Kiwi Concert Party 1

By: Michael Colonna

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Uploaded on 03/11/2014

"Mr & Mrs Millionaire" by the Kiwi Concert Party.
Tanza Z49
On 28 February 2014 Tenor singer Les Andrews died. He could be the last of the Kiwi Concert Party that had performed in Italy in WW2. At the funeral I was asked if the Party made any recordings. Here is one.
The Kiwi Concert Party were the first recipients of the Variety Artists Club of New Zealand's Nostalgia Award in 2008

In February 1941 General Sir Bernard Freyberg created the New Zealand Entertainment Unit, the Kiwi Concert Party. Tom Kirk-Burnnand, the founding musical director and producer, was invalided out of the unit in October and Terry Vaughan took his place. Terry composed and arranged most of the music for the more than 10 revues that the unit presented. He also wrote many of the comedy skits and plays. For four years the group took music, magic, comedy revue, and Variety performances to the Allied solders in the field, often working under fire in countries such as Egypt, Italy, Malta, and Libya. They suffered injuries and casualties. In Crete they lost their equipment and instruments in their retreat when the island was overrun by the Germans.
The performers were hand picked for their unique talents. They were multi talented and diverse. And what they lacked in resources they made up for in aptitude, impersonating female characters, sewing costumes and building the sets and props. The 12-piece band often had to dig an orchestra pit in the sand in front of the portable stage. And the sound system consisted of one mike and two battered speakers. Kiwi number 8-wire ingenuity I say.
In 1946 a reassembled, but now civilian, Kiwi revue company was formed under the management of the J. C. Williamson Theatre Company and they toured Australia and New Zealand for 8 years playing huge concert halls to capacity houses. His Majesty's Theatre in Auckland, alone, played for 4 months in 1950.
If you want to know more about this remarkable Troup you will need to get hold of Terry Vaughn's wonderful book, Whistle As We Go".

Comments (1):

By fit2rule    2019-09-18

My grandfather was awarded an OBE for his service during WW2, entertaining the troops all over the ME during various stages of battle .. he had some stories of his piano saving him from schrapnel on more than a few occasions, and eventually wrote a book about his experience .. if you're a Kiwi or an Aussie, you can read his book in the National Library:

One thing that always struck me as significant was that his troupe (the "Kiwi Concert Party") was considered a real morale booster and very much respected by every service member it encountered ... I think the idea that a concert could be put on in the most remote places, in the middle of dire battle circumstances, was very inspiring to a lot of the troops.

His adventures always brought to mind the old "Goons" radio show, mixed with a bit of "Dads Army". I was happy to have had piano lessons from the ol' man, anyway ..

EDIT: found some nice ol' video:


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