Heidi Trautmann

785 - A Night at the Palladium with The GEMS

By Heidi Trautmann

I was so happy to hear that the music events organised by Francine and Grahame Ash, which we all have come to love since 2007 and which stopped for various reasons,  have returned in old freshness and with the same enthusiasm as before. Whatever the two initiated was well planned and brought to life and they will always find a way and a place to bring a show on the boards.

So, last week the blackboard in front of Şirinyali Restaurant by the coast said ‘Closed Thursday, Friday and Saturday for ‘100 Years of the Paladium’ Tickets only’ all for the Show and we were led out onto the terrace over the sea where we took our seats, with the sun just about to set. The place was already full to the last seat and while the vocalists were getting ready behind closed doors we had a delicious meal with mezes and all.  We were then called into the ‘showroom’ all ready with seats loaned from the Lapta Municipality.

We had had time enough to study the programme which is as usually very informative, the way I like it, simple but containing all you need to know. This is professionalism, to make things work under any circumstances; it contains the history of The London Palladium, a historical music place founded in 1910 and witness to many successful performances and famous artists; it tells about the times it went through, step by step, and how it all changed up to the present, and as it says in the programme, they will take us on a magic carpet to fly through over 100 years of music and land back safely in 2015.

But first we need to mention the formation of The GEMS, the Girne Ensemble of Musicians and Singers, with Francine Ash as Musical Director and Accompanist, on the Banjo Michael Redman and the choreographer is Perdi Brown.

The lady vocalists, some of them I still remember from old times: Amanda Harding, Anita Woods, Denise Bailey, Jess Harding, Lynda Hillard, Perdi Brown and Susan Carling.

The Gentlemen vocalists: Alan Carling, Grahame Ash, Ian Long, Simon Harding and Stuart Hillard.

The backstage crew and support staff: Anne Redman, David Ettridge, Jackie Ettridge, Amelia Mehmet.

Grahame Ash explains: The GEMS comprises a group of good friends who meet once a week to make music together for the sheer joy of it and from time to time it pleases us to share the fun with others whilst raising a little money for Charity…. And this time the net proceeds from the show went to TULIPS along with the proceeds from the raffle they had organised.  Sue Tilt and Carole King are unbelievingly engaged and prolific fundraisers for TULIPS and they have my deep respect for their work.

The journey on the magic carpet began with the first act from the 1930s until 1963-66 and its scenes and musical events; the introduction to each period was done by Palladium staff like the doorman, the usherette, the tea lady and the make-up lady telling us about the daily little things and rumours. Very charming idea.

The performers dressed in the fashion of the period or as it seemed fit for scenes of musicals, came onto stage with songs that moved us all, they were taking us back to our young days when…to say it with a German saying… from all roofs the sparrows were singing these tunes…

They are still valid today…  be it the Lambeth Walk, or later songs by Frankie Boy, Judy Garland, Ella Fitzgerald or Nat King Cole. In the fifties and sixties Dean Martin with Volare , Petula Clark with Downtown, and later the Beatles…I remember I was in Nigeria, in Port Harcourt in 1964 when I heard them for the first time. 

Fast and perfect movements from soloists and company, accompanied by Francine and Michael; sometimes I saw Francine sing along with the beat of her fingers on the piano keys. A well planned choreography and each new scene she directed from her key board. Francine looked young and happy, one is aware what good work does to one’s health.

Before they continued with the second act we had our desserts already served on our table and Carole and Sue entertained us with distributing the raffle prizes.

The second act took us through the 1990s to 2015 with scenes from the Showboat, Oliver, Fiddler on the Roof, Chitty, Chitty Bang Bang, Sound of Music and Cats. Each scene had its special surprises that made the performance so convincing.

My congratulation and my best wishes go with The GEMS, congratulation not only for their performance that was carried out in a professional way but also for their enthusiasm and their comradeship, one for all, all for one and… for the arts, because the arts make life worthwhile and certainly easier.  There were some vocalists that had their debut on the boards, and some voices were not trained but that does not count, what counts is that all gave their best. 

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