation. In our case, it was definitely bad.

Yes, we had to cancel again. Because it was raining. Again. Come on October! You’re so much better than this. I would also like an opportunity to build up my resistance to the sun before the weather reaches the levels where everyone ends up scorched. Nor do I want a situation where the weather gets pushed so far back that I can legitimately have my first ever pool party for my birthday. Which is in July. Which is so wrong (unless you live in the northern hemisphere. There, I guess that’s normal).

So here it is, water cycle. We have two more outdoor gigs this year – one later this month and the other early December. Do. Not. Let. It. Rain. Unless of course someone really needs the rain and then in that case if you can give us a rain-free window to set up, play and pack up, we’d really be much obliged. And when I say rain-free, I mean wide open blue skies, sun beating down, birds swooping and calling, bees buzzing. Essentially what we’re going for here is a sun splashed childhood memory scene stolen from a made-for-TV movie. You know the ones, where the kids are running barefoot across a meadow, chasing butterflies and laughing and everything is bathed in this golden light? That. I want that. But the Australian version (where you substitute a meadow with a dry paddock and the butterflies with plain old flies. Which instead of chasing you swat. And the light is not so much golden as it is blinding). So if you could please deliver, that would be really great. Though with the amount of rain we’ve had I think we’ve earned a default to the meadow version.

No more deja vu! Just vuja de. Where the familiar suddenly becomes strange and foreign. On second thoughts, scratch that. That sounds like the beginnings of a horror movie. Possibly involving a lot of clowns.

Don’t Rain On My Parade

Except it already did. As you may know, due to poor weather we had to cancel our last performance. Which is a shame because Araluen is always such a lovely venue to play at, though probably not so much if it is bucketing down. These things happen and as much as you’d like to control the weather, you can’t. Though let me say, if I could, it would have stopped dropping to 5 degrees at night a long time ago. It’s now October!

Still, it’s not too late to catch us before the end of the year (I know, we’re already using statements like that). In a week (Saturday, 8th October to be precise), you can find us at the Karagullen Expo from 2-4pm, playing an excellent selection of music. Hopefully we’ll have a bit more luck with the weather (it’s October! It has to be better!).

I don’t know about you but I am definitely ready for some proper Spring weather. So far it has been disappointing. Let’s just say if I had paid for it I would be asking for a refund. If it was a meal, I would send it back to the kitchen (especially if I had cooked it). If it was a book, I would still probably read it but definitely not recommend it to anyone. If it was a movie, playing on the big screen, I would sit there bored, struggling to stay awake (but not walk out as that would draw far to much attention to myself even though it’s dark and no one can see me). I think you get my point. Still, there’s two months to go so perhaps things will turn around for Spring. All I can say is it better. I would like an interlude between complaining about the cold and complaining about the heat.

So you can rain on our parade and we will probably pack up and go home (or not come out in the first place, which is my preferred option). But we will be back. Because it has to stop raining sometime.

Wheel of Fortune

Today is the day. Our first scheduled outdoor gig of the season. And given that it’s still September we are taking a big gamble. We are putting our faith and hope into an entity bigger than ourselves. That’s right. The local weather forecast. Possibly our first mistake right there. But what choice do we have?

September is a funny month. You can either have a perfect, sunny, spring day or you’ve got winter giving it one last shot with a sudden downpour. Or spiteful spitting. Well, not today. You’ve had your fun, you’ll just have to wait for a summer storm. We’ve been burnt (or rather soaked) before. I say not today. Today is going to be sunny with a light breeze, birds gliding across a deep blue sky. Because if I decree it, it must be so. Right?

If you’re reading this in the morning then you’ve got plenty of time to mosey on over to Araluen Botanic Park where we will be playing from 2-4pm as part of their Araluen Springtime Festival (see! It’s in the name! The weather has to be spring-like). If you’re reading this after, well, you’ve missed a fantastic afternoon. Essentially Sunday afternoon perfection. And you missed it (unless we had to cancel. Then you missed nothing). But never fear! You’ll still have a few more opportunities to catch us before the end of the year. You’re next opportunity being Saturday, 8th October at the Karagullen Expo Markets, again from 2-4pm. I’d write that down right now.

So here we go. Ready to take a swing at the wheel of fortune.