Last weekend saw my last performance with the Queensland Pops Orchestra.
Though the last year has seen many changes, I have to say that, for the previous seven years or so, playing with Pops was one of the highlights of my musical life. And while the music that Pops plays is not, perhaps, the most challenging, mentally or physically, or the most musically fulfilling, it is usually a great deal of fun!
Over the last seven years, we have worked with some truly wonderful musicians – The King's Singers and Burt Bacharach were particularly lovely to work with from a musical point of view. And then there were others who I would put in the “interesting” category, like Michael Bolton – until you have sat on stage whilst he attempted to sing opera, reading phonetic French from the Autocue, while 5000 salivating Gold Coast matrons screamed and threw their knickers at him – you haven't LIVED. (Actually, I'm exaggerating about the knicker throwing - at $1000 a Gucci gusset, I don't think those Gold Coast ladies would risk throwing their knickers at anyone - but you could see they wanted to..)
Some of my favourite memories are of the Brisbane seasons of Australian Opera's My Fair Lady and The Pirates of Penzance; building Pit Camaraderie and flu germs; ogling Richard E Grant and Anthony Warlow/aka Johnny Depp/aka Captain Jack Sparrow, sharing books and many jokes.
Then there were all the Lord Mayor's Christmas carol concerts at the City Botanic Gardens – playing amidst thunderstorms and heat waves, trying to protect one's violin from the elements, whilst tigers and Guy Sebastian danced behind us; trying desperately to keep from giggling, with television cameras zooming in on one's face (The Lord – creator of the Universe, the stars and the planets, atoms and bacteria, creator of oceans and volcanoes, of forests and rivers, disease and war, love and death – looked down and saw that his people had decided to honour him by dressing up as giant velour Clown Fish and galumphing round the stage, “Thank you Jesus!”)
With the Pops orchestra I have played with many well-known singers I had never heard of before – Glenn Frey (The Eagles, I think?), Troy Cassar-Daley, Katie Miller-Heidke, Sarah Blasko – and enjoyed most of their music. Or some of it at any rate. Possibly. If you see what I mean.
And then there have been some I had definitely heard of before – Tim Minchin, Eric Idle – it is not generally known that we here in Brisbane gave the World Premiere of Not the Messiah - and jolly good it was too!!
The list of memories goes on: Cirque de la Symphonie - trying to play Wagner with young, virile, tighted men dangling over our heads, playing for Tony Abbot and Campbell Newman ...yes, well, the money was good....
The annual concert series, The Best of Britishes, the Celts concerts, with the wonderful Irish and Scottish dancing, the Country music concerts – they have all been great fun.
But one of the things that has made all these concerts so special, of course, has been the people, the wonderful friends I have made along the way. The dinners between shows, the curries and Hot Chocolates and lots of wine. It wasn't until I started playing for Pops and found that musicians in Australia are as mad and quixotic, as beautiful and fragile and friendly as they are the world over, that I began to feel at home here in Brisbane. The last year, as I said, has been a difficult one, but I will miss my pops family, Katie, Donna, Chris, Anna, Geraldine, Jenny, Jenny V, Celine, Inga, Paula,Ken and Tam, Natasha, Jane, even Kylie who I only met during the last concert. Hope you all have a wonderful time with the New Pops, and, drink a glass of red wine, occasionally, for me! (yes, I realise I'm asking a lot, but just think of it as a sacrifice to old friends.)