I love the moment the lights dim, the curtain widens and the movie starts. Going to the cinema is one of life's great activities and should be enjoyed as much as possible.
The Western Region Concert Band is a community concert band based in St. Albans. Formed in 1977, the band has continued to grow and for the last 18 years, has put on an annual event called The Last Night of the Proms. Each year, the band brings in a famous guest artist, such as Leo Sayer, Christine Anu, Denis Walter, and Coleen Hewitt. This year saw the return of James Morrison, having previously performed at the 2013 event. In addition to Morrison, singer Rosa McCarty performs with the group at various stages of the night.
The band is directed by the incredible Andrew Houston. Houston wrote many of the arrangements performed at the event, masterly adapting Morrison's songs to suit the concert band line up. A concert band is an ensemble made up of Woodwind, Brass and Percussion instruments. People unfamiliar with the make-up of music ensembles may refer to the group as an orchestra, but the absence of strings makes the concert band a different arrangement of sound.
Joining the band is Sing West (formed in 2004), a community choir based in Williamstown, also directed by Andrew Huston. For this event, the choir was expanded with the inclusion of the Laverton Community Choir.
The event, held at the newly refurbished Williamstown Town Hall was attended by a capacity crowd. Of the four Proms Nights I have attended, James Morrison has drawn the biggest crowd both times he has appeared.
The night opened with a selection of works from the band. From the opening number, it was clear the band was ready for a fantastic night. The opening three numbers were full of energy, featuring a flurry of melodies, counter melodies, and the percussion section in full swing. The highlight for me was Mambo (Leonard Bernstein) from West Side Story.
James Morrison then joined the group, bringing with him his band, made up of his two sons Harry Morrison (Bass) and William Morrison (Guitar), as well as the exceptional drumming skills of Patrick Danao, whom I found it difficult not to focus on throughout the night, despite the vast array of other exceptional talents on the stage.
James Morrison of course is a virtuoso on trumpet and trombone, and when in the presence of such a musician, the audience is treated to something you don't come across often. Morrison has the ability on the trumpet or trombone to keep the attention of people who would not usually listen to music played on the trumpet or trombone. His stagecraft is exceptional, with humorous stories, mindboggling technique, multi-phonics (the playing of more than one note at a time on an instrument that only plays one note at a time), and extremely high note finishes that require more technical skill than us mere mortals could ever hope to obtain.
Morrison is perfectly suited to play with a concert band. Where in other years, the band has to adapt their music to the style of the guest performer, Morrison comes with a selection of songs already well suited. All of his songs worked perfectly, and with the band in such great form (I've never heard them sound better), it made for an amazing night.
Rosa McCarty too was in great form, as she gave a varied performance, singing in both a jazz cabaret and in a classical style when needed.
The end of the night is devoted to the Proms Cycle, a series of songs devoted to British pomp and ceremony, including both God Save the Queen and Advance Australia Fair. The audience is involved in singing and waving flags, and there is always a number of people in the crowd who bring whistles and other noisemakers to help add to the festivities. The Choir was exceptional throughout the Proms Cycle adding a wall of voices over the band, featuring very rich harmony.
Last Night of the Proms is performed in October every year. The Western Region Concert Band rehearses on Saturday mornings and is open to new members joining. Sing West rehearse on Monday nights in Williamstown and is also open for new members.
The event is a must attend for music lovers. Each year presents an exciting new program and a new guest artist. Both the Western Region Concert Band and Sing West are performing at: Carols at the Town Hall, on Saturday 8th December in Williamstown, with Rosa McCarty, Iseula, and Michael Lapina as special guests. Tickets are on sale now.