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August 16th, 2018. The day we lost the incomparable, irreplaceable Aretha Franklin. But also the 41st anniversary of the passing of the incomparable, irreplaceable Elvis Aaron Presley, arguably the greatest entertainer of the twentieth century.

By some fortuitous cosmic arrangement (or maybe just a very serendipitous coincidence!), it was the date on which Oriana had the great privilege and pleasure of providing choral support for Elvis: King Of the World, a spectacular tribute to the life and music of Elvis, at the Concert Hall of the Performing Arts Centre in Brisbane.

Elvis: King Of the World is a show that has been put together to showcase around thirty classic Elvis Presley songs, and it features a young rising star named Jack Gatto as the King, with an almost twenty piece band, a choir of thirty plus, and ten back-up singers. The MD is John St. Peeters, a man who had a career as a pop star in the seventies, and who has been active as a musician, show-host and music director ever since.

Young Jack Gatto is a very sincere and personable young man. He is more, so much more than a mere Elvis impersonator. His deep love for Elvis and his music is plainly apparent in the total sincerity he brings to his stage act. If you close your eyes and listen, you truly cannot tell that you are not listening to The Man himself.

Oriana’s “One Night” with Elvis was a true highlight in its story so far. Simply being on the stage in the Concert Hall, looking out into the packed house of mainly devoted Elvis fans, and contributing to the making of that wonderful, exciting music, was an incredible buzz. There were thirty-six of us, six of whom were part of the ten miked back-up singers. The band was the S.C.R.E.A.M. big band from the Sunshine Coast, along with Jack’s touring band of guitar, bass, keyboards, sax and drums. And what an incredible sound we made together!

The show started with the traditional fanfare of “Thus Spake Zarathustra”, and then Jack and the band launched into “That’s Alright, Mama”. Then it was our turn, and the energy and excitement never let up for the rest of the show, as we sang back-up to one classic after another: “Teddy Bear”; “Don’t Be Cruel”; “Can’t Help Falling In Love”; “Return To Sender”; “Are You Lonesome Tonight”; “Follow That Dream”; “Heartbreak Hotel”; “Viva Las Vegas”; all up about thirty Elvis classics.

The music was interspersed with video footage of key events and moments in Elvis’s life and career. There was a very moving ‘duet’ between Jack and Elvis himself. Through some electronic/digital wizardry, Elvis’s vocal from “In the Ghetto” came through the PA, without the musical backing, and Jack sang line for line with Elvis. Totally a cappella, almost ethereal, beautiful and very moving.

The second half of the show opened with “Burning Love”, and went through a selection of the King’s later classics like “The Wonder Of You”; “Separate Ways”; “Always On My Mind”; “Suspicious Minds”, which was a real showstopper; and great Elvis versions of “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” and “My Way”, and closing with an encore of Elvis’s favourite hymn, “How Great Thou Art”.

An absolute standout of the second half was “The Night the Lights Went Out In Vegas” a beautiful, evocative, atmospheric piece, written by John St. Peeters in the wake of the mass shooting tragedy in Las Vegas last year. It was thus the only song of the night that Elvis never performed. But Jack sang it so wonderfully, including a beautiful verse sung in Italian, that it was uncannily, exactly the way Elvis himself would have sung it. It gave one goose-bumps. And the fact that we were performing it on the anniversary of Elvis’s passing gave it an extra, special poignancy.

Elvis: King Of the World was truly a very special night, and a wonderful experience, of which Oriana was fortunate and privileged to be a part. We acquitted ourselves admirably, so much so that, back in the green room, when it was all over, John St. Peeters, and Andrew, the band’s saxophonist, told us that if and when the show came through Brisbane again, they would be calling on Oriana’s services to do it all over again. Very gratifying to know that we did our job well. (And had such a great time doing it!)

For those of us who were there, Elvis: King Of the World will stand as a highlight in our Oriana lives, and will remain a great memory of a wonderful, exciting musical experience.

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