John Lennon tribute concert praised as organiser says he will consider an encore
Concert organiser Tony Brannon says he will consider staging another night of music at the Botanical Gardens after the overwhelming success of the Bermuda Fantasy John Lennon tribute event on Friday night.
He has been inundated with messages of thanks and support following the evening of entertainment that saw the likes of US Billboard chart-topper Maxi Priest delight an estimated 2,500-strong audience in the showground at the Gardens.
The event celebrated the Island’s connection with John Lennon, who wrote what became his last songs during a two-month vacation in Bermuda during the summer of 1980.
Almost 30 individual performers and ensembles performed the songs of Mr Lennon and the Beatles over the course of nearly five hours in what was the largest multi-artist concert on the Island since the last Bermuda Music Festival in 2010.
Mr Brannon pointed out that the event had showcased the wealth of home-grown talent the Island can call upon, both performing and working behind the scenes, to stage a concert event that could equal some of the best in the world.
“It was 99 percent a Bermudian effort. There were a few candles on the icing of the cake people from overseas on stage but it was mostly Bermudians,” he said.
He has been touched by the words of appreciation that have poured into through e-mails and phone calls since Friday, and noted in particular a message from Bermudian international recording artist Heather Nova, one of the big names at the concert.
“She said the event was on a par, or better, in terms of organisation with shows and festivals she has done abroad. When you get someone who says that you know you’ve done something right,” said Mr Brannon who, along with Michael Freisenbruch, was the driving force behind the concert and a number of other tributes to Mr Lennon this year, including the unveiling of sculpture to the musician outside the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art. The sculpture was designed by Bermudian artist Graham Foster.
Among the guests at the concert were Governor George Fergusson and Tourism Minister Wayne Furbert. The Department of Tourism backed the event and Mr Furbert highlighted the Island’s link to Mr Lennon when he appeared on a New York City TV news show last week.
Mr Furbert said: “The event was the best show I have ever been to in Bermuda. Thanks has to be given to Tony who had the vision to make this happen. It shows that one man’s dream can become many people’s happiness.
“When I came on as Minister in November, Tony approached me about receiving sponsorship. It was not easy because we had to tighten up our budget, and had made cuts. I looked at Tony and I said to myself, this guy has a burning desire, and I wanted to play a role. He worked day and night, I received more e-mails from Tony over the last eight months than probably everyone else put together.”
The Minister took to the stage at the concert as one of the lead vocalists with The Love Singers, an ensemble put together earlier this year to record the Beatles’ song ‘All You Need is Love’ for a Lennon Bermuda tribute CD featuring local and international artists, which tied in with the concert.
He added: “I would like to thank Premier Paula Cox and my Cabinet colleagues who gave me support to make the event happen. This has convinced me more than ever, that we have the expertise in Bermuda to produce a great show, at minimum cost.
“I am looking forward to next year to work with Tony and other producers for some other great shows. We should be able to put on at least three great shows with the support of corporations and the Government.
“Everyone wins, musicians, talent is grown, people for a while escape and dream the impossible dreams and tourists are able to enjoy some great entertainment.”
On an evening of perfect, calm weather, thousands of music fans flocked to the showground where a stage had been rigged up with audience tables and seats in the centre of the arena, and further seating in the bleachers and on the hillside at either side.
Two large screens projected live footage of the performers for the benefit of those further from the stage.
Mr Brannon said he was struck by the level of upbeat cooperation and professionalism by everyone connected with the event.
“It went better than I thought. It was unbelievable and I never ran in to any nonsense. I think everyone realised that if we worked together everything would be great.”
He praised the Tourism Ministry and Parks Department for their cooperation.
Asked why the showground is not seen as a regular venue for a large-scale music event, he noted the proximity of homes and the hospital, but added: “I’ve no doubt that it could be used from time to time, maybe once or twice a year. It is a fantastic spot.”
On the question of whether he will organise a second tribute concert, he said: “My intention is to do whatever is possible. It takes months and months of planning, but I’m prepared to do the next one and it will get better.”
Friday’s concert, which had the blessing of Mr Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono, was raising money for a number of charities, primarily the Coalition for the Protection of Children and Masterworks. The amount raised is still being counted, but a figure will be released in due course.
See concert review in today’s Lifestyle section, Page 23. Photo gallery and video at www.royalgazette.bm