The Melbourne Welsh Male Choir will mark the 100th anniversary of the Armistice with Till They All Come Home, a concert expected to pack out Melbourne Town Hall on Sunday 11 November, 3pm.
The choir hopes that veterans and their families (and others) will make a day of it and come to the concert after Remembrance Day commemorations. RSL members are eligible for a concession price ticket.
The 65-strong choir will be joined by “Australia’s leading lady of musical theatre”, Marina Prior, and music legend Mike Brady AM. Much of the accompaniment will be provided by the Australian Youth Band.
Till They All Come Home is the brain child of Mike Lyons, who at 86, is one of the choir’s oldest members. Lyons was born a Londoner, and lived through the Blitz and the Battle of Britain.
“Till They All Come Home celebrates the music of both World War I and World War II,” Lyons said.
“World War Iled inexorably to World War II and, despite the passage of time, both wars continue to resonate globally. Both continue to have dramatic and lasting effects on Australia. So much horror, so much death, so many lives otherwise destroyed.
“Through all of this, music both comforted and inspired. Some songs were not much more than propaganda and were destined to disappear before or soon after the cessation of hostilities. Others became big hits and have endured.”
Growing up during the London Blitz, Lyons became aware of the power of music through his father, who served with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers in World War I, and was part of a musical concert troupe entertaining servicemen and women in World War II.
“Music helped us to both survive and appreciate life, whatever the circumstances. There was no television so music, especially live music, was prized. Our family was twice bombed out of home by the Luftwaffe but we could put brave faces to the world thanks to songs such as Vera Lynn’s ‘White Cliffs of Dover’ and ‘We’ll meet again’.”
Marina Prior will perform a Vera Lynn medley with the choir as well as “We’ll Gather Lilacs”, “Sally Pride of our Alley”, “Wish Me Luck (As You Wave Me Goodbye)” and the Edith Piaf standard, “La Vie en Rose”. Prior’s grandfather was a World War I ANZAC, as were all his brothers. He was shot three times and sent back to the front three times. He was only 19. She has all his records.
Prior has performed over thirty lead roles in stage shows throughout Australia, most memorably as Christine Daae in the original Australian production of The Phantom of the Opera, a role she performed for three years.
The choir’s program includes a medley of songs from both wars, a Gershwin showcase, and some favourites “Cwm Rhondda” and “The World in Union”. With Mike Brady, they will also perform Eric Bogle’s 1980 hit about World War 1, “No Man’s Land (Willie McBride)”.
Lyons said the choir was proud to be joined by singer, songwriter and producer, Mike Brady.
“On ANZAC Day at the MCG this year, 10 of our choristers joined forces with members of the Australian Women’s Choir to form the backing group for the debut performance of ‘This Place is Their Place’, Mike Brady’s song about the RSL. It was a great occasion.
“At our concert, Mike will again perform this song with us as well as another song of his, called ‘Let it Shine’.”
Brady’s father, Robert, was a Dubliner who enlisted with the British Army in 1940 and landed in Normandy a month after D-Day, taking part in the fierce battles around Caen. His tour of duty took him through Belgium and Holland before he was wounded in 1945 and transferred to the Royal Engineers. After the war, he served in Malaya, repairing war damage and constructing airfields. Two of Brady’s great-uncles lost their lives on the Somme during World War I.
Brady has been a household name since the seventies when his song, “Up There Cazaly”, became the biggest selling Australian single of all time and is now the unofficial anthem of Australian Rules Football.
“The choir is also thrilled to have the Australian Youth Band (AYB) on board,” Lyons said. “The AYB is Victoria’s premier youth performance ensemble and has performed all over Australia at popular regional festivals, major sporting events, marching band festivals and corporate functions. It’s also done nine international tours.”
Till The Boys Come Home: Songs & Music from World Wars 1 & 2 is the choir’s best-selling CD. The concert was initially going to be called Till The Boys Come Home but the choir decided that, given the significant number of women who served, particularly during World War II, it was more appropriate to use the more inclusive Till They All Come Home.
