Ensemble Galante Musical Offerings
St Cyprian’s Church March 18 2017
St Cyprian’s Church was the perfect setting for Ensemble Galante’s Baroque program. The elegant gilded organ on the side of the altar, the stained glass windows and the arched ceiling lent an atmosphere of other, leisurely times. The instruments, too, the colourfully painted harpsichord played by Glenys March, the beautifully crafted wooden flutes of Tim Nott and the mellow hues of the violin and cellos were a visual as well as an aural delight!
The main composition of the evening was the Trio Sonata from J.S.Bach’s Musical Offering. It is a complex piece based on a chromatic theme thought up by Frederick the Great of Prussia to test Bach’s improvisation skills! Each of the four movements has a version of it in one part while the other instruments weave around it. The construction of the piece was always clear because of the excellent phrasing and awareness of the players. The two Baroque cellists, Jamie Hey and Catherine Finniss provided a solid Basso Continuo with rich deep notes, as well as elaborating the theme. The violinist, Ben Dollman, executed the virtuosic passages with ease and panache. The Ensemble captured the mood of each movement extremely well, the light, flowing sound of the Italian flute contrasting with the fine, clear sound of the Baroque violin and the harpsichord giving an edge and clarity to the Continuo line.
The first item on the program was a Trio Sonata by Johan Helmich Roman, an 18th century Swedish composer. He travelled extensively, as did all composers at that time and they all influenced each other. This sonata used echo effects between the strings and flute or high and low instruments and was finely crafted with interesting harmonies. The German flute that Tim played had a softer tone and the lower notes had difficulty penetrating the string sound; but in the upper regions it floated above them.
Johann Joachim Quantz was the flute teacher of Frederick in Berlin and enjoyed a well paid privileged position for most of his life. He composed prolifically and his many flute compositions are standard literature today. This Flute Sonata No.273 has three movements and Tim’s Italian flute, with its sharper sound, carried the fast, brilliant runs admirably. The long notes of the solo flute in the Grave movement were beautifully nuanced and the other instruments supported or stood out as was required.
The Ensemble finished the concert with a Telemann work, the Paris Quartet in E minor. The composer was invited to Paris by a group of young musicians and wrote six works for them. This one has six movements based on French dances and showcases each instrument to their extremes. The solo Baroque cello has a very elaborate part and their guest cellist, Jamie Hey from Sydney, played the fast passages effortlessly. There was much ‘conversation’ between pairs of instruments and echo effects, each player conscious of the other. The flute was often scored higher than the violin and so it really shone.
It was an exhilarating concert and I’m sure the audience are looking forward to hearing the beautiful, competent and sensitive playing of Ensemble Galante again in their next concert on June 16 in Scots Church, North Terrace.
Scientology – The Musical
Nic Conway, fresh from last few Fringe successes with “Abbott-The Musical” returns with a fresh topic and another target. Ably supported by Pud Hamilton, Lisa Harper (as George, why not Georgina, I wondered), Henry Gazzola and Dan Murnane, they brought to the fore the strange and unhinged beliefs of the Scientologists.
It is, of course, a musical. The show was indeed packed with original songs, all good and supported ably by Ali McMichael on bass and guitar with the complete cast providing guitar and keyboard backing.
The storyline is based on George seeking her brother lost somewhere in the empire. In the process she gets herself enmeshed in the organisation, ending a bizarre space scene. Sadly, this reflects the true nature of this “religion”.
All good fun and it’s great to see what with each new production George Glass get better in every way.
The sold out audience loved it also. The only real downside was the venue. It was dirty, decaying and the performance space very warm, even on a cool evening.
Hot 8 Brass Band
The Riverbank Palais
This was the New Orleans street band’s third Adelaide appearance in less than a week and by far its smallest. Previously they played to thousands at Womad and received a massive response.
Could they repeat this at the Palais where the crowd numbered just hundreds? You bet!
That afternoon sousaphone expert and band leader, Bennie “Big Peter” Pete, told me that they really wanted to put on great shows especially as they were missing the New Orleans Mardi Gras just to be here. They did not disappoint.
They kicked off with a marathon 30 minute medley, blasting the venue with a high power, all out brass assault, somehow ending up with a brilliant rendition of the classic, “Papa Was A Rolling Stone”. The gathered loved every beat.
They followed with some great funk, “Get On Down”, Hot, Hot, Hot” and “On The Spot”, the title track of their imminent new release.
Peppered throughout the music were a succession of high octane solos from all five of the brass front line. As they say, the test of a good show is the audience response and in this case they never stopped dancing and moving to the incessant funk from this great band.
