Carols in fine Voice (but where’s Humphrey?)

By David Knox on December 25, 2013 / Filed Under News 28

humphNine’s Carols by Candelight leaned heavily on The Voice with considerable success last night, but again shunned audience favourite Humphrey B. Bear and came off worse for wear with his replacement act, Kids WB.

Once again Twitter was the place to second-screen this annual event, with the egg nog leading to plenty of grinch comments. It’s funny because it’s true…

The Voice winner Harrison Craig opened the show, duetting with Silvie Paldino, before Rachael Leahcar channelled Mariah Carey with All I Want for Christmas. I’m not so sure the song, and those bottom notes, really suited her.

But things got decidely worse with Kids WB and the Warner’s Bros characters in a poorly produced segment from Showtime Productions. A bizarrely-shaped Santa -no longer performed by Terry Gill as it has been for longer than I can remember- looked like he had swallowed a giant pudding yet none of it had reached his slim hips. A “Halla-Looney” chorus risked riling the religious. Ditch the sponsors, please come back Terry Gill, Hi-5 and Humphrey.

Thank goodness for Denis Walter bringing some tradition and class with O Come All Ye Faithful. The night began to improve with Erin Holland and Christie Whelan-Browne.

A cheerful Tim Campbell -no sour grapes after Nine dumped him from House Husbands- got the Bowl on its feet with a medley led by Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (newsflash: he’d actually just appeared). Campbell’s backing vocalists were some of the best in the biz and worked throughout the show.

Campbell’s partner Anthony Callea, chalking up his 10th appearance, is always note perfect, if overtly shiny. Callea is pure showmanship when left to singing.

Veteran soul man Steve Clisby crooned through classic American Christmas songs with ease, backed by the dependable Melbourne Gospel Choir (a shout out to the versatile Lucy Holmes). Clisby almost left fellow Voice graduate Darren Percival nowhere to go, but never say never, he had the Bowl swinging.

Harpist and singer Alana Conway delivered a sublime Silent Night.

Silvie Paladino gave the performance of the night with her exquisite vocals. Why do we not see more of this remarkable performer on Australian television?

Hugh Sheridan, in his first appearance, channelled American jazz but managed to show off his musical side. Host David Campbell reminded us he is his father’s son, almost shouting his way through his ‘spontaneous’ song. Campbell was the second performer of the night who has performed the great J O’K during his career and there were shades of it tonight.

Audience favourite Marina Prior made her 22nd appearance and never disappoints.  But Twitter was awfully distracted by her face.

The Voice‘s Luke Kennedy turned O Holy Night into popera -until the final night note got the better of him. He was doing so well until then. Winner Harrison Craig seems to sing every song the same. White Christmas was the blandest song of the night and I wonder how long his career can be sustained on a repertoire of ballads…?

Tenor David Hobson, joined by boy soprano Beau Woodbridge (son of Todd), sang well before the line of the night about “cross-pollinating.” He redeemed himself with his annual rendition of the stirring The Holy City -and remembered the lyrics this year.

The finale with the full cast for We Wish You a Merry Christmas included a brief glimpse of Humphrey B. Bear who had clearly been on pre-show duties for the audience at the Bowl. It’s high time Nine put him back in the show and let some of the sponsor-produced ring-ins witness the meaning of audience popularity.

Please. Fix. For. 2014.






There were also in-show plugs for Myer, Les Miserables, and upcoming Nine shows in the commercial breaks.

Lisa Wilkinson demonstrated she didn’t need larrikin Karl Stefanovic to get the job done, all with one outfit for the night.

Congrats to nice guy John “cymbals” Foreman, Doug Heywood, orchestra and choirs for three hours of being the backbone of the show.

Nine’s production team also did them proud, capturing the size, spirit  and diversity of an iconic community event, Live to air.

If you missed it all or just want to relive it all again (you’d have to be keen), Nine repeats it at 1pm today.


  1. Kylie December 29, 2013 at 1:40 am -

    Channel 7′s Carols was just a big plug for the movie Frozen and Kelly Clarkson & Tina Arena’s new album :(

  2. jayjay95 December 28, 2013 at 9:31 pm -

    Nine don’t have Humphrey B Bear nor Hi-5 in their possession anymore. IIRC Hi-5 will be on Eleven in 2014 and no kids would know who Humphrey is. But the kids part was a shocker.

