Spectrum 422 and Spectrum 423. Sing as we go
Loading the player...
A two-part Spectrum documentary.
The story of the famous Kiwi Concert Party of World War II, told by
surviving members of the group and featuring their wartime recordings
held in the RNZ Sound Archives.
Archival recording “Here’s A Song to Start the Show” - The Kiwi Concert Party’s opening chorus, recorded in Maadi Camp, Egypt, October 1941, followed by comments by Wally Prictor.
Jack Perkins introduces the programme and explains the origins of the party when General Bernard Freyberg asked Tom Kirk-Burnnand to form a party for a show and then to form an entertainment unit for the New Zealand Division.
Archival interview with Kirk-Burnnand, who recalls Freyberg’s requests to form an entertainment unit and his response.
Terry Vaughan who succeeded Tom Kirk-Burnnand as musical director
John Reid of the NZ Broadcasting Service and member of the concert party chorus, says only three members were of professional broadcast standard, but they were still of higher standard overall than other concert parties they experienced. He believes there was no female impersonator better than Wally Prictor and no Welsh baritone better than Taffy Owen.
Archival recording of performance of “The Bold Gendarmes”
Terry Vaughan comments on the difficulty in getting material to perform and relying on memory. He says the Kiwis usually performed a ‘clean’ show, with only one slightly risqué item per performance, but did not rely on such humour. They also didn’t mention the Army or use swearing or ‘blue’ jokes in the show.
Archival recording of comedy skit.
Morrie Double, a former chorus member remembers an all-women professional English ENSA group who toured Egypt and were not popular with NZ forces because they put on a ‘smutty’ show
Terry Vaughan says Kiwi troops didn’t clap much but American or South African forces they performed to were much more demonstrative.
Cyril Pascoe, violinist, comments on informal performances for New Zealand troops.
Unidentified male speaker recalls how the desert environment played havoc with instruments.
Unidentified male speaker recalls night-time performances in the desert as ‘something special’ and describes the darkness with the stage being the only light.
Archival recording of violin and piano performance.
Cyril Pascoe comments on acoustics in the desert.
Morris Double recalls after Crete, the entertainment campaign was more accepted by the rest of the troops. He remembers the problems in getting costumes, the got some funding from the Patriotic Fund and Lady Freyberg and Mrs Lowry also helped them out, providing gowns. They lost all their wardrobe and props in Crete.
Archival excerpt of duet “When I’m Calling You”
Terry Vaughan explains the unit ended up on Crete accidentally, after a signal asking for ‘amusements for the troops’ was misinterpreted. It meant books, playing cards etc. but instead two brass bands and the concert party were sent. He describes going into hiding after the German invasion and the evacuation. The unit lost five men who were taken prisoner.
Cyril Pascoe says everything the unit had was buried and left behind in Crete and they had to start again. The experience strengthened the bonds in the unit. The people of Maadi lent them musical instruments in Egypt.
John Reid comments on Tom Kirk-Burnnand having to leave the unit with a perforated ear drum and loss of hearing.
Archival recording of the final performance in which Kirk-Burnnand is farewelled and the party sing ‘Now is the Hour’.
Archival recording of “Kiwis on Parade”.
After the evacuation from Crete the concert party was re-equipped and began touring again.
Terry Vaughan recalls touring various army, air force and naval installations in the Mediterranean and a concert for children in Malta.
Archival recording of Wally Prictor, female impersonator and soprano.
Wally Prictor talks about his role in the concert party and singing duets with Tony Rex.
Archival recording of Wally Prictor and Tony Rex duet.
Wally Prictor talks about the troops reaction to his female impersonation. He says some wouldn’t believe he wasn’t a woman when they heard him sing.
Tony Rex recalls New Zealand troops taking bets with British soldiers that Wally was a woman. He says General and Lady Freyberg were big fans of Wally. Freyberg used to love bringing senior officers of other forces to see their show and Lady Freyberg would bring him dresses for costumes.
Terry Vaughan talks about the high quality of performers in the concert party.
Archival recording of violin and piano performance by Cyril Pascoe.
Cyril Pascoe’s comedic musical act is recalled.
Cyril Pascoe talks about comedian Tim Bonner who was well-known for his child roles, which he would perform off-stage as well.
Archival recording of Tim Bonner performance.
Baritone Ivan Hanna’s performances of Māori songs are recalled. His performances in front of the 28th Māori Battalion always involved the audience singing along with him.
Archival recording of Ivan Hanna singing ‘Hoki, Hoki Tonu Mai’.
Ivan Hanna talks about being unsure of performing Māori waiata initially, as he wasn’t confident about his pronunciation or the appropriateness of a pakeha singing the songs, but he says he was encouraged by the reaction of Māori audiences.
Cyril Pascoe and another man recall an abandoned store of beer being found near Beirut.
The concert party came home in July 1943 on furlough and toured New Zealand to raise funds for the National Patriotic Fund. Only seven of the original party were able to go back to Europe and they returned to Italy where they encountered a very severe winter.
They recall Wally Prictor singing ‘Ave Maria’ during concerts at the end of the North African campaign in Tripoli, when they played to large audiences of six thousand troops.
In 1972 to fund their reunion in Dunedin they held a concert and performed some of their old numbers.
Archival recording of the 1972 reunion concert, boy soprano Brian Botting sings ‘Ave Maria’ with the RSA chorus.
Terry Vaughan and others recall the concert party’s post-war tours of New Zealand and Australia`
Archival recordings of concert party performances at the Maadi Camp Lowry Hut concert, 1941
Reference number 21536
Media type AUDIO
Collection Sound Collection
Kiwi Concert Party, Performer
Perkins, Jack (b.1940), Presenter
Owen, Alwyn (b.1926), Producer
Vaughan, Terry (b.1915, d.1995), Speaker/Kaikōrero
Thomas Kirk-Burnnand, Speaker/Kaikōrero
Double, Morris George, approximately 1918-1997 (b.1918, d.1997), Speaker/Kaikōrero
PASCOE, Cyril, Speaker/Kaikōrero
Prictor, Walter, -1984 (d.1984), Speaker/Kaikōrero
Reid, John, Speaker/Kaikōrero
Rex, Tony, Speaker/Kaikōrero
Hanna, Ivan William, 1920-2000, Speaker/Kaikōrero
BONNER, Tim, Performer
Botting, Brian, Performer
Broadcasting Corporation of New Zealand (estab. 1976, closed 1988), Producer