After a rousing version of another song from the new album. “Keepin’ It Funky” had everyone going crazy, the show came to an end, just leaving enough time for an encore of the Marvin Gaye classic, “Sexual Healing”
5MBS will be giving away copies of the new album, “On The Spot” in coming weeks, together with playing tracks recorded at their March 10 Womad show and an interview with Bennie, so stay tuned!
Garden Of Unearthly Delights, 16th March
One for the fans.
Here, 70’s pop star Leo (now residing in Queensland), who had a long run of hits, strutted his stuff in yet another Spiegeltent show.
Backed by a very good band, although Russell Morris’s bassist looked a little too good for this light fare, Sayer acted the complete showman, moving all over the stage and full taking advantage of the extra stage room created by the nightly circus act. His interactions with the audience was just what the punters wanted.
Luckily he does not appear to have lost any of the vocal power that catapulted him to fame all those years ago. he was able to run through a succession of hits including “The Show Must Go On”, “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing”, “Raining in My Heart”, “Thunder in My Heart”, “When I Need You” and , of course, “Long Tall Glasses (I Can Dance)”
Oddly, he concluded with “Let It Be”, the Beatles tune he recorded for the film ” All This And World War II”.
The devoted audience lapped up everything, singing and dancing, naturally, to just about everything on offer.
Garden Of Unearthly Delights, 14th March
This was a curious but fascinating performance from the master of an obscure instrument, the hang. This is basically a percussion instrument, but one that can actually be played as a melodic instrument as well. Looking like a wok with the lid on, or the cliched image of a flying saucer, it sounds a little like steel pans, but that where in the hands of a master the comparisons end.
After opening with two beautiful solo works, demonstrating the melodic and rhythmic possibilities, Delago was joined by his trio members, Isa Kurz vocals, violin & keyboard and ball (see above) and Chris Norz on xylophone, percussion and, errr, toothbrush!
In this context, Delago was able to put not only his mastery but also the astonishing range of the instrument to full effect. He was able to provide bass, rhythm, like a guitar, and melody at the same time, not to mention percussion. At times it sounded exactly like tablas.
Musically, there was great variety, from beautiful ballads to slightly avant, a toothbrush duo with Norz (not bad, actually!) and finally the all out crescendo of the final song, “Almost 30”.
A really interesting performance and a delight to see a master showing off his considerable skills. An artist well worth checking out.
Delago has a new album, “Metromonk” available through Thu Thoughts. 5MBS will soon be giving away some copies of the album, so stay tuned.
March 10 – 13
Another amazing Womad, packed with highlights over 4 days! Here are some of them.
The Hot 8 Brass Band (left) are a New Orleans street band who pack one almighty punch! A straightforward line up for such a group delivered high energy funk, including “Papa Was A Rolling Stone”. What a way to kick this reviewer’s weekend off! 5MBS will shortly be giving away copies of their soon to be released CD, so stay tuned.
Then came the act with the most incredible stage presence, the masters of weird tango, Fernandez Fierro (right). With four totally manic bandoneon players forming a demented front row, a ferocious vocalist, it was a sight to behold. This was let down, however by the lack of variation in the songs and they started to meld into one another. Pity.
Oumou Sangare was next with the first of the Mali contingent (must be something in the desert air to produce so many fine bands) delivering a fine set, although not as powerful as some to follow.
9Bach (left), the Welsh band were perfect for the more intimate Novatech stage, with its trees spreading over the space. Their lovely songs were just the ticket, especially when the Welsh met Tiddas for several songs.
The second Mali band, Bamba Wassoulou Groove were next, with a very heavy accent on the Mali guitar sound. great stuff!
Next up, another definite highlight, the Warsaw Village Band (below) with their take on the Polish tradition. Fronted by 2 violins, including one 400 years old and a hammered dulcimer, they created sounds of wonder, exquisite harmonies and an unforgettable performance.
Then came the first set by Bokante (below), the world supergroup founded by Snarky Puppy leader, Michael League. Although formed over a year ago and a similar time for their album, this was only their second live show. And what a show! Featuring songs written by League and vocalist Malika Tirolien, from Guadeloupe, the 3 Puppy members and a formidable 3 man percussion team, this was a great show, topped only by their even better show the next day. Special mention to pedal steel player, Roosevelt Collier. Listen in to 5MBS in June for your chance to win a copy of the new album on its release in June.
This is the event when what looks not that interesting turns out to something else altogether. Such was the case with vocal ensemble Piyut Ensemble (below). From Israel, but made up of Muslims AND Jews they sang the music of both religions with amazing power and passion. Truly a wonderful sight and sound and demonstrating that we all can get along.