    No Terry Gill as Santa? Now that is ridiculous!

    And Channel 9 even though some of the Voice contestants are brilliant and it is a good show (and Rachael is an ambassador for Vision Australia cause she is legally blind) do not make them dominate the show because then it will start becoming boring.

    Some of the carols were sung by the wrong performers (Rachael singing All I Want for Christmas is You pops into my mind, it was the wrong song for her).

  3. David Knox December 27, 2013 at 10:24 pm -

    Carols had new talent, several of whom were well regarded in the above post. But when it was as bad as Kids WB then the answer is no. The segment is being diluted by being sponsored with weak production.

  4. tvluvatv December 27, 2013 at 9:51 pm -

    Whilst not as God awful as the over commercialised Sydney Carols, Isnt it time to stop having the yearly sook about no Humphrey- seriously time to get over it, and let some new people shine? Same old year after year. What happens when the same half dozen they trot out every year stop? Let some young talent shine for a change, its not like this country is short of fine musicians. My 2c

  5. lin December 27, 2013 at 4:21 pm -

    Agree with most of the comments, although I thought Carols by Candlelight beat Carols in the Domain hands down. Unfortunately, the reality show singers in both shows did not have the vocal range to sing these types of songs (with some exceptions).

  6. David Knox December 27, 2013 at 12:16 pm -

    Names like Debra Byrne, Marina Prior, Silvie Paladino, Denis Walter, David Hobson etc are considered part of the Carols family and not regular every year/

  7. Nate December 27, 2013 at 11:48 am -

    @John Jackson – I don’t think Debra Byrne’s been a regular since the 90s.

  8. CM December 26, 2013 at 8:12 pm -

    I agree with many of the comments here. This was the first Carols By Candlelight where I switched off before the end, and I’ve been watching for decades. It felt more like a cabaret than the much loved Carols By Candlelight of old. I love Sylvie Paladino and she didn’t disappoint, I too wonder why we don’t see more of her. Dennis Walter was also great but I’m afraid that was about it for me. The rest of the show felt like a Channel 9/The Voice/morning show cross promotion. Is that what David Hobson was referring to when he mentioned ‘cross-pollinating’? David is a favourite of mine but I’m afraid I couldn’t sit through all that preceded him to see his performance. The Voice performers weren’t of the calibre of the regular performers and were out of their league. All I can say is Channel 9 sure know how to trash a classy show. Hope they get their mojo back for next year.

  9. poida December 26, 2013 at 2:45 pm -

    Must agree that a big chunk of rhe show was lame. Carols is an Australian institution. American cartoon characters have no place on it.

  10. Jenjen72 December 26, 2013 at 12:04 pm -

    Yes pleases more Silvie! She should been the new coach on the voice.

  11. deedeedragons December 26, 2013 at 12:34 am -

    Sounds as overrated as it has been for the last 5 to 10 years. Glad i didn’t watch.

  12. Cathy December 26, 2013 at 12:33 am -

    “please come back Terry Gill, Hi-5 and Humphrey.”

    Yes! My sister and I have made it our tradition to go to the Carols by Candlelight every year, and it’s always such a great display of Australian talent, showing how it should be done.

    This year, however, I felt the children’s entertainment portion was a major step backwards. I understand the importance of sponsorships for an event like this, but the tradition of Hi 5 is a much better fit for the event than a weird American-accented Warner Brothers segment, with a dodgy Santa.

    The rest of the night was great, but that Children’s segment was sadly not up to par.

  13. catherine December 26, 2013 at 12:04 am -

    Alana Conway was one of the standouts. Her performance with the harp was beautiful.

    I agree about Humphrey. It isnt the carols without him and why bother bringing him out at the end.

    The looney tunes thing just didnt work and it just didnt feel right without Terry Gill who I presume is sick because Lisa made mention of him and said we are thinking of him.

    It was more traditional last night with the songs. The usual standouts were great.

    David Hobson was great as usual especially with Beau.

  14. jonno December 25, 2013 at 10:40 pm -

    Maybe Humphrey has had his day. The kids of today would hardly know of him. Not knocking him as I use to love him as a kid but time moves on.

  15. harrypotter1994 December 25, 2013 at 9:49 pm -

    Yeah Hi-5 should come back even if they are on 11. The Wiggles aren’t a 7 property but is still seen?

    Felt sorry for Luke Kennedy though – he was doing an alrite job until that happened. Maybe people should stop with the high not thing – even Delta has stuffed up at the Logies with them!

