Back to The Berg: 75th anniversary of the Heidelberg Town Hall, where Graeme Bell played in the 1940s

Heidelberg Town Hall, now The Centre

OPENED in April 1937, the Heidelberg Town Hall (now The Centre) was designed by architectural firm Peck & Kemter in association with A.C. Leith & Bartlett for the Heidelberg City Council (now Banyule City Council) and was influenced by the Hilversum Town Hall in the Netherlands. It is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register, described as “the greatest and most eloquent expression of the interwar brick Moderne style in Victoria.” (From Wikipedia)

Architecturally it may be memorable, but for many of my vintage the Heidelberg Town Hall is memorable for another reason: it was part of the post Second World War dance boom when town halls, church halls, scout halls and other venues were crammed to the rafters every Saturday night with teenagers and older dancing – and often just listening – to those early jazz bands – the Bells, Frank Johnson, the Barnards, and later the likes of the Yarra Yarra Jazz Band, the Red Onions and the John Hawes Jazz Band. In fact, the Bell band initially led by Roger and later by Graeme, had a very successful early residency at the ‘Berg in 1943/44 before their rise to stardom.

Well the Banyule Council is about to celebrate three quarters of a century of the glamorous building with a Dinner Dance complete with a Big Band led by John Wanner, and the small jazz combination Silver Service. Geoffery Orr, Daina Jowsey, Patti Lewis, Dorothy Baker and several other regular singers with the JW Swing Orchestra will be part of the 18 piece orchestra presentation.

The big night out will be on Saturday 8 September from 7pm to midnight. Tickets $95 each with seniors discounts. Contact

Here the J W Swing Orchestra plays Glenn Miller’s arrangement of “In The Mood”.

The Silver Service Jazz Band is the smaller grouping from the JW Swing Orchestra. It prides itself on performing many rare and precious Jazz and Swing melodies from the 1920s through to the 1950s. The band’s regular personnel is: John Wanner (leader – reeds), Kevin Morrow (reeds), Geoff Orr (vocals), Helen Jowsey (piano), Neil Jowsey (double bass) and Richard Opat (drums). Here they play “Too Marvellous for Words”.

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