The Aces Concert Party | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

The Aces Concert Party

The Aces Concert Party
Date picture taken (may be approximate): 
Sunday, January 1, 1956

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I am Bill griffiths..I used to sing with this group in the early fifties...I was the only English guy in the group, the others were Portugese and Philipino

The group was led by Frankie Fonseca, a well known Portugese musician...who had been born with one arm which ended at the elbow, with one finger at the end of this...Despite this handicap, he was a proffessional guitar player with a fine dance band.

We entertained singing four part harmonies and performing short comedy sketches in Hong Kong and in Kowloon..and were well received wherever we went. We often played to the British troops up in the New Territories. You can just imagine how well our pretty girl singers were received.

I am shown here in the center next to the girls...Frankie's head can just be seen behind the men...he was playing the double Bass at this time.. I was only 26 years old then....now nearly eighty two.

Does anyone remember this...Picture taked sometime in 1956  not sure where...

Dear Bill, Thanks very much for sharing your photos and memories. There are several pages about Frankie Fonseca on the internet that you might enjoy reading.

Regards, David

Frankie Fonseca

Wonderful reading....and I knew Frankie very well both during my first tour of duty in Hong Kong..1949...1952....and again...1955...1957.

I actually played in a band with him in Lai Chi Kok...we used to call it the floating Ballroom...because it was built in the middle of a lake...and we had to cross over a little bridge to get in to it. A Philipino  guy named Andy Hidalgo was the band leader....and on the evening of our  wedding Nancy and I spent a few hours there ..before dashing off to prepare for boarding ship the next morning to sail to England.

Fond memories of a wonderful guy, and a fantastic musician.

Bill Griffiths

 

China Mail 6 August 1950

1950 The Aces

I am Frank Fonseca's widow and am currently writing an account of his life.  I was delighted to hear from Bill Griffiths today indirectly as a result of your website.  Frank was a very talented musician and though only around 24 at the time of the above article was very actively involved and later took over the director's role of the Aces Concert party.  The group was fluid people coming and going as they came and went but everyone who participated seemed to have a very good time and they all felt they were making a contribution to the welfare and enjoyment of the British militay personnel who were based in Hong Kong.  I have a later cutting from the SCMP which mentions several names of participants.

Maybe some of your site readers may recognise some of them.  Among those in near the start were Mena Stiles, Bert Gillette, Dorothy Hart Baker, Hal Lorenzo, Al Harding, Alec Braga (a long time friend of Frank's who unfortunately passed away after moving to Portugal.  His widow Olga nee Tavares was also in the Aces and remembers those times with great pleasure.) Ned Sparkes, John Wallace, John Small, Cas Whithey.

Joining later were Dianne d'Almada, Winnie Bulldeath, Joyce Osmund, Grace Archer, Loretta Luz, Tommy Abraham, George Madar Jr., (I have a photograph of him) Robert Acheson and as the article says "many more faithful members - all of whom did their share as Aces and whose primary aim was, is and always will be the providing of entertasinment for Servicemen."

I would be very interested to hear from anyone who remembers the Aces or, like Bill, took part in performances.

One person who was a leading member at the beginning, not mentioned above is Johnny Fonseca, Frank's older brother who had been captured by the Japanese in the Fall of Hong Kong when he was fighting with the HK Volunteers.  He became a prisoner of war and was sent to Japan to work in the mines.  He was fortunate to survive and he and his family settled in Canada in the late 50's.

I have several photographs which may be of interest to some.  It would be good if I could identify a few more of those I do not know.

Barbara Fonseca

Dear Barbara,

Good to hear from you, and thank you for telling us more about Frank and The Aces. We're interested to see more photos from this time - here's how to upload them to this website. You might not get an instant reply identifying other faces in your photos, but we get a steady flow of new visitors to the website, so over time there's a good chance you'll get some help.

Regards, David

To Barbara Fonseca

Hello to another Barbara!    Although I was in Hong Kong at that time, I didn't ever see the Aces band because in the 1950's I was busy raising a family, but I do remember some of the people you mentioned:

Bert Gillette - would he be the 'Mr. Gillette' I knew by sight whose job was in a music shop ?Moutries, I know he played the organ.

Dorothy Hart-Baker: (nee Tollan);  in 1928 I was in the same class with her at Central British School, Hong Kong.

Hal Lourenzo - would this be the Hans Lourenzo whom I knew by sight in Stanley?

Perhaps the Mr Braga you mention is a relative of the large Braga family who lived in Kowloon; in 1927-29 my elder sister and I had music lessons - she the violin and I the piano - from Miss Maud Braga;  ten years later my younger sister had piano lessons from Miss Caroline Braga.   We became friendly one of their brothers John, a wonderful violinist; we met up with John after the war, and he told us of his experiences in Macao during the war, when he played the violin in the streets for money to survive - to help feed his family if I remember rightly.

Barbara Anslow 

 

 

Good to hear from you, Barbara.  I cannot confirm the identity of the people you mention because like you I didn't see any of the Aces Concert party performances.  I met my husband Frank (Francisco Xavier) Fonseca in 1967 when the Aces were long disbanded.  But I have a lot of photos and a few cuttings and of course the tales that Frank used to tell about the things they got up to.  The only person I know in the flesh as it were who was in the Aces is Olga Braga nee Tavares and i will contact her to find out if the Braga family you refer to is her late husband's.  She lives in Portugal now.

I will try to put some of the best photos up on the website so that you can see if you can match any names to faces.  Only a few of the photos have names on the back - it is frustrating isn't it but I rarely remember to do it myself.

Barbara Fonseca

Thanks for your reply Barbara.  I look forward to seeing some of the photos in due course, and to hearing about the Braga family.

Barbara, Sorry to have been so long in replying to your queries about the names of those in The Aces.  I should think the people you remember such as Dorothy Hart Baker must be the right ones - there can't have been others with those names of about the right age.  I finally spoke to Olga Braga yesterday and she said that the Braga family you remember was not the one she married into.  She knew of them rather vaguely but her husband and she came from Shanghai and his family was quite separate, though knowing genealogy they were probably connected  at some point in the past.  Her maiden name was Tavares - don't know if you ever came across her in Hong Kong.

You probably would not have been to any of the concerts if you didn't have military connections because they were given for the British servicemen who were serving in Hong Kong, most of them National Service men - very young and with not a lot to do.  There were also regular soldiers and their families and the Forces Civilian Entertainment Welfare Committee was convened in July 1949 to provide entertainment in the form of shows and concerts and the A-C-E-S were born - Amateur Club for Entertainment of Servicemen.  My husband Frank was involved very early one as was his brother, Johnny.  He was working for a while in Korea but when he returned he became involved again taking over the directorship showing great enthusuiasm and ambition.  According to Olga he was a hard task master with his amateur friends making them work hard to produce the best standard they could.  But overall the memories seem to have been of an enormous amount of fun.

Barbara 

Hi Bill

We spoke on the phone about Frank, and I promised to ring you back but I lost all my phone numbers!  Please let me know your address and I will send you a recording of Frank that someone sent to me via Fred Burnett's website.  It is from Radio Hong Kong in 1956.  There is another one also from 1962 which we had put onto CD.

Kind regards

Suzanne Fonseca