I had a Harry Potter moment. Or was it a Dr. Who encounter? I stepped into a phone booth and went down a flight of stairs into a jazz club. The tables in The Jazz Cellar are really sewing machine table tops – Singer does not mean sewing here. Food and drinks – BYO (Bring Your Own), glasses provided, very Australian. The musicians were probably not a day under sixty, but there was nothing wrong with their lungs. There was much enthusiastic dancing – not for me though (you know by now that I’m a dance hazard). The music was probably wasted on me because I only recognized “When the Saints Go Marching In” – the last melody in their repertoire, to the tune of which the band marched out. Still, a night out with friends and music is something to be appreciated.
My first taste of Perth’s music scene was an open-air concert at Curtin University’s amphitheatre. My friends were in lectures, so I was on my own this time. The Promise, a choir visiting from Newcastle donned London bobby hats and sang songs from the Pirates of Penzance. And then they sang Happy Together, taking me back to a time when my parents owned a record player. I went home and played it on the guitar for my flatmates and taught the Namibian geologist how to sing it. So happy together.
I’m still listening for the sounds of Perth’s music. It’s everywhere this Christmas – red-hatted carol singers and scruffy guitarists are getting soulful at the corners of the business district. Justin Bieber is blasting through the overhead speakers in the malls. Snatches of rock and rap and hip-hop drift from the bars and clubs in Subiaco. Tonight I’ll be singing Christmas carols in St. Martin-in-the-Fields. This might be just your thing. I’m after something quieter. The soft strains of jazz that drift from a club as I stand under the Christmas lights at Burswood. The gentle notes from a distant piano in the lobby of the Intercontinental.
Still, my favourite of Perth’s music is more and less than these. It’s the quiet swish of the Swan River against the south shore at midnight. Leaves whispering stories of the breeze. Quiet laughter in the company of a close friend. Is this what the shepherds heard before all those angels started singing? Do you hear what I hear? This too is worth remembering, this music of the night. Have yourself a merry music-filled Christmas.