|The Old Brisbane Stadium|
|Brisbane Festival Hall|
|Mikis and Anthony Quinn (Zorba...the wonderful Zorba)!|
A word said in passing, or a snippet read, can set off the trigger to a host of memories. Soon you (meaning me in this instance) become lost in reverie.
The trigger to my present myriad musical memories was the mention of Brisbane’s now no-longer-in-existence, Festival Hall. The building once upon a time proudly sat on the corner of Albert and Charlotte Streets, its open doors welcoming all-comers.
The iconic hall, after years of putting up with the beat, the screams, the sighs, the music closed its doors and packed up its seating on 28th August, 2003.
Progress took over and the building was demolished to be replaced by an apartment development, aptly named “Festival Towers”. Apparently, the seats were sold off in sets of three as souvenirs to those not keen to let go of the memories of fun times had.
The original Brisbane Stadium, a rather unimpressive, unadorned building, was built in 1910. It was erected to host boxing and wrestling events. The pugilists and their fans cared not about the appearance of the construction. As long as the boxing ring was square and the canvas taut, they were happy. They didn’t wrestle with further emotions.
However, once Bill Haley and the Comets shot onto the music scene, the teenagers of the 50s were more than eager to “Rock Around the Clock”.
Everyone was ready to shake, rattle and roll...the alligators hang around for later, and the crocodiles were prepared to wait a while...
Others of like mind, nimble fingers, swivelling hips who could carry a tune or two with gusto quickly followed Haley’s trail, wanting to be in his orbit.
Rock ‘n Roll had arrived with a big bang, not in theory, but practice...and in it’s sights was Festival Hall.
With the twang of guitars, and rolling pianos played by the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard, fevered fans couldn’t get enough of the new kids on the block.
It was during his 1957 tour Down Under Little Richard announced to a stunned public he’d seen the light. He shocked the world when he denounced his flamboyant unpredictability by being unpredictable. Everywhere lovers of rock ‘n roll were left gasping, open-mouthed. Little Dick tossed away the trappings of being a rock ‘n roll star to follow a life in the ministry. He handed the “Tutti Frutti” to “Long Tall Sally”, and then yelled out, “I’m Ready, Teddy!” With no further ado, off he went to spread the word.
The old Brisbane Stadium was demolished in 1958, and before you could chuck a berry, it was replaced by the new, you-beaut Festival Hall. The new arena accommodated an indoor crowd of 4,000 - a large number in those days (and nights) of the late Fifties.
Conway Twitty, who was famous long before Twitter tweeted, appeared in a line-up, which included “Mr. Personality” himself, the one and only, Lloyd Price. They were joined by Aussie favourites, Johnny O’Keefe, Col Joye & the Joy Boys, The Delltones, Johnny Reb and the Rebels, among others. Teen favourite, Fabian also appeared, causing the girls to swoon – some requiring mouth-to-mouth, no doubt.
In 1960, Crash Craddock and Tommy Sands crashed the scene.
My brother was in the audience of the above two concerts. He and a mate headed off to Brisbane to be part of the crowd, and returned home a-brim with stories that made my heart sing.
Festival Hall still hosted boxing and wrestling matches, including the 1982 Commonwealth Games boxing events; but...joy to the world...music won the bout. Nothing could match its appeal. It’s drawing power could not be ignored.
Music bounced off the walls; audiences rocked in the aisles.
After I left Gympie to live and work in Brisbane, many times I was part of the excited audiences.
One balmy Saturday afternoon in 1972 I witnessed a very special concert.
Running a couple of minutes late, (which is unlike me, normally, because I’m a stickler for punctuality) as I entered the auditorium the familiar strains of “Moonlight Serenade”, being played by The Glenn Miller Orchestra, led by Buddy DeFranco, greeted me. Tears filled my eyes upon hearing the melody. Happy memories flooded my being. During my childhood years, along with other favourite Miller tunes, of which there were many, "Moonlight Serenade", was regularly played on our piano by my mother. Her nimble fingers flew up and down the keys, and the music brought joy to our lives.
Mum introduced my brother and me to so an endless amount of wonderful music...covering all genres from classical to rock to pop and all in between.
