Crowd delights in outstanding evening

  • An artists impression of John Lennon is shown on the big screen during Friday night's tribute concert at the Botanical Gardens. Photo by Glenn Tucker

    An artists impression of John Lennon is shown on the big screen during Friday night's tribute concert at the Botanical Gardens. Photo by Glenn Tucker

Thirty-two years after John Lennon inconspicuously strolled around the Botanical Gardens as an Island visitor, his music and songs reverberated through those same manicured grounds delighting thousands of music fans.

US chart-topper Maxi Priest and Bermuda’s international recording artist Heather Nova made outstanding contributions to a night that celebrated Mr Lennon’s musical legacy and his connection to the Island.

They were not alone. The 26 other performers, some appearing as ensembles, ensured the Bermuda Fantasy John Lennon tribute concert was a musical milestone.

A rich tapestry of Bermudian talent onstage and behind the scenes pulled off a remarkable event showcasing home-grown professionalism and diversity. If staging concerts in Bermuda was an arcade game, then event producers Tony Brannon and Michael Freisenbruch would today be entering their initials next to the new high score.

With a sprinkling of overseas performers helping things along, a mesmerising night of entertainment unfolded at the Botanical Gardens showground on Friday.

Each artist contributed their own interpretation of songs written by Mr Lennon as a solo artist or jointly with fellow Beatle Paul McCartney.

Standout moments included the remarkable harmonies of the ‘Von Friths’ brother and sister Jonathan and Christina Frith, cousin Heather Nova and Christina’s daughter Julia.

An impressive quarter moon became a heavenly spotlight, gliding clear of a small cloud as Jonathan, accompanied by Christina, sang Mr Lennon’s heartfelt ode to son Sean, ‘Beautiful Boy’. Christina took centre-stage with a touching version of ‘Julia’, beautifully switching vocal pitch as she presented the ballad to Mr Lennon’s mother. Fittingly on stage augmenting the harmonies was Christina’s daughter Julia.

Heather Nova made ‘Norwegian Wood’ sound more ethereal than the Beatles’ 1965 original before she, together with her cousins, combined harmonies on the a cappella Beatles’ track ‘Because’ and rounded off with ‘In My Life’.

The Tzuke family were equally impressive, with the elegantly dressed sisters Bailey and Tallula giving an angelic quality to Mr Lennon’s ‘Oh My Love’.

Bailey provided backing harmonies as her mother, UK hit maker Judie, gracefully sang ‘Love’. All three Tzukes combined on ‘If I Fell’ before Judie’s Bermudian husband Paul Muggleton, a former member of The Savages, dished up Mr Lennon’s uncompromising ‘Gimme Some Truth’. He was aided by son Jamie and Bermuda’s Lennon sculpture maker Graham Foster.

Only a lack of column inches prevents each of the night’s performers being mentioned in this review, for they all deserve recognition.

Youngsters from the Bermuda School of Music had earlier set the scene with an instrumental medley of Lennon/Beatles songs before opening singer Rachel Brown performed a confident laid-back rendition of ‘Watching the Wheels’. McCartney K then delivered ‘Grow OId With Me’, a song penned by Mr Lennon during his two-month stay in Bermuda in the summer of 1980.

Joy T Barnum, one of the Island’s most striking and confident singers, shone with a passionate version of ‘Mind Games’, and many in the audience were on their feet applauding K Gabrielle, granddaughter of Bermuda National Hero Dame Lois Browne-Evans, after she sang one of Mr Lennon’s final songs ‘I’m Losing You’.

As the evening progressed the tempo quickened with veteran Roy Young, who played with the Beatles during their pre-Beatlemania days, thumping out rock n’ roll classics that sparked spontaneous pockets of dancing around the showground.

The Bermuda Folk Club and Chewstick appeared as ensembles, respectively performing ‘You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away’ and ‘Power To The People’.

Another highlight came from Uzimon, who strutted on stage in a replica New York City T-shirt once famously worn by Mr Lennon and gave the song ‘New York City’ a delightful reggae beat. Reflecting Mr Lennon’s often tongue-in-cheek humour, Uzimon declared he was more famous than the former Beatle as he had just been voted the sixth best reggae artist ‘on someone’s blog’.

Barbados star Biggie Irie kept the reggae going with his beautifully observed rendition of ‘Woman’, a worldwide hit written in Bermuda by Mr Lennon.

With midnight fast approaching, Grammy-nominated Maxi Priest burst onto the stage and immediately departed from the Lennon-centric theme with a few of his own hits, including his breakthrough cover of Cat Stevens’ ‘Wild World’. Many in the audience were dancing and Priest pointed out that Mr Lennon loved reggae, something the late star had acknowledged in interviews in 1980. Mr Priest covered the Beatles ‘All My Loving’, a signature track on the Lennon Bermuda tribute double CD.

There was just enough time for MC Bruce Barritt to introduce Robert (Sai) Emery, who sang ‘Imagine’ before the Love Singers, featuring Tourism Minister Wayne Furbert, performed ‘All You Need is Love’.

All the evening’s artists then assembled on stage and, augmented by the voices of many in the 2,000-strong audience, sang ‘Give Peace A Chance’ to end a remarkable night.

It is believed to have been the first music concert held in the Botanical Gardens and, judging by the event’s success in showcasing Bermuda-staged entertainment, it is to be hoped more will follow.

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Published Sep 24, 2012 at 9:18 am (Updated Sep 24, 2012 at 9:17 am)

Crowd delights in outstanding evening

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