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Vince Hill's farewell concert in Coventry

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With 2019 marking his 85th birthday, singing star Vince Hill will be heading home to Coventry next month to perform a special farewell concert at the Belgrade Theatre, as he prepares to retire from the spotlight after 70 years in showbusiness.

 

Taking place on Tuesday 4 June, his Midday Variety performance will help to raise much needed funds for the theatre's charitable work, with the "Edelweiss" singer donating his performance fee, as well as £1 from every ticket sold, to support their in the community.

Best known for his hit 1967 recording of The Sound of Music number "Edelweiss", which has gone on to sell a million copies, Vince has recorded over 300 songs over the years, performing at famous venues from the Royal Albert Hall to Sydney Opera House, as well as hosting a number of popular television series during the 70s and 80s, including They Sold A Million and Musical Time Machine for the BBC, and ITV chat show Gas Street.

Forming part of the Belgrade's regular Midday Variety programme, his forthcoming show will see him share stories and songs from throughout his illustrious career, accompanied by the world-class musicians of the Ken McCarthy Trio. Hosted by Mark Andrews, the performance will feature guest appearances from Vince's friends and colleagues including TV comic Duncan Norvelle, musical theatre star Jane Horn and the Coventry Consortium Swing Band.

As Coventry looks forward to an exciting future with its year as City of Culture on the horizon, Vince will also be giving something back to the community, using his celebration concert to raise much-needed funds for the Belgrade Theatre's charitable work. As well as donating his own performance fee, Vince and his team will also donate £1 from every ticket sold back to the Belgrade Theatre Trust.

Vince Hill said:"I am so excited to be performing my last big show at the Belgrade Theatre in my home city of Coventry. I rarely do concerts nowadays but simply couldn't resist the opportunity to do a show that will benefit the wonderful charitable work that the Belgrade Theatre Trust does in the local community.

"Coventry gave me my big break when I started my showbiz career and my hope is the monies raised will help the next generation of local talent get started on their paths to stardom. Might I add I am immensely proud that Coventry is to be the UK City of Culture 2021. I can't wait to get involved with those celebrations…. it's a well deserved win!!"

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Vince Hill "Sounding Off" at Coventry Music Museum

Review

Suddenly, Coventry Music Museum found itself celebrating its fourth birthday on Saturday 4th November 2017. After checking the records, it turned out that four years had indeed somehow passed, so a decision was made to celebrate it. As with previous birthdays, this one was marked with a special guest giving a Heritage Lottery funded "Sounding Off" talk with Museum founder & curator, Pete Chambers BEM.

This time, one of the great hitmakers of Coventry & Warwickshire, Vince Hill kindly agreed to be the guest. After inspecting the museum's displays (including many things he had lent himself), signing the Coventry & Warwickshire Music Door of Fame and meeting visiting fans, Vince & Pete had to repair to "Knights'" venue downstairs in the Two Tone Village (many thanks to Alph & Angela Knight for letting it be used & Alph for setting up the PA) as the crowd was simply too great to fit into the Museum.

First of all, however, to the surprise & delight of the crowd, in walked famed (and versatile) Sheffield musician John Shuttleworth & using a keyboard which was fortunately already set up on the stage, played his hit "Whatever Happened to Vince Hill?", apparently oblivious to Vince's presence: you can imagine the surprise when he spotted him at the end of the song. Sadly John had to go at the point, which was a shame especially as actor/comedian & friend of the Museum Graham Fellows arrived a few minutes later, having just missed John.

Once that great & unique prologue was over, it was down to the "Sounding Off". Some run for a little less than an hour, including 3 or so songs, but this one went on well over an hour with Vince answering questions from Pete & the audience and reminiscing: he has a wonderful memory & told many stories with great humour & detail, from his early life in Coventry, a short career as a miner & then a baker, before progressing via success in singing in the era's equivalent of open mics ("free & easy" sessions), singing as part of the band of the Royal Corps of Signals during National Service through his early groups such as Teddy Foster's big band and then The Raindrops vocal act  & then to an unanticipated career as a solo singer, launched partially through his work recording demos, using his ability to sound like a variety of other singers. This of course illustrates how Vince's career was built, like many at that time, on hard relentless work and taking what was on offer (perhaps not quite how many succeed currently?), though as he said, it did perhaps lead him slightly astray as his versatility & interest in recording what he was interested in, tended to blur his identity as a singer while others stuck to a more narrow & identified style. However, the story of his recording his biggest hit "Edelweiss" ties in with this, as he only went for it (despite record label doubts) when he was repeatedly requested to sing it live, so he acquiesced, learned it, and it has become his signature piece. Vince also worked in films (though his theme for "The Railway Children" was not used at the start of the film as intended as Bryan Forbes considered it "not trainy enough": despite having a deliberate train rhythm in the arrangement.

Vince also spoke of his own songwriting, probably insufficiently well known given the pressure to populate his albums with "standards",(his self penned songs often turning up as "B" sides instead) his acting (mainly in pantomimes & presenting, but famously once "straight" as Ivor Novello, a role he took partly due to hearing him so often growing up as Novello was a favourite of his mother's.

 

Although the vast majority of the talk was in a light hearted vein, Pete touched upon Vince's tragic recent years, losing both his wife Annie (who had been a highly influential advisor to him throughout his career) and shortly before, their son Athol also passed away. In fact after leaving the Museum, Vince was travelling to see Athol's young son.

After the talk, Vince signed copies of his new CD, encapsulating his 55 years as a professional singer ("Legacy") while a birthday cake was served to visitors. (21 of his original albums have also been remastered to celebrate this milestone)

It was great also to welcome members of the Lynettes: Vince's sister Val & her friend Shirley, who also signed the Door of Fame.

Just how much the event was enjoyed  was summed up by Vince penning & posting an appreciation on his website within hours.

 

You can see all the footage of the "Sounding Off" here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=oa.1412608785518508&type=3

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