The Hot 8 brass Band delivered another blinder, this time the huge audience, including myself, were absolutely soaked by a shower! Such was the performance everyone chose to get wet rather than seek shelter!
After a few more acts it was time for Aziza Brahim, another Malian act. Her beautiful songs and voice were perfect in the late afternoon glow. Is there a bottom to the seemingly endless pool of fantastic Mali musicians?
Just as the sun descended, another headline act, Bebel Gilberto came onstage with her bossa beats. For this reviewer it was, however, underwhelming. Great band but very subdued and oh-so vocals.
Things took a definite turn for the better with the Philip Glass Ensemble who performed the Glass composed soundtrack to “Koyaanisqatsi”. The grass was packed to the hilt and all (but, sadly a few noisy fellows) were completely captivated by this performance with the film showing above the group. Spellbinding.
Another group that totally won over the audience with a magic gig was the East Pointers (right) from Prince Edward Island, off the Canadian east coast. A joyous blend of many original tunes, jigs and reels had the Moreton Bay crowd on their feet, to the delight of the three band members. This was another absolute highlight.
What to follow this? Well, little choice but for something out there, I mean really out there!! How about a Turkish psychedelic folk rock band that looked like they came from another planet? Perfect! Baba Zula fitted the bill!
This was wild! An electric oud, which doubled as bass, some other Turkish instrument, electrified, of course! Not to mention the wardrobe , see left.
They had the rather large crowd enthralled and in constant dance mode.
Heading to end came another great show, the unbelievable energy from the Colombian salsa band, La Mambanegra (below). With a slightly longer time slot, 75 minutes, they blew the massive main stage crowd away. Just how the vocalist kept up his non stop running is beyond me! The band propelled the whole performance like a highly strung well oiled machine, never missing a single beat. Stunning!
After that I needed a change of pace, and that was provided by the sublime Indian classical vocalist Sudha Ragunathan (below) under the Moreton Bay branches. This was a beautiful set, ragas filling the night air with sonorous sounds. Mesmerising.
By now my feet are seriously complaining, as was my back, but one more act that had to be seen. English ska band, The Specials, came to prominence with their self titled debut in 1979 and were an instant major success. Their take on ska took the essence, and often the songs, and made them part of UK history.
Although a few band members have gone one way or another, mainly Jerry Dammers, the band can still kick ass! Opening with the astonishing “Ghost Town” (also performed the day before by the Hot 8 Brass Band), I was in heaven, tired, nonetheless. The following avalanche of amazing songs and the memories they brought back was simply a bonus.
Yes it was another major success for the crowd. But there was something else. That was evident from the bands themselves. The East Pointers could not take the smiles off their faces, at one point stopping and looking at the amassed totally absorbed audience and the setting and then said with complete conviction that this was, for them, just perfect.
Over and over again musicians could be seen just staring at the crowd in wonderment, taking god knows how many photos, even group photos with the crowd in the background mid performance. The whole of Bokante just smiled constantly. Others spoke of how they had heard from previous acts just how incredible Womadelaide actually is and now they knew why.
Doesn’t get better than that.
Adelaide Town Hall
This Chicago based ensemble specialise in new works, many of which they commission and is centered on flutes, clarinets, violin, viola, cello, percussion and piano.
From the opening work, Nico Muhly’s “Doublespeak” it was apparent that this would be a special concert. With its Philip Glass like opening, quiet passages to the xylophone conclusion, this fine composition was given full reverence by the musicians.
Following came Bryce Dessner’s “Murder Ballads”. Here the composer deconstructed folk songs of this genre, such as “Pretty Polly” and turned them into something else again and added a few of his own. This sequence of seven songs was simply a delight, tuneful, rhythmic and at the same time foreboding.
Australian composer Holly Harrison was commissioned by Musica Viva, co-presenters of this performance with the Adelaide Festival, to provide the next work, “Lobster Tales And Turtle Soup”. Based on Lewis Carroll, this at times rollicking and with an almost jazzy flute section was punctuated by various members of the ensemble chanting quotes from Carroll. On the basis of this work, Harrison has a bright future as a composer of note.
It could not be said that the next work contained a cheery approach. Ted Hearne’s “By-By Huey”. Inspired by a chilling painting of a murdered Black Panther member, it is a suitably dark work. Underpinned by prepared piano and a muted rhythm, the remaining musicians provide almost scattered additions. This was the most avant music of the night, although still thoroughly approachable.
The evening concluded with Timo Andres’ “Checkered Shade”. Based on an abstract painting made up of very small spirals, which the music echoes in almost Philip Glass fashion.
