AustCham Corner August 2022

Goodbye Georgy Girl – The Carnival is Over

By Sir Billy Chan

Australian PM Anthony Albanese paid tribute to the legendary singer of the Seekers this morning, saying that Judith Durham was a treasure and icon of Australia. Judith was the voice of “a new strand” of Australian identity.

The Seekers group was wildly popular in the 60s, and has been famous since then. I was deeply moved to see Judith’s performance with the Seekers.

It was such an honour to have met in person with guitarist Keith Potger of the Seekers some 16 years ago when they were in Perth. It is not often that I get to talk to an Aussie legend who has literally breathed and lived music since the 60s. Keith is still active in the industry travelling between the UK and Australia with his music projects. He is a nice fellow, soft-spoken, worldly and very easy going. He loves to share his passion in music, his banjo and guitar fingering techniques and wonderful stories of his days with the Seekers, an Aussie folk quartet originating in Melbourne.

When we met, he recalled stories of them playing with their original members and having to please audiences by playing instrumental covers in the genre of jazz and gospel to rock ‘n’ roll such as the Ventures and the Shadows for them to get up and dance in their early gigs.

When I asked if the group had ever performed in Asia, we had a light-hearted chat over a nice cuppa and Keith gave me some fascinating insights into those good old times touring on cruise ships. Talking about it, I could see by the spark in his eyes at one point when recalling performances as a residence group in the Empress Hotel along Chatham Road in Hong Kong back in the 60s.

They were truly amazing at those shows. I was in the front row watching them in Burswood Theatre when they performed their number one hit “I am Australian” a remarkable unofficial national anthem that reinforces the beauty and wonderful concept of indigenous Australian as keeper of the flame and the national identity of all Australians intimately connected to the spirt of this great continent. I still remember vividly being so moved while hearing beautiful Judith Durham singing the 3rd verse “I’m the daughter of a digger who sought the mother load. The girl became a woman on the long and dusty road.” This inspired everyone in the audience to join in a united chorus, “ We are one and we are many and from all the lands on earth we’ve come. To share a dream and sing with one voice. ” What a wonderful piece penned by Bruce Woodley of the group.

Judith Durham and her sister Beverly, whom is also a great singer, attended a Chinese opera in Melbourne a few years ago. Judith was so inspired and said excitedly, “It’s the most breath-taking performance, presented using the most wonderful art form you can imagine.” and she continued “So, whether it’s the Chinese costumes, the backdrops, the beautiful music, the moving solos, the dances, etc., it’s such a spectacular beauty.”

Judith began playing piano as a child, learning Western classical music but was not exposed to Chinese instruments; when she first listened to the performance of the two-string instrument the “Erhu”, the sisters were amazed, Judith Durham said, “The music played by the original erhu is so delicate, it can express a lot of feelings, it is incredible. The erhu is very much like a violin but the music played is richer and more delicate than the violin to express the inner emotions of the player.”

Judith Durham has been in the music scene for more than half a century, and her legacy is deeply rooted in the minds of all Australians.

Four amazing Australian musicians Judith Durham, Athol Guy, Keith Potger and Bruce Woodley first came together at the tail end of 1962 for gigs and residencies in Australia, the UK, US and around the world. Many of their fans were anticipating to attend their concerts this year to celebrate their Diamond Anniversary. Very sadly, alas, Down by the Riverside, together we sing farewell to Georgy Girl, The Carnival is Over, and I Will Never Find Another You.