Interview: Steve Foenander – Bringing The Great American Songbook To The Regal

Brothers Mike and Steve Foenander are in the middle of rehearsals with the Adelaide Big Band, ahead of their upcoming show at the Regal Theatre. After shooting to fame in 2013 on Australia’s Got Talent, the Foenander brothers have shared their love of the Great American Songbook with audiences around the world.

Steve took some time out of rehearsals to chat with me about the show, The Great American Songbook, and where their love of jazz music originated.

“Mike and I grew up in London. My Mum was from Ireland and Dad from Sri Lanka. When we were in London, Mum collected LPs of artists like Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole. We would sit at home and listen to these artists and their material. When we moved to Australia, I learnt saxophone and Mike learnt trumpet at school, and we both played in the school’s big band. We also discovered we could sing well together and our voices blended beautifully. After we finished school, we always wanted to keep active with our music. We put together a band called Blues Brothers and Sisters of Soul, which was a parody of the Blues Brothers. It wasn’t originally a big presence in our lives, but it kept on growing, so we decided to enter Australia’s Got Talent in 2013 and that really blew things up. We got so much press and media coverage from it that we decided to get an agent, who got us gigs on cruise ships performing in the big cabaret rooms. Because we were from London, we would travel back every two years and do gigs over there as well. It just kept growing organically over a long period of time.”

The Great American Songbook is the canon of the most important and influential American jazz standards stretching back from the early 20th century. In recent years artists such as Michael Buble, Tom Burlinson, and Rod Stewart (to name a few) have all played their part in keeping these classics alive and introducing them to a new generation. I asked Steve how important he feels it is that this music continues being performed and that it isn’t lost?

“This music is just so well written, and the lyrics are so well placed; they tell a story. Music that is beautifully written and tells stories will last to the end of time. People like Michael Buble, Tom Burlinson, James Morrison, Robbie Williams, Rod Stewart and even us, want to make this music accessible for people rather than having to look back.

“Once the public hears one of us newer artists present this music, they start wondering where the music came from and they discover the original artists and the original music. Everything we do as performers these days, we do respectfully. We respect what was there before. Jazz musicians often show a lot more respect when they perform, especially when improvising. They mostly sing the melody straight the first time through, then start to get creative as it comes back to pay homage to the composer and original artist.”

This Saturday September 18 at 8pm, The Foenander Brothers will be presenting their show The Foenander Brothers – The Great American Songbook at the Regal Theatre.

“There are a lot of songs we could have included, but we’ve tried to narrow it down to a lot of the classics like New York, New York, Come Fly With Me and World On A String. We are also doing My Way, which is a really interesting choice for us because it’s usually only done by a soloist.

“We just want people to have fun. We want to promote Adelaide musicians. The Adelaide Big Band, with its 17 members, is just excellent.”

This show will be presented by Roulette Shows, run by Kathryn McGowan & Markus Hamence.

“Katheryn and Markus are brilliant. I’ve known them both for a long time. They are so dedicated to supporting the performing arts here in Adelaide. They bend over backwards to support us and to get our shows off the ground. Both of them have been so upbeat with all the hurdles COVID has thrown our way, and at a great cost to them, but they keep on pushing forward. They are a huge asset to our state and more people should be out there supporting Roulette Shows.”

The Foenander Brothers – The Great American Songbook is on for one show only, Saturday 18 September, 8pm at The Regal Theatre. Tickets can be purchased through www.rouletteshows.com.au or www.trybooking.com/BSILW 

Interview by Ben Stefanoff

Click here for a sample of what to expect

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