Two Bands in Bermagui

The Bill Risby & Alex Stuart Quartets

11 November 2012

Bermagui Community Centre

This concert was a first for us in several ways. We presented two bands (with a shared rhythm section) in the one program; we weren’t able to hold it at the delightful Penders House at Bithry Inlet, which had been our venue for many years; we did hold it Bermagui Community Hall for the first time; and we attracted a record audience of 190 to this larger venue.

As always our Music Director, Peter Storey, conceived and presented a wonderful program of music that delighted our audience. And, as always, it was a lively and engaging social event, with everyone sharing the music and, after the show, also sharing the fine finger foods and drinks with old and new friends and our wonderful musicians.

We had selected six distinguished and highly accomplished jazz artists:

  • Bill Risby– piano, compositions (Sydney)
  • Alex Stuart– guitar, compositions (Paris)
  • Miroslav Bukovsky– trumpet and flugelhorn (Canberra)
  • Brendan Clarke– bass (Sydney)
  • Ben Vanderwal– drums (Perth) 
  • Julian Wilson– saxophone (Melbourne)

Between them they had played at many impressive national and international venues, produced many wonderful albums and won many national and international jazz awards.

We presented the musicians in three sets – a set each by the two bands, the first led by Bill Risby and the second by Alex Stuart, and a finale that brought all of the musicians together under their joint leadership. Bill is well established in the Australian jazz scene, a highly accomplished pianist and band-leader and a good friend of Zephyrs, having played here (and at Four Winds) several times before. Alex is from the next generation of music makers. He was touring from Paris, which is now his home, to launch his latest album and was playing for Zephyrs for the first time. However he was not a newcomer to our region, having spent a lot of time here when he lived in Canberra. In fact he composed the title song of his first album on Cuttagee Beach.

Our musicians played their own compositions and then, as a finale, unrehearsed and in their own brilliant and improvising way, gave us their novel treatments of a selection of old favourites. Real crowd pleasers. And the sound was fabulous, thanks largely to Mark Bolsius’s impressive grand piano and magical Bose speakers (many thanks for the freebies on both, Mark – we’re going to miss you). The audience response to the performance was perhaps best summed up by a request by one member – ‘next time, please leave some space for dancing’.

We were sad that we had to move from our beautiful Penders ‘home’ when it passed from our generous host of many years, Joanna Baevski, to its new life with the National Parks and Wildlife Service.  (Thank you Joanna for your generosity.) And we were nervous – would enough of our audience follow us, particularly to a more conventional performance space?

Well as it happened, yes they did; and many new Zephyrs audience members joined them too. They filled a Hall that had been transformed by an enthusiastic team of volunteers. Reg Dew’s seriously professional (and free) temporary stage, set up in the body of the hall to bring the musicians into the audience, made a huge difference to the feel of the event. The work of our imaginative volunteer interior designers – the flowers was a particularly nice touch – made us feel at home. Our set-up crew did a great job and didn’t complain about moving a grand piano. Our team of catering volunteers produced a variety of exquisite finger foods and served some very enjoyable wines. And our welcoming front of house and ushering teams set the right tone with our guests from the start. Despite our earlier trepidations, this success proved to us that our Bermagui Community Hall could provide an effective and convivial venue for a Zephyrs event.

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