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Prince Philip fanfare highlights orchestra's tribute to Best of British


A fanfare for the late Prince Philip, composed in less than 24 hours after his death was announced, will highlight the Queensland Pops Orchestra’s return to full programming after the COVID shutdown.

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The Pops will kick off the year with audience favourite Best of British, a show which combines traditional and contemporary music from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, with this year’s show including special tributes to the Duke of Edinburgh and pandemic hero Captain Sir Tom Moore.

Patrick Pickett, the Director and Conductor of the Pops Orchestra, said that a special fanfare had been written by their Composer in Residence, Sean O’Boyle AM,  in less than 24 hours after the news was announced late last Friday.

“We have commissioned the writing of a new fanfare for His Royal Highness Prince of Edinburgh. It’s not a memorial service, we’re just going to play beautiful music dedicated to these wonderful people as a tribute,” said Pickett.

O’Boyle had also composed a tribute to Captain Sir Tom Moore, who became a British icon after raising $57 million for the British National Health Service (NHS) by completing 100 laps of his garden leading up to his 100th birthday.

O’Boyle said he was inspired by Moore’s actions during the pandemic and decided to write the fanfare, which will premiere at the Best of British show on Saturday.

“It’s a variety show. We move from things that are reflective and solemn to celebratory, like Bohemian Rhapsody. The programme itself is very stylistically diverse” he said.

Pickett said that orchestras should not be limited to formal classical music, and performing a blend of traditional and contemporary music allows a range of people to enjoy the performance.

“Bohemian Rhapsody is the most stunning piece of choral music that came out of that period, the fact it was written for a rock band is irrelevant. It’s a beautiful piece of music, especially with an orchestral arrangement,” said Pickett.

The concert will include a medley of music from James Bond as a tribute to Sean Connery, including Diamonds are Forever, Live and Let Die and the Spy Who Loved Me.

Queensland Pops Orchestra, Best of British at QPAC 2018. (Image: Queensland Pops Orchestra)

The concert includes performances by Thistle Highland Dance Studio and Watkins Academy of Irish Dance who will perform Scottish and Irish works such as Celtic Rock, composed by Barry Gott.

“We make the show an all-encompassing representation of the British Isles, and that gives us a lot of opportunity to give our concert versatility, which is what allows us to really entertain people,” said Pickett.

Pickett said that the show is enjoyed by the large expatriate population here in Brisbane but also includes an initiative which provides students from lower socio-economic backgrounds with free tickets to view the performance.

“These young emerging students have the opportunity to sit close to the orchestra and in some cases we have scholarships for young musicians to play in the orchestra where they get the full concert experience. Several of them have gone on to major musical careers.

“I think music is a wonderful thing for kids’ brains, social skills and teamwork so if we are in the position to allow them to come to the show then that is what we’ll continue to do,” he said.

The grand finale of the show is a return to tradition, as a 64 piece choir composed of the Voices of Birralee, the Toowoomba Choral Society Contemporary Choral, and the Toowoomba Anglican College Chapel Choir, will perform Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance.

“We always hope the last 20 minutes of the show will bring a tear to people’s eye. I’m unashamed about that,” said Pickett.

“I’m not here to educate. I’m here to entertain, and to make sure our audiences walk out with a smile on their face and a song in their heart.”

Queensland Pops Orchestra: Best of British will play at QPAC’s Concert Hall on Saturday, 17 April. For more information, visit QPAC’s website.

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