On all levels, this was a total success. The players, without exception were at the top of the game, adding great depth to the truly inspiring programme. The only downside was that not much over an hour, the concert was too short!
At Festival time we can expected the unexpected. However, I had no idea what to expect from MDLSX, described as part performance-art monologue and part DJ set. The difficulty in fitting this performance into a tight category mirrors the subject of the performance which explores the question of gender identity for those who do not fit into the neat and tidy male or female category. The set comprises a large triangular silver mat, and a back wall where home videos are shown in a circular frame, and the English translations of the dialogue are beamed. At times the wall serves for spectacular lighting effects. Silvia Calderoni uses this set to tell the story, purporting to be based on her own life. If you are not ‘totally’ male or female, if there is such a creature, how can you be defined? Do people need to be gender-defined?
The story unfolds through the music, changes of clothing, indicating changes of identity and Silvia’s own words spoken in beautiful Italian. Through her dialogue we perceive an appealing innocence. At times she has her back to the audience but we view her from a different perspective in the circular frame. Her dancing and postures reveal an androgynous person displaying her body from every angle, and view point, as she breaks down perception of gender by breaking down artistic barriers. Her rapid transformations and energy drive the performance at a frenetic pace.
Silvia Calderoni was a member of MOTUS, a dance company founded by Enrico Casagrande and Daniela Nicolò, and they listed as directors, sound and dramaturgy. In this performance Silvia Calderoni carries on their original vision.
Audiences must be prepared to be confronted and even shocked at times by the bravura performance of a ‘platinum-maned punk god/dess’. Hopefully they will also have had their minds stretched.
Ukaria Cultural Centre March 9
Over the Brow of the Hill and Winterreise
The sun makes a final appearance through the wide windows of the wood panelled concert room.The audience find their seats, settle, grow silent, and anticipate. Music begins. Over the Brow of the Hill, a song cycle by Calvin Bowman is the first offering. Seven texts by South Australian poets set to music and sung magnificently by Miriam Gordon-Stewart. Songs firmly grounded in nature, music and words reflecting the colours and textures of the South Australian countryside, composed with delicate shading and depth of emotion. Miriam Gordon-Stewart is gifted with a rich and expressive voice and thus she was able to evoke the sounds of birds, the rushing of water and the colour of leaves and flowers. Calvin Bowman was her co-artist at the piano, with an accompaniment that wove and circled the text as though it, too was reflecting the rush of water or the joy of the mushroomer who,’flung away his bucket, his house, and ten years’ lamplight/ And clutched at himself again’. Some of the songs brought to my mind the work of Richard Hageman, in particular The Mushroomer (Colin Thiele) and So Still it is now… (Irene Gough). This was a the first performance of this song cycle, but I do not think it will be the last.
From a new work to the classic, Winterreise by Schubert, with Steve Davlinsim, tenor and pianist Anthony Romaniuk. Winterreise set to poems by Wilhelm Müller, was composed by Schubert in the last year of his life, when he knew that he was dying. His friends described him as being gloomy and depressed, feelings akin to that of the young poet. Steve Damlisim, who lives in Vienna, explained that he felt very close to Schubert, and could never sing this song cycle without being deeply moved. He communicated this intensity in his performance, with a voice full of passion and feeling, even, occasionally sacrificing tone for dramatic effect. Both vocally and physically he produced a dramatic dialogue, where despair and a sense of rejection ranged from sardonic humour to deep misery. The final romantic irony is found in the final song, Der Leiermann (The Hurdey-Gurdey Man) , a man who is also an outcast.
Anthony Romaniuk coaxed wonderful effects from the piano, with rhythms that reflected and matched the words of the poet. There was snow, fire, tears of ice, the sounds of the village and finally the hurdy-gurdy.
Singer Ian Bostridge describes Winterreise as being ‘…’full of energy, despair, passion, sensuality and gallows humour. It is a drama, too, a piece of theatre, with its own rhythm, and a crucial role for the confrontation between singer and audience. Not to forget the piano, which turns sonic imagery – rustling leaves, post horns, a falling leaf – into a psychological landscape. Singer as ego, piano as id’.
Thus it is a supreme test of both singer and pianist, a test which these performers passed with flying colours.
Adelaide Town Hall
This staging of the first opera in this recognised format was, to put it simply, an absolute triumph.
Monteverdi wrote the work in 1607 and deals with the Greek myth of Orpheus and his failed attempts to return his new wife, Eurydice, back from the dead.
In this recital performance the ensemble comprised of eleven singers and 24 musicians, led to distinction by director, Rinaldo Alessandrini (right), who doubled on organ and harpsichord. The instrumentation was, as this ensemble specialises in music of this period, on original instruments, hence theorbos, with their distinctive long necks and extra strings, sackbuts, recorders and harp.