  16. oztvheritage December 25, 2013 at 9:47 pm -

    Hi 5 were really missed. The WB segment was awful. As for Humphrey…he really is amazing old bear!!!

  17. Maev....Sydney December 25, 2013 at 8:43 pm -

    Nothing is the same anymore….everything is sooo over commercialised…so regimented…there is little fun or joy…just the almighty dollar…both Carols events….Bah…Humbug!

  18. Andrew December 25, 2013 at 6:42 pm -

    Hi5 would be a no-show at Carols now as they are no longer a Nine property. They are moving across to Eleven in 2014

  19. stevie g December 25, 2013 at 6:18 pm -

    David put into words most everything that I thought of the show last night. Except i actually thought I must have misssed a segment when I saw that Huphrey was in it at the end.

  20. trev December 25, 2013 at 3:30 pm -

    David’s review summed up my general feeling towards what IMO used to be a beautiful experience.
    Today, CBC has become exactlly what contributor Dave believes it to be, none other than a bunch of mediocre former talent show contestants performing songs way beyond their vocal capabilities.
    When the opening titles were over, apart from the handful of perrenial favourites, both my wife and I asked, “Who the hell are they?”

    Still it could have been worse, Lisa could have had the comatose Karl with her.

  21. par3182 December 25, 2013 at 3:18 pm -

    Humphrey needs to learn to sing.

  22. John Jackson December 25, 2013 at 1:30 pm -

    @bigjmathews – not sure if you read the article or watched Carols by Candlelight but Humphrey was there. This occasion and the last few years for the television audience they only allow him to be seen in the finale though.

  23. Lyn December 25, 2013 at 1:21 pm -

    Here’s my take on this year’s show.
    I love Silvie Paladino (& agree she should be seen more.)
    I also loved Christie Whelan-Brown.
    I’m not a fan of Marina Prior … But … She is always outstanding on Carols. This year was no different!
    David Hobson & Denis Walter, Anthony Callea & Tim Campbell were excellent – as always.
    There was a first performance by a harpist/singer named Alannah Connolly (sp?) who was Amazing (and should be asked back!!!)

    The kids part was awful.
    Bring back Humphrey!!!

    Lisa Wilkinson made a special mention (at the end) of sending special thoughts to several people, and one was Terry Gill (which may have explained why he wasn’t there). He is the only Santa!!!

    And, I have always believed we need Melbourne hosts, not Sydney ones. They have their carols, and this is ours! (Ducks from things thrown at me)

    And please get rid of most of those from…

  24. kitkat December 25, 2013 at 1:16 pm -

    Alana Conway was amazing.
    Thankfully Marina hasn’t wrecked her voice. Her bust is also now a little ridiculous.
    Luke Kennedy destroyed my favourite carol. No strength or depth.
    And so much better without Karl!

  25. Gaz December 25, 2013 at 9:44 am -

    I noticed that the back-up singers for a few of the acts were Susie, Rod, and Michelle, the singers from DWTS. They did a fantastic job :)

  26. Dave December 25, 2013 at 8:40 am -

    Carols By Candlelight is turning into Carols in the Domain. Just a bunch of talent show nobodys performing songs that is way beyond them. Marina, Slivie, David and Dennis saved the show. They sang with grace and humility and knew what they were singing about. The kids segment was also shocking. Bring back hi 5.

  27. BigJMATHEWS December 25, 2013 at 7:38 am -

    Humphrey lives in Adelaide and doesn’t travel, therefore only Carols you’ll see him at is in Elder Park for the Adelaide Carols by Candlelight. After all hi is an old bear.

  28. John Jackson December 25, 2013 at 6:40 am -

    Yeah I’m sick of them hiding Humphrey as well. They’ve done it the last few years only letting him be seen on the finale. Does he appear only during commercial breaks doing who knows what for those at the bowl?

    Also was puzzling no Terry Gill as Santa. Could pick it straight away. Whoever the new guy was he was quite poor. Had his stuffing/body shape all wrong and of course he didn’t sound anything like terry gill. I did think they had chosen to get rid of him for whatever reason but during the night I heard Lisa say a shout out to him. Can’t recall exactly what she said but maybe he was unwell?

    Oh and now that I recall there was no Debra Byrne either. Isn’t she a regular as well? Wonder what happened with her.

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