Keep Your Spirits Up - Tribute ConcertShare Event on Facebook Share Event on Twitter Share Event on LinkedIn
A tribute concert in the centenary year of the Australian Red Cross by the Canberra Jazz Club was one of those events that slipped quietly into the social calendar, left a lasting impression, and a reminder of the contribution of Jon Ansell, jazz musician, airman with Bomber Command, prisoner of war and legend of Australian jazz, with a dinner and concert at the Canberra Southern Cross Club.
Ansell was given a drum kit at the age of 12 when a student at Canberra Boys Grammar and I don’t know if he annoyed all and sundry with his playing as close quarter living with drummers is inclined to do, but I do know it was the beginning of a 50 year passion for music with his time as a POW made bearable by the supply of musical instruments by the Red Cross and the formation of his accordian dance band. Picture that in a POW camp and the mind boggles. That accordian famously accompanied him on a forced march across Germany, to England when repatriated at war’s end, was repaired by the Red Cross and came home with Ansell to Australia. And I can’t help but recommend a book by E. Annie Proulx called Accordian Crimes about another piano accordian’s journey that could have been in part inspired by Ansell’s story.
Once home it was back to music and Ansell formed the Cootamundra Jazz Band and I remember their concerts at The Albert Hall, followed by the Riverina Jazz Band and for the Keep Your Spirits Up concert the Red Hot Rhythmakers from Melbourne were the guest band in a concert that had plenty of the old, some of the never heard before and plenty of the familiar with just the right mix of chat from band leader Michael McQuaid. Drummer Ian Smith’s “wordless vocal” a soundscape to delight and Robert Moffat’s singing of Fats Waller’s Zonkey, not the least bit wonkey despite linguistic challenges.
It was a night of great memories and Ansell’s family were guests at the concert with a tribute video produced by the Canberra Jazz Club a reminder of the contribution of the Red Cross to POWs and the determination of them to find a semblance of normality in dire circumstances.