Talented Perth musician performs against the odds
Greg Parker, his wife Malini and the New Era choir. Photo: Mary Parker.
Perth composer-musician Greg Parker, who has fought a remarkable four-year battle against terminal cancer, has presented a concert against the odds.
On 22 March in front of a capacity audience of 900 in Perth, he staged a performance with the Baha’i New Era Choir, which he founded more than 25 years ago.
In January 2014 his doctor had told him he had only a very short time left to live. Mr Parker then decided on one last concert with the choir. In just six weeks he created and rehearsed a program of 16 songs called “From Our Hearts to Yours”.
Mr Parker, who had stints in hospital during the six weeks of concert preparation as his health deteriorated, sang from a wheelchair and did some of the conducting. At the end, the audience gave him a standing ovation.
His wife and fellow choir member, Malini, pushed an overwhelmed Mr Parker in his wheelchair to the front of the stage to acknowledge the reception.
At the concert, AFL footballer Luke McPharlin—a Baha’i and former choir member whose wife and mother sang at the concert—paid tribute to Mr Parker.
“I distinctly remember my first experience of hearing his music as a young boy and being enraptured by the sound of voices singing in harmony,” Mr McPharlin said.
“It triggered in me a passion for music that has remained to this day.
“In these past few decades, Greg, through the medium of his beloved choir, has created an environment for hearts to come together, lovingly cultivated a safe space for youth, myself included, to grow in confidence and explore their capacities.
“He has carefully crafted a microcosm of unity and diversity that he so desires for the world.
“Greg, you stand today a towering figure in the eyes of so many; a character of such demonstrable strength and resilience that defies belief. I thank you on behalf of the myriad lives you have touched and inspired with the gift of your music, your generous nature and with the example of your irrepressible song.”
Then Mr Parker spoke passionately and with dashes of his usual dry humour, only losing his composure when he spoke of his family—wife Malini and daughters Rachel and Mary—and how he would miss seeing his grandchildren grow up and Mary having children of her own.
He said Malini had handled the burden of his illness with “uncomplaining grace, selflessness and determination” and both she and his children had sacrificed precious time with him to allow him to put on the show.
Among those he singled out for his loving gratitude was Dr Kynan Feeney, his oncologist and fellow Baha’i .
He closed by urging everyone to unleash the power of love and unity.
“The Baha’i Faith is all about unity . . . We need to make our hearts overflow with love. Only when there is love can there be unity.”
“Baha’u’llah said: ‘My calamity is my providence. Outwardly it is fire and vengeance but inwardly it is light and mercy.’ So cancer is the cloud, it’s the calamity, it’s the fire, it’s the vengeance.
“In the material realm what do you want to do with that cancer? You want to get rid of it. You don’t want it. But I truly believe that cancer has been the silver lining in my life. It is a providential blessing that is pure light and mercy.
“Miracles and blessings have surrounded me over the last four years and they far outweigh the material discomfort.”
Malini told the audience she believed the choir is one of the main reasons that her husband of 27 years had defied the odds and survived for about twice as long as the best predictions.
“This is the fourth show that Greg has directed and created in the past four years.”
Each show had somehow energised him and recreated him, she said.
The concert itself consisted of 16 songs, including “Fire of Love”, which Greg wrote only the week before and was sung as a duet by professional singers, choir members Genevieve Labbe and Shameem Taheri-Lee.
Many of the songs were written and arranged by Greg; many were Baha’i sacred texts set to music. The set also included The Beatles’ “With a Little Help From My Friends” and Seals and Crofts’ “Year of Sunday” and finished with “Do You Hear the People Sing?”, the rousing finale from the musical “Les Miserables”.
ABC Television’s 7.30 WA featured interviews with Greg and Malini Parker and had footage of the choir rehearsing. Luke McPharlin spoke about the concert on his regular footy slot at radio station 96FM and three community newspapers carried reports.
Report by Keith McDonald.
Watch report by 7.30 WA http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2014-03-21/perth-composer-in-the-performance-of-a-lifetime/5338402
Visit New Era website http://newerachoir.com/