Melbourne Town Hall is the right place for the concert, Lyons says – it was a major recruitment centre during World War I and the Victorian centre for the Australian Comforts Fund (originally the Lady Mayoress’s Patriotic League) which organised ‘comforts’ for soldiers on the battlefields.
David Ashton-Smith OAM, who became the choir’s director in early 2016, will direct the concert.
The Melbourne Welsh Male Choir, which formed in 1984, is the youngest of the three Welsh male choirs in Victoria. Currently, it has around 65 members, ranging in age from the mid-40s to 88. Only 10-15 of the singers actually hail from Wales but most claim either Welsh heritage or links to the UK. Four of the choir committee of ten are called David. Choir members wear suits with yellow ties as the daffodil is the national flower of Wales.
Part of the proceeds will be donated to RSL Victoria, who look after the service veterans of all conflicts. and the LEGACY organisation, which cares for the widows and families of those left behind.
Media comment: Mike Lyons, Melbourne Welsh Male Choir: 0415 926 550; [email protected]
Media enquiries: Carmel Shute, Shute the Messenger, 0412 569 356; [email protected]
Till They All Come Home
3pm Sunday 11 November
Melbourne Town Hall, 90 Swanston Street, Melbourne (accessible)
Tickets: $50/$45 (concession; RSL members)
03 9800 3889; 0421 391 253 or book through https://www.trybooking.com/book/event?eid=412514&
Marina Prior Bio
Marina Prior is known as the leading lady of Australia’s musical theatre. She has performed over thirty lead roles in stage shows throughout Australia. Possibly her most memorable is her role as Christine Daae in the original Australian production of The Phantom of the Opera, which she performed for three years.
Marina has sung with symphony orchestras throughout Australia, including a critically acclaimed Australasian concert tour with international tenor, José Carreras.
She is also well known to television audiences through her appearances on such shows as Carols by Candlelight, as a judge on Channel Seven’s It Takes Two and as Iris in The ABC series The Divorce.
Marina has recorded seven CDs. In October, she will join Il Divo on their national tour.
Mike Brady Bio
Mike Brady was born in England and moved with his family to Australia when he was 11 years old. His recording career began in the mid-60s with the formation of MPD Ltd (Mike, Pete & Danny). The group toured overseas, including England, and when MPD disbanded, Mike toured extensively throughout Vietnam during the war.
From the 70s onwards, Mike spent the majority of his time building his career as a record producer and a producer and writer of some of Australia’s most catchy advertising jingles for television and radio. His promotional song for Channel Seven’s football program, “Up There Cazaly”, went on to be the biggest selling Australian single of all time, with sales in excess of 250,000 and has become the unofficial anthem of all Australian Rules Football fans.
Mike’s record production company, Full Moon Records, was responsible for two hugely successful singles, Mark Jackson’s “I’m An Individual” and Joe Dolce’s “Shuddap You Face”.
In 2013 Mike was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for services to the community and to music as a composer and performer. In 2017 Mike was named Victorian of the Year in a ceremony in the Melbourne Town Hall.
David Ashton-Smith OAM Bio
David studied singing in Melbourne for 10 years before going to London in 1971 where he sang principal roles with The English National Opera Co.
Since returning to Australia in late 1979, has maintained a varied and high-profile music performing career which included setting up his own choir the Ashton Smith Singers, in addition to teaching singing and being a sought-after vocal adjudicator.
As Managing Director of the Australian Pops Orchestra during 2005-9 he was responsible for mounting major concerts at the Sydney Opera House and at Hamer Hall at the Victorian Arts Centre, as well as major corporate events at Crown Palladium and the Sofitel Collins Street.
David is closely associated with ‘Australian Music Events’ and has put together the orchestra for ‘Opera in the Alps’ and ‘Opera in the Market’ in recent years.
He became Music Director of the Melbourne Welsh Male Choir in May 2016 and enjoys writing arrangements for the choir.
With such experience, David is well equipped to manage an event as significant as the Till They All Come Home concert.
In 2016 David’s musical career hit a high note, when he was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for services to music.