Friday, April 03, 2009

A Magical Moment

Something very special this evening for “music night” at the Wild Reed – legendary Australian vocalist Judith Durham singing the stirring and anthemic, “The Carnival is Over.”

Judith Durham is perhaps best known as the lead singer of the popular 1960s group, The Seekers, whose hits included “Georgy Girl,” “I’ll Never Find Another You,” “A World of Our Own,” and “The Carnival is Over,” which knocked the Rolling Stones from the Number One spot on the UK charts in 1965. All of these hit songs were written by Tom Springfield, brother of the late, great British soul singer, Dusty Springfield.

In the video I’m sharing this evening, Judith performs “The Carnival is Over” as the closing number before a crowd of 10,000+ people at the February 13, 2009 “RocKwiz Salutes the Bowl” concert – an event that celebrated the 50th anniversary of Melbourne’s Sidney Myer Music Bowl.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I definitely appreciate an artful video that blends various visual elements (see for example here and here). But at the same time, there’s something to be said about the exhilarating power conveyed by a great singer performing a great song.

As one commentator has noted about this particular performance by Judith Durham: “[It’s] proof again that a pure voice and a beautiful melody can fill an arena more effectively than pyrotechnics, volume and back up dancers.”

Indeed, Durham’s performance is simply mesmerizing – one of those all-too-rare magical musical moments. Enjoy!

(NOTE: Judith’s performance can also be viewed here.)

. . . Like a drum my heart was beating
and your kiss was sweet as wine.
But the joys of love are fleeting
for Pierrot and Columbine.
Now the harbour light is calling,
this will be our last goodbye.
Though the carnival is over,
I will love you till I die.

Writes music critic Dawn Eden in the liner notes of Capitol Records’ 1992 Seekers compilation album:

The Seekers single, “The Carnival is Over,” was a radical departure from their established jangly and upbeat sound. Tom Springfield adapted its melody from a Russian folk song, “Stienka Razin.” Judith recalls that “the Carnival is Over” marked her return to the recording studio after a six-month vacation due to nervous exhaustion, no doubt brought about at least in part by her rapid rise to international fame.

In recording that song, she expressed all the intense and painful emotions that had built up within her during that time. “It affected me emotionally very, very much,” she says. If it wasn’t for her own identification with the song, millions of listeners might not have had the opportunity to do the same. “At the same time,” she explains, “Tom also presented us with a song he’d written called ‘Hummingbird,’ which the three boys very much wanted to record, but for me it would have broken my heart if ‘The Carnival is Over’ wasn’t a single. I pushed and pushed, and said, ‘It’s got to be the one,’ because I just felt so strongly that it would be enormously popular.”

It became their biggest English hit. Selling 93,000 copies a day, it knocked the Stones’ “Get Off My Cloud” out of the Number One spot. It then stayed on top for three weeks, until it was overtaken by the Beatle’s “Day Tripper”/“We Can Work It Out.” However, it failed to capture the hearts of American radio programmers, only reaching the Bubbling Under chart stateside.

When I was living and teaching in Goulburn, New South Wales, Australia, some colleagues and I went and saw Judith Durham performing at the local Workers’ Club. It must have been 1991 or 1992. Anyway, the thing I remember most – apart from Judith’s strong and clear voice – was the huge cloud of cigarette smoke that by the end of the night was hanging in the air of the auditorium.

I can recall thinking what a trouper Judith was to put up with such a terribly smoky environment, but then I guess that’s what acts on the club circuit had to put up with back then. After all, this was long before smoking bans were introduced into clubs and pubs. Thankfully, times have changed.

Judith Durham, The Seekers Lead Singer, Dead at 79 – Jason Dasey (ABC News, August 6, 2022).
Judith Durham, Australian Folk Icon Behind Oscar-Nominated Song “Georgy Girl,” Dies at 79 – Sara Netzley (Entertainment Weekly, August 6, 2022).
Vale Judith Durham, the Cuddly Aussie “Girl-Next-Door” Whose Soaring Voice Found International Fame – Liz Giuffre (The Conversation, August 6, 2022).
The Seekers Were Unlike Anything of Their Time and Lead Singer Judith Durham Was a “Shining Star” With the “Voice of An Angel” ABC News (August 6, 2022). Judith Durham (1943-2022): A Seeker Who Found International Fame – Harriet Veitch (The Sydney Morning Herald, August 6, 2022).
Judith Durham Will Receive a State Funeral in Victoria ABC News (August 7, 2022).

Recommended Off-site Links:
Judith Durham’s Official Website


Brian R said...

Thanks for this, although my memories are of Judith singing it during the 60's, she is just one year older than me. A mixture of sadness and pleasure. Being allergic to cigarette smoke largely prevented me from attending concerts in those days (and also kept me out of most gay venues)

Pete said...

Yes, you're right, Michael, this is magical.

I also think its quite something that Judith Durham is singing as beautifully and as well as she is at 65!

This is a great performance and really shows she's a great singer - one who has obviously taken care of the wonderful gift of her voice.

Unknown said...

Wondering who replaced Judith Durham when she was recovering from nervous exhaustion?