Chart-topping hits from the Brits
Erna Ferry, vocalist, arranger, keyboard player and big band torch singer is now a musical director.
Erna is collaborating with director Ian Harman to present Abbey Musical Theatre’s British Invasion.
The show is a tribute to the great British chart numbers of the last 60 years, stretching from The Beatles to the Spice Girls, Adele, Robbie Williams and Amy Winehouse.
Musical direction is a challenge Erna hasn’t accepted before but she was never going to pass up the opportunity to work with creative genius Ian who’s taken this New Zealand based show and further developed it into a fast-paced ‘‘Hits from the Brits.’’
Three weeks into rehearsal, Erna says the company of 22 singers are ‘‘soaking up all the music like a sponge. We accepted everyone who auditioned because they were all good.’’
‘‘I teach the songs, allocate the vocals, find the backing singers and then Ian choreographs it,’’ she says.
Erna describes the music as the soundtrack to her life. She grew up in the 1960s, a decade where the Brits created a sound that was ahead of its time ‘‘and was then picked up by the rest of the world.’’
She loved Dusty Springfield, Lulu, the Rolling Stones and, much later, The Beatles.
‘‘Dusty had the best rhythm and blues voice for a white artist while Lulu had a joyous persona. You could hear the smile in her voice,’’ Erna recalls.
Now she’s teaching this montage of music to a new generation for whom so many of the songs are fresh and new.
What she’s enjoying is the total creativity she and Ian can inject into the production. Erna says it didn’t come with any instructions so they’ve had the freedom to impose their musical footprint on the show.
‘‘We’re merging the music together and theming it. We have sections such as Carnaby Street, Keep Calm and Carry On, The Beautiful Game and Tonight Matthew, I’m Going to Be…’’
While there’s a strong focus on the 1960s, the music stretches through seven decades to the present day. Erna is pleased contemporary British songs still have that ‘‘clean, fresh sound’’ and modern divas aren’t reliant on the trappings of dance, backing vocals and pre-recorded techniques that pervade American music.
She says British Invasion is a journey of 40 popular tunes which will attract many people because it’s the background to their lives and they’ll relive an incredible and sometimes nostalgic musical experience.
British Invasion runs from November 19 to December 5 at The Auditorium, Centennial Drive. Tickets $39 (adults), $34 (seniors/ students). Visit AMT’s website.