As wonderful as the playing from the musicians was, the opera is nothing without the singers. In this respect all 11 were something special. From soprano Anna Simboli’s Eurdice and Musica, to tenor Valerio Contaldo’s Orpheus and Matteo Bellotto’s bass, this was a sublime performance.
Adding to the overall effect, the singers, the men all in black, remained on stage only as long as necessary, slowly arriving and departing as required, often reappearing from the other side. It was the performance that really mattered and they all gave effect to their roles with with gestures of emphasis with both hands and face. The overall impression was simply captivating.
The only dampner had absolutely nothing to do with the ensemble’s performance. Some lucky early arrivals were provided with a libretto, but only a few. Without it and noting the recital format, following the proceedings become rather difficult. If the Festival goes to the trouble of preparing a libretto, why then, did it not print enough for most, if not all patrons?
LA GAIA SCIENZA
Adelaide Town Hall 8 March
Emily Sutherland and Gabrielle Scherrer
The question of whether playing music on authentic instruments, as opposed to modern instruments is a perennial one in music circles. One may argue that we need to reflect on what there was in the past to evaluate what we have today, but that suggests that authentic instruments represent no more than a relic. Groups such as La Gaia Scienza, formed in 1981 in order to provide new interpretations of classical and romantic music on authentic instruments, would, no doubt, argue that this ignores what authentic instruments, played by those who have mastered the technique, have to offer. Watching them play in the Adelaide Town Hall I imagined that Schubert, Brahms and others may have presented a similar picture and sound albeit in a salon or drawing room, rather than a larger venue. The fortepiano has a clarity and lightness that complements the strings, while the period string instruments have a more transparent sound and less dynamic range.
The program comprised two Schubert and two Brahms pieces. It was the Schubert, String Trio in B flat D471 and Notturno in E flat D897, which opened the program, that showcased the perfect blend of the delicate string sound and the tightness and clarity of technique in the fast passages. The ensemble excelled in the sustained, flowing melodies of the Adagio and the perfectly timed and balanced entries of the strings. In the fast last movement the players fitted perfectly with each other, and the piano, being the most active provided the momentum until crisp powerful chords gave a decisive ending. This was an enlightened interpretation of Schubert’s emotionally charged chamber music.
The Brahms works presented a complete contrast The Piano Trio in B is an early work, written when Brahms was only twenty , and this original version was full of youthful vigour. The addition of the viola to the Piano Quartet in C minor filled out the string ensemble and gave it more body as a counter force to the piano, without losing clarity. The cheerful, brilliant Rondo all Zingarese challenges each instrument, the piano dominating with some wonderful solo passages. The unison ending drives full speed to the final chords and falling octave. An exciting end to a superb concert, and one which they wisely chose not to follow with an encore despite the demanding applause from the audience.
Grace Emily Hotel
The thing about Womad is that you never know just who is really going to be a hit until you see them. One of those hits last year was undoubtedly The Jerry Cans. This reviewer saw both performances and when they appeared on the Fringe programme the ticket was immediately booked.
The Grace Emily is a world away from that amazing event, not to mention a long way from their hometown of Iqaluit, located on a island in the far north of Canada. A small dark hotel and a small dark room for the band to play couldn’t dim the happiness that comes from their exuberant playing. Led by the charismatic and energetic Andrew Morrison, (right) they delivered a joyful mix of Inuit and more traditional forms with a heavy emphasis on a fast paced and an irresistible dance beat.
The band mixed new material from their excellent new CD, “Alianait” with several older songs that were reprieved from their Womad performance of last year. Particularly memorable was “Aakuluic”, a tribute to the father of his wife and fellow Jerry Can member, Nancy Mike.
Nancy, (left) provided proof that throat singing is not limited to the Gyuto Monks, it is part of the Inuit tradition, while Gina Burgess delivered gorgeous violin throughout. For the last few songs, the band was joined by local, Willie, on didgeridoo. Whilst it may appear at first glance to be a strange combination, it turned out a complete success, even with a didgeridoo – throat duet.
With so much on offer in a packed Fringe programme it is difficult to sort out the good from the, well, whatever. One thing is, however, very true, The Jerry Cans should be at the top of your “to see” list.
An absolute joy, irresistible.
