Monday, November 27, 2006

Australian Idol 2006

Photo: Australian Idol 06 Final Concert, Australian Opera House. Photo taken from Australian Idol web site.

I found last night's finale of Australian Idol quite inspiring. I had thought Idol was past its use by date. Indeed, as a family we really started watching seriously half way through.

Two things forced us to change our minds.

The first was the huge and varied talent on display, I think in combination the best of any Idol. The second was the decision by the producers to free up the program, to allow inclusion of participant's original material, to allow them to use instruments, to allow greater variety in material generally.

The production last night was quite simply superb, if perhaps a little long. The Opera House/harbour setting itself provides one of the world's most visually appealing back-drops. The singers including both previous Idol participants as well as the top 12 finalists this year (and of course Marcia Hines and her daughter) were very good, while the production design was excellent.

The show also illustrated many of the things that I have been talking about on this blog in my commentaries on Australia, its people and changing culture.

The two finalists were a complete contrast, in many ways showcasing Australia's complex and varied ethnic and cultural mix.

Damien Leith, the eventual winner, is a thirty year old Irishman living in Sydney with his wife and baby son. In Damien's case the cut-overs to supporters were to a rowdy Gaelic Club in Sydney where the Irish community had gathered and back to Ireland to his old school and Irish home. Damien himself is no musical novice, forming his first band at an early age. His seccond, family, band was succesful and attracted US interest, but Damien returned disillusioned from the US and then settled in Sydney.

Jessica Mauboy, the daughter of an Indonesian father and an Aboriginal mother, is a seventeen year old school girl from the Northern Territory. In her case, the cut-overs were to Darwin in the Northern Territory, to a huge and incredibly varied crowd including family, friends and teachers from her school (Sanderson High School) as well as supporters drawn from all parts of Darwin's varied community.

While only 17, Jessica too has been involved with music since an early age. Those who know my New England connections will understand why I was pleased to find a New England linkage.

At 14 Jessica's well-developed skills as a vocalist helped to secure first place in the Road to Tamworth competition, where Jess had the opportunity to meet local country legends: "Part of the prize was to go to the Tamworth Camerata Junior College, the music school. That was so fun. We got to meet Beccy Cole and Kasey Chambers. They just had a talk about how they developed through their music. I was really into that. It gave me confidence and made me love music more.”

The evolution of Tamworth as the national country music centre has played a significant role in developing Australian talent.

Tamworth Camerata (and here) is unique in Australia, and possibly the world, as the only recognised country music school for junior performers where they learn from the best in the business. It is widely acknowledged as a ‘feeder’ for the grown-up version - the CMAA Australian College of Country Music, as many Camerata graduates progress to college and further afield in the pursuit of their careers.

As an aside, Shannon Noll (and here), one of the outstanding commercial successes from earlier Idols, is a New Englander. As indeed in different contexts are Peter Cousins who received his initial training performing Gilbert & Sullivan at my old school (The Armidale School) and Peter Allen who also went to school in Armidale at the Armidale Demonstration (Peter was several years in front of me at Dem and I don't really remember him from this period) and then Armidale High Schools.

Enjoying the show last night, I could not help contrasting it all with the fifties when I was growing up and when I used to cringe at some of the performances I saw. It's in part due to an increased population, more to the fact that there is just so much more now to support and nurture talent.


Anonymous said...

You have chosen an important subject and written about it with insight. Congratulations! Today's Australian Financial Review has an article on the tendancy in media and Web development today towards serving short attention spans. Reading your post it seems Australian Idol has defeated the trend and captured attention for many each Sunday night and with little or no channel surfing. There are broader lessons for all in this.
Your Secret Admirer

Jim Belshaw said...

Thank you for this comment, YSA, and sorry for the slow response. Australian Idol had to change this year or lose audience.

Your FR reference was interesting. I missed the article. I am sure that it is correct.