Sunday, 19 September 2021

Touching tenor tribute for opera-loving Georg

A PAVAROTTI tribute act performed to more than 200 people at the Kenton Theatre.

A PAVAROTTI tribute act performed to more than 200 people at the Kenton Theatre.

Carl Taylor sang some of the Italian tenor?s best known hits at a concert in memory of former Kenton secretary Georg Briner, who died aged 65 from a rare form of cancer in October last year.

Mr Taylor, from Sheffield, was dressed in a padded suit and dyed his beard black for the show. He also carried a white handkerchief, Pavarotti?s signature ?anchor?.

The classical singer performed songs including Nessun Dorma, an aria from the opera Turandot made famous by Pavarotti in the Nineties.

Also performing alongside Mr Taylor were flautist Ceylan Rogers and flute and cello partnership Duolog.

The concert raised more than £1,000 through ticket sales, which will go to the Oxford Haematology Research Fund 0154. Despite being held on the same night as the Gipsy Kings at the Henley Festival, the theatre was almost sold-out for the concert.

Guests were greeted with a glass of pink champagne for the black tie event, while flaming torches were erected outside the theatre.

Among those who attended were Lord Hall, director general of the BBC, and his wife, Sir William and Lady McAlpine and author Ingrid Seward. Nine members of Mr Briner?s family also travelled from Switzerland to attend the concert.

Mr Briner?s widow Wendy, who lives in Gravel Hill, Henley, said: ?It was a very generous gesture from the board of the Kenton Theatre where Georg had been working for more than 20 years.

?It was a very fitting and touching tribute to have a concert in memory of him and to raise funds for graft-versus-host disease. We were both serious opera-goers and he was very keen on the theatre offering lots of different things to different people. I think he would been very surprised to feel he was so honoured and missed.?

Mr Taylor was picked to perform by Ed Simons, chairman of trustees at the theatre in New Street, Henley, who had been the promoter of a Pavarotti concert in Hyde Park in 1991. Mr Simons, who was then the business partner of promoter Harvey Goldsmith, organised the concert as part of a worldwide series by Hungarian entrepreneur Tibor Rudas.

Also at that concert was Lady McAlpine, who was in charge of hospitality for VIPs including Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales.

Lady McAlpine, then called Judy Nicholls, organised an after-show party in a marquee at the Hyde Park Hotel, now known as the Mandarin Oriental, for the Prince and his guests.

But Pavarotti instead attended a party staged by Mr Simons and Mr Goldsmith in the hotel?s ballroom. Mr Simons, who lives with his wife near Marsh Lock in Henley, had help with organising and promoting Saturday?s concert from Lady McAlpine, who married Sir William, a construction tycoon, in 2004 and now lives at Fawley Hill.

He said: ?It was a fantastic success. The evening was better than anyone?s expectations. I said a few words as a tribute to Georg and, as well as the whole evening being very emotional for Georg?s family, they loved the show.?

Sir William McAlpine said: ?It was a very fitting tribute and my wife enjoyed it very much. She knew Pavarotti and while you can never quite replicate the original a pretend Pavarotti is better than no Pavarotti at all.?

In 2013, Mr Taylor won a National Tribute Award, which is voted for by the Agents? Association of Great Britain. He said: ?I started performing as a tribute act about a year after Pavarotti died but I?ve been singing classical music for a long time. If you?re going to impersonate a tenor you?ve got to choose the best.?

Mr Briner, a legal advisor, moved to Henley with his wife from Geneva in 1986.

They were both members of the Henley Operatic and Dramatic Society and he briefly served as chairman before joining the Kenton board of trustees.

He was involved in merging the Kenton Society with the Kenton Theatre Management Society as well as buying the theatre building in 2010.

Mr and Mrs Briner regularly volunteered at the theatre, including as front of house manager, usher and barman.

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