London-based Complicite has toured the world with innovative and challenging theatre. The Encounter, now playing in Adelaide, is no exception. Based on the story of Loren McIntyre’s experiences with a primitive tribe in the Amazon jungle, director Simon McBurney, himself an experienced actor and Richard Katz present an extraordinary play in which one man, aided by special sound and lighting effects, recreate the Amazon jungle, with its insect and bird noises, rain and storms and the Mayoruna people, a tribe who has a justifiable fear of white men, and thus treat the arrival of Loren McIntyre in their midst with a a mixture of fear, animosity and tentative friendship. In his turn Loren, unable to communicate through spoken language is forced to negotiate his situation through a sense of understood language and observation. His entire view of the world, especially that of time, is turned up side down.
Richard Katz, as the sole performer, is both narrator and Loren. Katz holds this all together in a virtuoso performance. The use of sound effects and voices, relayed to the audience through earphones, is an essential part of the performance and equal credit must be given to the entire technical crew. Timing is all important, which is ironic, as the nature and definition of time is at the essence of this production. Lighting is effectively used against a chequered backdrop, recreating a myriad of effects and impressions. The Encounter embodies all that is good in theatre, in that it relies on the skill of an actor to hold his audience, and to present a story that takes one beyond the immediate performance and outside the theatre to question what may have been taken for granted. The use of sound and light in a sophisticated way does not detract from this essence but enhances it. It is innovation, not novelty. Highly recommended.
A NIGHT in PARIS –
Nexus Arts 18 and 24 March
A night in Paris sounds totally romantic and who wouldn’t want to be there. Maybe France is a tad far away, but the next best thing is to hear Louise Blackwell and her band The French Set, performing French songs in a cabaret setting. Louise knows her French songs, having studied, performed and recorded there. Her fluency in French was obvious, especially in those songs with demanding lyrics. Each number was introduced by an interesting patter of information, and the only criticism would be that this needs to be spoken louder, so that none of the details are lost. There is no problem with the volume of her singing voice as she ranged from the jaunty Paris Canaille to the darker Chanson pour L’Avergnat and Je Bois and then the romantic Les Feuilles Mortes where she was joined by the guitarist, Gary Isaacs. The final L’Accordioniste, the accordion eloquently represented by Julian Ferreretto’s jazz violin, was by Piaf. The final line, ‘Arretez la musique’ being very appropriate to conclude the recital. The French Set added to the artistry and atmosphere in both understated and supportive ways. Besides Julian Ferreretto (violin) and Gary Isaacs (guitar) the musicians are John Aue (double bass) and Mark Ferguson (keys).
The audience loved it all. If you appreciate the music of Edith, George Brassens, Josephine Baker, and Boris Vian go and see Louise Blackwell and the French Set for a Night in Paris.
Mothers Ruin: A Cabaret About Gin
Maeve Marsden & Libby Wood with Jonathon Holmes
Studio 7, Garden Of Unearthly Delights, 6 March
It was about gin o’clock when this show kicked off its irreverent heels and took a look at the celebrated drink. Just a look at the stage in the small but packed theatre made me desperate to partake in this delicious delight, gin bottles in every nook and cranny, (including, as we discovered later, in the stars bras and the pianists pants), tonic here, cocktail makers there…
The rollicking affair commenced, appropriately I thought, with the “Lord’s Prayer to Gin”. Judging by the raucous audience response, I was not the only one who related to that! After mentally making a note that I disagreed with their aversion to the humble lime, they gave us a history lesson in gin and tonic. Well, sort of a history lesson.
Punctuated with songs which including a gin rap and Billy Joel’s “Piano Man”, the witty history covered just about all bases, just, thankfully, not in any detail. Both possess great voices as does pianist Jonathon Holmes.
Towards the end we were brought back to earth with a few songs detailing the woes gin is claimed to have caused (personally, I have my doubts), before a triumphant conclusion with a reworking of Lucky Starr’s 1962 hit, “I’ve Been Everywhere”, correctly retitled “I’ve Drunk Every Gin” where the girls, who looked as though they just may have demolished a gin or two in their time, went about naming a staggering number of gins at truly breakneck speed.
The test of a good show is the audience response and on that basis it was a complete victory, they wanted more of the show and very probably a gin and tonic as well!
Thoroughly recommended, go and see, with a gin and tonic in hand, of course!
SAUL by George Frideric Handel
Adelaide Festival Theatre 3-9 March
When Handel composed Saul in 1738 he would not have envisaged the performance currently at Festival Theatre. However, being the impresario of an Italian Opera Theatre, he would most certainly have approved. Barry Kosky’s direction, together with Karen Lea Tags’ design and Otto Pichler’s choreography, have combined with the magnificent music of Handel and the libretto of S. Jennens, to produce an extraordinarily effective piece of theatre. It showcases all that the Adelaide Festival of Arts represents.
