Since its debut screening in 1991, the film The Commitments has resonated with musicians and left a vocalist and guitar teacher in Goulburn nurturing a dream.
Set in the north side of Dublin The Commitments is the story of a music fanatic putting together a soul band. While the musicians are supposed to be novices, it turns out they’re pretty darn good.
Jump forward to today in Goulburn, a working-class town full of versatile, passionate musicians – just the place to recreate, as best as possible, The Commitments story. And Garth Prentice, the prolific performer who was first back on stage at the Hibernian Hotel in June 2020 after that soul-destroying COVID-19 lockdown, has done just that.
But Prentice is not trying to kid anyone this latest line-up in The Commitments are novices; they are the who’s who of Goulburn’s live music scene.
Prentice had plenty of places from where to assemble his talent. As well as being the head of the guitar faculty at the Hume Conservatorium in Goulburn (aka the Con), he performs most weekends with wedding and functions band Ooh La La or the Mike Baker Organ Trio or solo in pubs or at a Garth and Friends night at The Goulburn Club.
Prentice says The Commitments, although a fictional band in the movie, taught him much about the transition of a band and how to put one together.
“It has this massive cult following within the music communities of all areas,” he says. “And who doesn’t love Mustang Sally?”
Over the years the Con has staged concerts like the upcoming one on 4 August featuring The Commitments to raise money for its scholarship fund, which helps less advantaged young people with music tuition.
“We were looking for some ideas on how to put these bands together and new ideas on how to promote it,” Prentice says.
“We have had success with tribute acts and our staff previously and The Commitments has some repertoire that a lot of us are very familiar with. It was an awesome chance to include a heap of our staff and community in one project.”
And he can feel the community rediscovering the restorative magic of live performances after Covid-19 kept so many people away.
“The support from the community in the last month or two has been really great – people coming out to ticketed events at the GPAC [Goulburn Performing Arts Centre] and The Goulburn Club and Hume Conservatorium,” Prentice says.
“We lost a few music venues over the Covid break, it’s nice to see a few of them coming back to life.
“Places that struggled like the Goulburn Club are starting to get a good scene happening there as well.”
The Commitments debut on Thursday, 4 August at the Con in Bourke Street. The aim is to sell 100 tickets for $100 each for a two-course meal with drinks and the live music show. The doors open at 6:30pm.
Prentice will be the vocalist, along with Keva Abotomey, formerly of The Con, now teaching in the Southern Highlands, Charlotte Lock, a performer around Goulburn and also is music teacher at Trinity Catholic College, Corby-Lea Will who also performs in Oo La La. Prentice says all three women are exceptional vocalists.
“We also have Geoff Bell who is a music manager from Goulburn who will play the drums, Ron McLaughlin and Mike Baker from The Goulburn Club will play bass guitar and keyboard,” he says.
“Andy Picker who runs our inter-schools and outreach program at the Con will be playing organ. Liam King, a tutor at the Con, will play guitar and we’ll also have featured performers from the student body.
“We will play the first album released from The Commitments movie and do our best to recreate as close as we can those incredible recordings made for that movie.
“We are all about making dreams happen.
“I am astounded every day I can teach music to our youth and perform music for our community. As a child playing the guitar in my room, who thought I would be such a present part of a vibrant music community.”
As a youth, Prentice wanted to play with AC-DC – but life has shifted his perspective.
“Now it’s more who I get to play with and not what I get to play,” he says.
“I get to play with some incredible musicians and we get to play all kinds of different music and learn a new repertoire all the time, put on different shows. That’s the exciting part for me.”
Doors open for The Commitments concert at 6:30 pm on 4 August at Hume Conservatorium, 160 Bourke St, Goulburn. Tickets cost $100 and include a two-course meal with drinks – click here to book.