On a hot, humid February night in 1973, I was in the presence of “The King of Swing”, Benny Goodman, decked out in a tuxedo and bow tie. How cool he was!
An evening in the early 70s, not the “Twelfth of Never”, I became misty over Johnny Mathis. Once the acoustics were fixed, he was wonderful, wonderful.
There was no “Let’s Stick Together” with Brian Ferry, though. Not impressed, we left his lack-lustre performance after two songs.
Mikis Theodorakis, the great (outstanding/extraordinary) Greek composer (Hint! “Zorba, the Greek” and the soundtrack to an equally-marvellous movie, “Z” starring Yves Montand) took my breath away; a powerful concert, indeed.
Theodorakis commanded one’s attention by his stance alone; his presence was all-consuming...and once he began conducting his troupe of musicians and singers...there was no escaping his magnetic force. Mesmerised, I was a willing prisoner. His was one concert, in particular, I didn't want come to an end. He was a force, indeed.
While at Paul McCartney’s “Wings Over the World” concert on 10th November, 1975, my ear drums felt like Gene Krupa had given them a solid work-out. The speakers were massive, I kid you not.
Neil Diamond had my undivided attention in 1976.
Enthralled by the arrogant beauty and brilliance of Rudolf Nureyev as he leapt (read “flew”) across the stage in “Giselle” is a memory that will remain with me forever. Nureyev was a shining star....and, to make an evening even better than I thought it could ever be...when he was taking his applause, he turned to me, and smiled! Again, I kid you not...this is the truth.
And in the words of 1935 song written by Ed Farley and Mike Riley, lyrics by Red Hodgson, made a hit in 1936 when recorded by Tommy Dorsey – also performed by the one and only Ella Fitzgerald, and by the American jazz cornettist, composer, and jazz bandleader, Red Nichols*** ...
”The Music Goes Round and Round”.....
*** If you’ve never seen the 1959 movie “The Five Pennies”, which starred Danny Kaye as “Red Nichols”...do yourself a favour by watching it when it turns up one Saturday afternoon some time or other, on your television screen...you won’t be sorry. But, be warned...have a box of tissues handy...
Greek Bean Soup: Soak 1/2kg haricot beans overnight. The next day rinse beans; then put into a deep pan with enough water to cover. Boil them, but before they come to the boil remove the froth that comes up to the surface. After they come to the boil simmer for 15mins. Remove beans; drain in colander. Put beans back in pan; add enough quality chicken stock to cover them up to about 2 fingers above the surface of the beans. Add 1 large onion, grated, 2 diced carrots, 1tbs roughly chopped celery leaves, 1 hot chilli, chopped, 1/2tbs tomato paste, 2 crushed garlic cloves, 150ml slightly concentrated tomato juice, 150ml tomato passata and seasonings. Simmer an hour or more until beans are tender.
Maestro Risotto: Boil 1-1/2c risotto rice until half cooked; then rinse under cold water. Bland 10 asparagus spears; then slice into 3-4 pieces. Heat 1tbs butter and 1tbs olive oil in large pan; sauté 1tsp chopped garlic and 1tbs chopped onion, about 3mins. Add 30g sliced sun-dried tomato, asparagus and 4 chicken breasts, partly grilled, sliced into strips; cook 4mins. Add rice and 400ml chicken stock; stir regularly until stock is absorbed; taste rice for doneness; if needed, add more stock; keep cooking until done; season with salt, pepper and pinch of Italian herbs; fold in 2tbs grated Parmesan at the last moment; serve.
Sweet Dreams – Cole Porters: Make first layer; beat 6 egg yolks with 140g sugar until light and fluffy; add 70g melted chocolate and 140g ground walnuts; mix well; spoon into well-greased 23cm spring-form pan; level surface. Stiffly beat the egg whites; then gradually add 140g sugar; beat until stiff peaks form. Add juice of 1 lemon; gently fold in 140g ground almonds; spoon over first layer; level surface. Bake in 150C oven, 2hrs, or until mixture leaves side of pan. When cool, cut into bite-sized pieces. Melt 120g chocolate with 25g copha; drizzle a little over each piece. Chill until ready to serve.