From the first notes of the overture, in three movements and including a concerto like passage for the organ, to the final Funeral Anthem, the musicians of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Erin Helyard were all one could hope for, both in supporting the singers and in providing moments of sheer delight.
Even before the curtain rises we are faced with the grisly head of Goliath, centre stage. David (Christopher Lowrey) enters, appearing slightly shell shocked by the enormity of his victory, a confusion that does not abate when he confronts the chorus in vivid period costumes and wigs, feasting at tables covered in fruit, flowers, stuffed swans and a haunch of venison, and singing his praises. Saul (Christopher Purves) lauds the young man as a hero and offers him all that he would desire (apart from his kingdom) and his eldest daughter, Merab ( Mary Bevan) in marriage. Merab scorns the idea of linking her royal blood to such a lowly son of Jesse, while her sister Michal (Taryn Fiebig) makes no secret of her desire to do so. Soon Saul, eaten up with envy, turns against David, and retracts the offer of his eldest daughter, leaving the path of true love to run smoothly for Michal and David. Saul slides into increasing madness, finally ordering his son Jonathan to kill David. Jonathan(Adrian Strooper) who has made no secret of his attachment to David, expressed more explicitly than it would have been in 1738, convinces his father to stay his hand. Act Two begins with Michal urging David to escape from Saul, so that Saul, thwarted in his plans, goes to the Witch of Endor to receive guidance, only to be told by the ghost of Samuel that he and his son are doomed to die in battle. The aftermath of the battle presents a grim picture of scattered corpses, and the heads, severed from their bodies, of Jonathan and Saul. The Israelites mourn their losses, until urged by the High Priest to extol David who will lead them into battle again and reverse their military defeat, they sing the final chorus Gird on thy sword, thou man of might.
The libretto is based on Biblical characters rather than the texts from the Bible, allowing more freedom in characterisation. But it is in the performances of all the principals and the chorus that these characters come to life; wherein the strength of this production lies. Christopher Purves conveys, through his voice and acting, a king racked by doubts, sliding into increasing madness, progressing from a man, dressed in formal robes, dominating the action, to a poor creature, stripped to his underwear, in a transformation that has been compared to the fate of Shakespeare’s King Lear. His meeting with the Witch of Endor (Kanen Breen) is the most shocking, and talked about scene in the opera. Trucking with the devil is not pretty. Christopher Lowrey as David mesmerises the audience with the beauty and clarity of his voice and clear diction. Unlike Saul, David develops from a callow, bewildered youth to a man ready to lead his people back to glory. Both Mary Bevan and Taryn Fiebig tackle the difficult Handel arias with ease. Stuart Jackson in a number of roles, sings magnificently, and is chilling as the court jester who orchestrates events from various points on stage, waving his long fingernails like tentacles. Kanen Breen and Adrian Stropper also are strong in their roles.
Special mention must be given to the SA Opera Chorus. The singing was the best I have heard from them Their animation and precision in the stylised acting where they were at times observers, and other times participants, was a revelation. They can be justly proud of their achievement. A small troupe of dancers, punctuated the action with skill and humour.
This is a production where all the elements blended to create a totally satisfying performance.
Bluebee Room, Pirie St, 5 March
In a small space that was formerly a pasta restaurant, Bush Gothic delivered to the gathered their unique take on Australian bush music. If you think, bush music equals Bullamakanka or the Bushwackers, you’d be horribly wrong! No rollicking songs punctuated with jigs and reels here!
This more sophisticated music, in keeping with the times, reminded this reviewer of the brilliant Womad performances of The Gloaming and Sam Lee, in that the old traditional tunes are given a complete makeover and transformed in something devoid of clique, thoroughly captivating and of this time. The trio is led by Jenny M. Thomas on lead vocals, violin, keyboard and spoons with Dan Witton on bass and vocals and Chris Lewis on drums, keyboard, glockenspiel and what looked like a small banjo.
Thomas provided informative introduction to the music but no song titles. This was a bit frustrating as often the song was hauntingly familiar, but the re-arrangement was so complete that the song’s title eluded this reviewer’s brain. Some were bleeding obvious, “The Wild Colonial Boy”, “Waltzing Matilda” and despite a lengthy bass intro, John Williamson’s “True Blue”.
The slower pace of these arrangements highlighted the vocals and thus the usually sad and depressing, (including several convict), stories contained in the lyrics.
The band have won accolades in the UK and deservedly so. They really should be better known here as well.
Her Majesty’s Theatre, 4 March
Shakespeare’s epic murderous epic has been performed countless times. Thus to undertake a staging requires something special, and in that respect this production delivered in spades.
