Australian tenor Jonathon Welch – who is best known for his work with the Choir of Hard Knocks, which was featured on the award-winning ABC documentary – will perform his cabaret show I’m Just Wild About Harry at Glen Street Theatre in Belrose, NSW this month. Centring on the life and music of Welsh tenor and comedian Sir Harry Secombe, the show will include songs such as Love is a Many Splendoured Thing, Bless this House, This is My Song, I Believe, and If I Ruled the World. Jonathon Welch spoke to Limelight to explain why he’s wild about Harry.
Jonathon Welch. Photograph supplied
When did you first hear Harry Secombe’s music?
I first heard him sing in the 1960s when my mother played his LPs, and his beautiful voice would fill our home with all the great tenor classics that he and many of the other singers of the day were recording.
Were you mostly influenced by hearing him sing, or by hearing him on the British radio comedy program The Goon Show?
I remember listening to The Goons on the radio on Saturday afternoons, but didn’t realise that it was the same ‘Harry’ that I was listening to on records!
Your 2008 solo album was called With a Song in My Heart – why did you choose that title?
With A Song in My Heart was one of my mother’s favourite songs, that Harry had also recorded.
When and why did you decide to do this cabaret show?
It wasn’t until I was researching many of the great tenor classics that I grew up listening to, that I recalled it was Harry Secombe that sang them on the records my mother played. And of course, I couldn’t just sing his music without referencing The Goons and his career as a comedian that gave him the platform as a singer.
How have you structured the show?
Given Harry’s career was so interesting and diverse, I tell his story between each song, and there is also a slide show that highlights many of the special people and moments in his life.
There is mention of a special guest on the press release. Can you tell us who that is?
The special guest is my wonderful award-winning accompanist and choral conductor, Adam Przewlocki. His makes the piano sound like a symphony orchestra!
Was it an emotional experience leaving the Choir of Hard Knocks after all that time?
It was a very bitter-sweet experience finishing up with Choir of Hard Knocks after 13 amazing years. But they will always have a very special place in my heart and career.
Have you maintained contact with any of the choristers?
My husband, Matt Jones, has stayed on as the Choir’s manager, and I’m now their Founding Patron and No 1 Fan! So, I hear how they’re going and love to catch up with them at social gatherings when I can.
You didn’t have a long stay on The Voice in 2020 but how did you find the experience?
The Voice was a fun experience, and exactly what I needed to help refocus and reset my own career again as a singer. It’s funny how so many people still don’t know that I’m a singer after 40 years in the business.
How are you and your husband faring with parenting your grand-nephews? Has it made a big change to your life?
It’s been a huge change to our lives over the last four years – it’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The boys are 12 years old and 14 years old this year, so we are dealing with the ‘terrible teens’ now. But they are great boys and I’m really loving being a ‘basketball Dad’ as well. Yes, I’m that embarrassing parent that yells out from the sides during matches – so my years of voice production are still paying off, much to their horror!
Jonathon Welch performs I’m Just wild About Harry at Glen Street Theatre, Belrose, NSW, 11 & 12 April