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John Mann's 70th Birthday Concert Review

Posted: Wednesday 1st July

We have received the following review of John Mann's concert at The Dome in Brighton which celebrated his 70th Birthday on June 21st:

Throughout its long history the Dome has played host to a vast selection of artistes, yet it must be a very long time since one was received by an audience of almost two thousand with such acclaim as they greeted Brighton’s home-grown star performer John Mann.

Adjectives ‘auspicious’, ‘momentous’ and their like are irrelevant. More appropriate is ‘affection’, for assuredly that is how John with his sense of humour oft verging on the absurd was received in a programme of over two hours of one-man activity in which never for one second did the entertainment flag..

It is almost de rigeur in the theatre-organ world to open on a march and once this was under way, John launched into a series of once-popular melodies, now standards, Doris Day's "Secret Love", "Papa Piccolino", "Paper Roses", the "Swedish Rhapsody", "My One and Only Love", Cliff's "Congratulations" and finally Carousel's 'football anthem' "You'll Never Walk Alone".

Albert Ketelby's "In a Monastery Garden" revealed the Hill Norman and Beard instrument in church organ mode, after which John moved to the piano for present-day favourites including "Romanza". Back at the organ Songs from the Shows represented Andrew Lloyd Webber and Leonard Bernstein with Phantom's "Music of the Night", and "Tonight" from West Side Story, sequeling into "The Hills are Alive" from The Sound of Music, and "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang".

From Gigi, the duet "I Remember It Well" received a wicked recreation by John of the originals Hermione Gingold and Maurice Chevalier by the simple expedient of prop hats. More organ memories came from Noel Gay's "Me and My Girl", with a most creditable performance in costume of Fagin from Oliver! "Reviewing the Situation", closing the first half of a popular organ sequence with from Barnum the feet-tapping hand-clapping "Follow the Band"!

The "Radetzsky March" opened the second half, then a novelty clock number and a dance selection, remembering Jack Buchanan with "I'm In A Dancing Mood", Bill Haley's "Rock Around the Clock", the schottische "I'm a Song and Dance Man", and reviving Richard Hearne's Mr Pastry's one-man version of "The Lancers", a particular delight for anyone who had essayed Olde Tyme Dancing class. The sequence ended with the "Ascot Gavotte" from My Fair Lady and "In the Mood".

From the piano came Fats Waller's "Ain't Misbehaving", "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter", and "When Somebody Thinks You're Wonderful" followed by a rare classical moment with Debussy's evocative "Claire de Lune". Russ Conway" Side Saddle/ China Tea" were incredibly followed by Bach's "Toccata" and the chorale "Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring" and the ever favourite 'wedding exit' Widor's "Toccata".

John at the organ closed with a singalong medley with screened lyrics created by Worthing's organist Iain Flitcroft, varying from "The Old Rugged Cross" to "All the Nice Girls Love a Sailor", "Bless this House". "I Do Like to be Beside the Seaside", "Land of Hope and Glory" and the number John has made his very own, "Sussex By the Sea".

Theatre organ enthusiasts had travelled from as far as Poole in the west, Margate in the east, and ‘north of Watford’ to celebrate with John and his extended family, who made a surprise appearance on stage at the finale.

The occasion ended in typical John Mann fashion by the announcement that the booking office is now open for his centenary celebration on June 21 2039.

Marrion Wells

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