In a statement released by his family yesterday, 8 May, it was announced that the singer, entertainer, actor, writer, director and major events creative mainspring Ignatius Jones had died at his home in the Philippines, aged 67, after a short illness.

Ignatius Jones. Photo supplied

Known as “Iggy” to his colleagues and “Nacho” to his family, Ignatius Jones was born plain old Juan Ignacio Rafaelo Lorenzo Trápaga y Esteban in suburban Manilla in 1957.

Moving to Australia with his family in 1963, he grew up in Wahroonga and attended St Leo’s Catholic College before switching to St Ignatius’ College, Riverview. Durng that time, Jones followed sister Monica to dance lessons and became interested in classical ballet, but rock and pop music proved the greater lure.

In 1976, Jones was a founding member of glam/punk band Jimmy and the Boys with keyboardist/vocalist Joylene Thornbird Hairmouth, Tom Falkinham (bass), Scott Johnston (drums), Jason Morphett (saxophone) and guitarist Andrew de Teliga.

The band quickly developed a live following for theatrical shock tactics that rock music journalist Jenny Hunter-Brown described as a “high voltage package of filth, glorious filth”. Unsurprisingly, chart success largely eluded them. The band’s only hit came in 1981 in the form of They Won’t Let My Girlfriend Talk to Me, a song co-written by Tim Finn, then of Split Enz. After issuing two studio albums and a live set, Jimmy and the Boys disbanded in 1982.

Jones issued a debut solo single, Like a Ghost, almost immediately and a second single, Whispering Your Name, in early 1983. In 1984, he formed another band, Arms & Legs, but it was a short-lived project. In 1985, he joined the swing-jazz-cabaret band, Pardon Me Boys, which featured his sister (and future Play School presenter) Monica Trapaga.

Jones performed in several small screen roles as an actor and pop culture reporter, and played a supporting part in the 1987 comedy movie Those Dear Departed alongside its stars Garry McDonald and Pamela Stephenson. In 1992, he recorded John Paul Young’s song Yesterday’s Hero for the soundtrack for the musical film Strictly Ballroom.

Harnessing his showmanship and flair for grabbing attention, Jones gravitated toward events production. With David Atkins, he was co-creative director of the 2000 Sydney Olympics opening and closing ceremonies. He also helmed Sydney’s Millennium Celebrations and New Year’s Eve and Centenary of Federation celebrations. He also directed the 2002 Gay Games Opening Ceremony and was Artistic Director of the Sydney Mardi Gras Parade from 2011–2016. Further afield, he directed productions for Dolly Parton in Tennessee.

In 2002, Jones co-wrote (with Atkins) and co-directed the stage musical, The Man from Snowy River: The Arena Spectacular. In 2003, he directed Offenbach’s Orpheus In The Underworld for The Australian Opera (now Opera Australia). Peter McCallum’s review for The Sydney Morning Herald spotlit “its non-stop invention, ubiquitous fireworks and every trick post-millennial Sydney could throw at it”. Melbourne’s Herald-Sun described it as “…outstanding, totally irreverent, hilarious. An Orpheus for all.”

Orpheus in the Underworld (2012 revival). Photo © Opera Australia

In 2005, he produced a corporate event at the Jeddah Economic Forum in Saudi Arabia. Jones and Atkins then worked on the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2006 Asian Games in Doha. The pair also worked on the Opening Ceremony of the Shanghai 2010 World Expo and the Ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. In 2011, Jones was appointed as the Creative Director of Vivid Sydney, a position he held until 2019.

In 2018, Jones was made a Member of Order of Australia for his contribution to Entertainment and Literature, and in October of that year he married his longtime partner Novy Bereber, a Filipino-Australian choreographer from Iloilo City, where the couple would retire in 2022.

Jones died after a short illness at his home on 7 May. He is survived by his husband Novy, his mother Margot Martin, his brother Luis Miguel and sisters Rocio and Monica.

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