The MSO Proms series springs into life on March 14, at the Melbourne Town Hall, with Eddie Perfect perhaps an unexpected choice for Master of Ceremonies. But the Proms are synonymous with fun, irreverence and inclusiveness as well as showcasing fine music and Eddie would seem to be (I’m trying to avoid the obvious pun) … just the person for the part.
As well as narrating the Egmont Overture with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Perfect has already experienced the opportunity to be a “bridge between the orchestra, the music and the audience” for 20,000 people at the last year’s Perth Symphony in the City.
Perfect loves the more informal nature of the Proms and sees it as an opportunity to widen musical horizons for an audience, whilst the orchestra gets to showcase what it does so well. “The enjoyment is enhanced by giving a context and hearing an orchestra live is very special,” he says. “The Proms can be less formal and have a broader definition of classical music than many other concerts.”
The name Eddie Perfect may also bring a new audience. His own shows, which run from cabaret, through plays for the MTC, to the acclaimed Shane Warne, the Musical have always drawn a capacity audience. Other audiences would have seen him in Opera Australia’s South Pacific (and on TV in the popular Offspring series). It was hard to get a seat for the Perfect Tripod concert which was a concert of Australian pop songs – often done in an a cappella arrangement. (But He has no plans to join Emma Matthews in the Tribute to Melba Prom concert.)
Eddie Perfect has an excellent pedigree in music, wit, and inclusiveness, with his grandfather a raconteur and joke teller whose stories could silence a party and hold the listeners with his ability to work to a side-splitting climax. One story was an experience in the Merchant Navy. The Captain asked, “Name?” and the answer came in typical Naval format “Perfect, Percy.” And that answers the questions about Eddie’s surname.
Uncle Jim was a talented pianist with an eclectic taste in music, loved for his sing-alongs and performances, both in clubs and at home. Eddie Perfect remembers, as a child of five, hearing Jim play Rhapsody in Blue. He learned early that playing the piano is not just practice for practice’s sake; it’s about enjoyment and involvement – exactly what the Proms are about too.
Perfect believes he has his uncle’s musical ear but his parents too were encouraging – intellectually, musically and artistically. He thought at first that his creative talent may have been in the visual arts, but now he concentrates on the art of crafting language and music into songs. “Each song is like a Sudoku,” he explains. At the moment he is working on some songs for Baz Luhrmann’s coming stage production of Strictly Ballroom.
His relationship with classical music runs through his life – from recordings in the home (he always loved piano concertos), to the Melbourne Conservatorium, choirs and WAPA. He has a keen ear for the “wonderful expansiveness of mood and colour that an orchestra brings”. Whilst he was happy with the small band versions of Shane Warne, the Musical, he loved the sonic texture that full orchestration brought to it, increasing the emotional scope of a work. “I can tell more of the story orchestrally. Lush violins, brass; all add different colours.”
Perfect has composed orchestral music for the Bronski quartet and worked as mentor of young artists for the VCA. He shared what he had to offer even when doubting it. But the experience gave him the opportunity to articulate and reflect on his own the creative processes. The result will be Dream Song to open at the Melbourne Comedy Festival later this year.
For this concert, he has had “a couple of beers” with Benjamin Northey, (who will be the conductor for two Proms). Their friendship goes back some time when Perfect first heard Northey playing saxophone in a pub band. They connect when time and commitments permit – both are fathers of two young children, committed to music, and eager to explore their creative paths.
This Prom format is a “toe in the water” for the MSO, Eddie Perfect says. He hopes that the collaboration will be ongoing.
For information on this year’s Melbourne Town Hall Proms (and video of a chat between Perfect and Northey) go to www.mso.com.au