Fan’s tribute to star backed by 86 voices

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Nov 2018 Fan’s tribute to star backed by 86 voices

By Ron Tennant, Belgium.

ON Friday and Saturday evening, September 28 and 29, the brilliant show Welcome To The 60s was at the Swan Theatre,Worcester.

It was a show to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the giant life-changing choir from Worcester, called Voices Unlimited. For these two shows, an 86-piece Voices Unlimited vocal group appeared and their very special guest star was the legendary P J Proby.

Sometimes V U do shows with less than 86 members singing, but at other times there will be 106-plus performing on stage many songs usually considered impossible.
Both evenings were sold out and in total 700 people watched this brilliant and unusual show. I’m calling Voices Unlimited a choir but, in fact, they are a full-on contemporary vocal style giant group and have been described by the press as “A spine-tingling wall of sound”.

The reason Voices Unlimited teamed up with Texan singer P J Proby on-stage is that their musical director Ria Keen is a good friend of P J Proby and she has been doing plenty of backing vocals for him over the past three decades. Ria is a professional singer and also a music arranger and educator. So, obviously, when a guest male solo singer was required for these two shows, only one name came into Ria’s head …. P J Proby.

Voices Unlimited were wonderful, and for the first half of the Worcester shows, they sang so beautifully many giant and famous songs from the 60s and they used many of their own “star” singers such as Ria plus Kirsti Lord, Anne Bradshaw, Givvi Flynn and Dan Reeve.

They took us on a journey from the post-rock ‘n’ roll years,through Beatlemania to the girl groups and also Simon & Garfunkel, Janis Joplin, The Monkees, Elvis, Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond,etc.
For the second half of the show V U dressed up as hippies and gave us The Dawning of the Age of Aquarius and flower power songs. Then it was announced that coming on stage next was the 60’s singing legend P J Proby. To cheers and applause, he strolled on in a lovely white suit, singing his biggest-ever American hit from 1967 Niki Hoeky. This gave him a USA gold record more than 50 years ago, and Voices Unlimited gave P J wonderful vocal backing.

Because of PJ having such a loud and tremulous massive backing group, he had to sing louder than usual but this he managed without a problem. He and the “choir” had a giant standing ovation.
PJ went to the right side of the stage to sit on a chair under a spotlight. He explained his next song would be The Three Bells and this was a song he had not performed since 1954, at the High School Assembly Hall in Houston,Texas, when he was 15. It was an amazing five minutes of music by P J and his very special backing vocal group VU. His next song was his big 1964/65 hit Somewhere, which he took from the original Bernstein/Sondheim stage and movie musical West Side Story. It was a giant mid- 1960s hit for P J in the UK and in many other countries, but for some weird reason could only reach No. 91 in America.

Before P J sang this beautiful ballad, he explained how he had a hit with it, but no other singer ever did. P J said all top singers did it too well and “posh”, and after he heard all of their versions, he decided to take it down a level tomake it sound normal. Well P J made the right decision because no singer has ever had the success with Somewhere that he had then, and still has now.
P J left the stage to a giant and continuous stand-up audience applause, and then Voices Unlimited carried on with the show. They dressed like and imitated Superman, Batman & Robin, plus The Flintstones, The Lone Ranger, The Addams Family,etc. and sang us, in a crazy comical way, the music from those classic movie and TV shows.
After singing many more 60s pop songs, VU and the audience welcomed P J Proby back on stage for the great finalé. P J sang Hold Me backed by VU and it was amazing. This was P J’s biggest ever UK hit and in May,1964 it reached No. 3.

Both evenings, which I attended, had seen lots of the audience standing up to dance and join in with some singing, but for Hold Me, all of the crowd (those who could stand) got up and joined in singing and dancing like crazy.

After the show on Saturday, P J showered, changed into some casual clothes, had a nice cup of his special tea to help his voice get back to normal,and then he came to say hello to some of his loyal fans, and that included me, of course.

His manager Manja Dolan and also Kathy Brandstatter had, on both evenings, sold lots of P J souvenirs via his special souvenir table; T-shirts, badges, photos, CD singles and albums. The best-selling P J CD in Worcester was his new album: “The Enigma In Gold – VoL 4” on the Select label. The first songs are all written by Lin Butler, who has a unique style when writing country or gospel songs. Plenty of P J souvenirs are still, of course, now on sale thanks to the giant UK “60s Gold” tour. In 2019, a CD album by V U titled “One Voice” is available via their web-site or via iTunes, Amazon.

Any guys ‘n’ gals who live in Worcestershire and who can sing are welcome to attend and possibly join the unique singing group Voices Unlimited. Every Tuesday evening, there’s a VUesday, so to go and audition, e-mail: info@voices-unlimited.co.uk

Theatre and club owners, promoters and booking agents should go to book P J Proby. I have never, ever heard a better or more special singer. This year, he’s celebrating six decades of performing. He and his fans really hope he will get plenty of bookings for 2019.

This legend, born James Marcus Smith, who later became singer P J Proby, will be 80 years young on November 6. AMAZING!

PS: Both Worcester shows will soon be out on DVD.