Hit­ting top notes on the high seas

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - SHEL­LEY DEMPSEY

When I board Sun Princess in Bris­bane for a cruise to Pa­pua New Guinea, lit­tle do I know I will star in a live stage per­for­mance, chan­nelling my in­ner Julie An­drews as part of a choir to an au­di­ence of at least 100 fel­low pas­sen­gers. Three-part har­monies, four re­hearsals, a five song-reper­toire? OK, I am in ...

At the first re­hearsal, the av­er­age age of the rick­ety choir mem­bers ap­pears to be about 100. How­ever the choir­mas­ter and as­sis­tant cruise di­rec­tor, Sasha, looks about 35. And then I see the girl with the banjo. Fif­teen years younger than me, she is even more out of her de­mo­graphic. Her name, im­prob­a­bly, is Har­monie, so we be­come in­stant friends. For the next 10 days, we do lots of singing, danc­ing, drink­ing and laugh­ing. We sing karaoke duets, dance to the all-black Amer­i­can soul band, chat to mu­sos play­ing on the ship and bond over mo­ji­tos and bloody marys.

Best of all, we play to­gether a few times out on deck, Har­monie on banjo and me on ukulele. She per­forms with bands in Bris­bane. I sing so­prano in a Syd­ney choir.

As the lazy ocean blue sweeps by day af­ter day, Har­monie and I sing to­gether in queues and el­e­va­tors and one night in the ship’s atrium as the pi­anist tin­kles out Edel­weiss. I am with el­derly par­ents aboard and Har­monie with a friend who is not mu­si­cal, so we feel lucky to have found a rare con­nec­tion among 2000 pas­sen­gers.

Our choir only has 20 mem­bers but Sasha, who has di­rected shows on six ships over the past five years, says that on big­ger lines “you can get about 150”. Our quirky retro per­for­mance cel­e­brates the joint 50th an­niver­sary of the US-owned cruise line and The Sound of Mu­sic film, which is good sin­ga­long ma­te­rial. But Sasha says mostly her cho­ris­ters prac­tise con­tem­po­rary tunes such as Waterloo, New York New York, Blue Bayou, Un­der the Board­walk, Oh What a Night, That’s Amore and Some­where Over the Rain­bow.

Some mem­bers have sung in choirs or bands and have ex­cel­lent voices. Only one so­prano sounds re­ally bad. Sur­pris­ingly, we have eight males and they sing bet­ter than the women, or so we are told. One chap even sug­gests we change the lyrics of Six­teen Go­ing on Sev­en­teen to Sixty Go­ing on Seventy. “I love singing and teach­ing songs to peo­ple,” Sasha says. “They come out of their shell and if only one per­son be­comes more con­fi­dent, then I feel I’ve done a good job. I re­ally like the way it all comes to­gether at the end.”

Another mu­si­cal ad­ven­ture for us is go­ing ashore in PNG, where lo­cal Me­lane­sian choirs sweetly sing heart­felt songs of welcome. Dur­ing our stops at Rabaul, Alotau, Kiri­wina Is­land and Doini Is­land, we see amaz­ing tribal danc­ing and lis­ten to lo­cal guitar and ukulele groups. When it comes to our own per­for­mance, we all turn out in smart black and white for an ex­cit­ing sound check with the tech­ni­cal guys, stand­ing for the first time to­gether un­der white-hot stage lights.

The au­di­ence gen­er­ously ap­plauds, de­spite our glo­ri­ously im­per­fect per­for­mance. Sasha tricks them by ask­ing for re­quests and pre­tend­ing we don’t have Edel­weiss. But, of course, it is our grand fi­nale and as we take our bows, I am re­luc­tant to leave the spotlight.

On a high, Har­monie (whom my Dad calls Melody) and I head to late lunch and won­der if we should flash mob the buf­fet din­ers. Sasha gives us classy badges that read “Princess Cruises Pop Choir Sound of Mu­sic Edi­tion” and I am proud to wear mine for the re­main­der of the cruise.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.