The West

Picture: Sharon Smith/The West Australian

By most reckoning, $300,000 is a lot of money. And this is the impressive sum, distributed to Rotary charities, that John Christmass' Vienna Pops concerts have raised over the years. On New Year's Eve, this much-loved music institution is on for the very last time.

John Christmass, whose work ethic is legendary, says that at 88, he is bringing down the curtain on this hugely popular annual event, not because he's retiring, but because he needs more time for many other activities, among them the completion of a memoir. He's written more than 55,000 words so far.

Christmass is no sluggard at the computer keyboard. He still averages 60 words a minute, a skill developed at the typewriter long ago when, during World War II, he was a wireless telegraphist posted to an intelligence unit intercepting enemy Japanese messages. Cristmass also wants time to focus on composition, with a new piece for flute and piano and choral works in the pipeline.

During the past 25 years, there's seldom been an empty seat at Vienna Pops concerts and it's likely to be full house again on New Year's Eve. Christmass reels off statistics: over 25 Vienna Pops performances he's employed 550 choristers, 1350 orchestral players, about 60 soloists, both singers and instrumentalists, and a half dozen conductors.

"For the last 12 years, since the death of my associate, John Embleton, I have been responsible for everything from the selection of repertoire to engaging soloists, training the choir, preparing the lighting plot, engaging orchestral players, preparing the program for the printers, providing refreshments for the performers at rehearsals and performances, and floral decorations," said Christmass.

On the program for New Year's Eve are timeless favourites such as The Blue Danube and Radetsky March, with vocal soloists Alexandra Bak (soprano), tenor Alasdair Kent and the I Voci Choir (singing from memory) offering nostalgic delights from the operetta repertoire of old Vienna. Solo instrumentalists with the Perth Pops Orchestra will be Ashley Arbuckle (violin), Stephanie Nicholls (oboe) and Tresna Stampalia (flute).

Vienna Pops is at the Perth Concert Hall from 9.20pm on New Year's Eve. Book at Ticketek.

The West Australian

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