There’s no overlooking the fact that Schaubühne and its director, Thomas Ostermeier, are German as most of the dialogue is delivered in the native tongue. To cater for this subtitles were displayed well above the stage, although heavily abridged. Even so it was difficult to keep pace!
The set, a sand covered stage floor, meaning no noisy shoes, backed by a wall with ladders and steps leading to a walkway mid height was very effective, especially with varying projections cast onto it. Mid-stage hung a microphone, complete with light shining onto Richard’s face and the live microphone image projected on the wall behind. Into this the evil Richard muttered his villainous and sometimes, humorous, asides.
Finally, music come from a loud electronic score, underpinned by great live drumming from Thomas Witte.
As Richard, the deformed and pathological murderer seeking power at whatever the cost, Lars Eidinger was extraordinary. So much so that one wondered if he himself was somewhat unhinged, from the sneers to the audience and pointing to the subtitles to punctuate his last outburst. His ability to convince the onlooker that he really meant what he spat out was not only great acting, but central to the undoubted success of this performance.
Unique was the use of puppets for the two child threats to his ascension to the Crown. It could so easily not have worked, but here it was a perfect fit. They were, of course, duly dispatched by a rampaging Richard.
Eidinger was not alone onstage, Robert Beyer, brilliant as Catesby also took the role of Queen Margaret, delivering a blistering warning to the squabbling Court. Jenny König was excellent as Lady Anne, particularly in the scene, pictured above, where Richard courts her over the coffin of her deceased father.
I could go on, suffice it to say this was one powerful performance from one of the best such companies on the planet.
Not to be missed.
Magic Mirror Spiegeltent
Garden Of Unearthly Delights, 2nd March
Another fantastic show in the intimate (if rather warm) Spiegeltent. Joe Camilleri and his cohorts, Claude Carranza (guitar/vocals), Mark Gray (bass/vocals), John McCall (keyboards/vocals) and Tony Floyd (drums/ vocals), put on a powerhouse display.
The group tore through the Sorrows back catalogue with more energy than bands half their age. In “Holding Up The Mirror” from 1990, Camilleri’s vocals had a real Van Morrison edge and included some fine tenor sax. The blues and jazz of “When The Rain Begins To Fall” provided a brilliant contrast and featured great keyboard work from McCall.
The songs rolled on, “Hold On To Me”, from 1988, “Harley & Rose”, “Daughters Of Glory”, “The Chosen Ones” and so on. Camilleri kept the talk to a minimum to pack in the songs to a limited time frame and the very appreciative audience lapped it up.
Camilleri’s band was exceptional throughout, with Claude Carranza (left) a standout on guitar, seemingly having an endless arsenal of guitar sounds, punctuated by solos of power and invention.
As the show rushed to its inevitable conclusion, Camilleri & Co served up three rippers. Firstly, a cover of JJ Cale’s “Devil In Disguise”, secondly, a blast from the past, from Camilleri ‘s original band, Jo Jo Zep’s “Hit And Run”, which was received more than enthusiastically and finally, indeed after they should have concluded the show, the slow burning blues of “Ain’t Love The Strangest Thing”.
Despite obvious time limitations imposed by the Fringe format, The Black Sorrows managed to pack in a lot of songs, and in doing so proved why they continue to be one of the country’s most important bands. Long may they reign.
HoldenStreet Theatres 14 Feb-19 March
The title of this play is taken from Macbeth’s famous speech:
Life…is a tale
told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
This story of Macbeth and his wife as a modern political couple, eaten up by ambition so that they lose all sense of morality, combines love, ambition, life and death. It could be dramatic theatre. Signifying Nothing is not. The main problem is the juxtaposition of Shakespeare’s text with modern speech. How can a discussion on the dishwasher not working be followed by a monologue from Macbeth? Some of Shakespeare’s lines were modernised. ‘Lady’ Macbeth was ‘transported’ by a message on the iPad rather than a letter, and there were other instances of updating.
Had it all been in modern language could it have worked? Perhaps so. Nicola Bartlett’s performance as ‘Lady’ Macbeth was finely wrought and convincing. Given her delivery of Shakespeare’s lines she could well play Lady Macbeth in a conventional production. Greg Fleet blustered and swore and bullied, but we had no sense of a good man being seduced by his desire for power. He was corrupt from the beginning, despite momentary misgivings before politically assassinating his rival. It was a one dimension performance.
Then there were problems with the plot. Since when does a politician elected to one seat move across to another, because the member in that seat has retired or died, without a by-election? Obviously this was done for plot expediency, but it was so clearly wrong that it robbed the story of credibility. Why introduce a son, accidentally run over by Mrs Macbeth when he was ten years old? Isn’t the spiralling into deception and violence enough to explain her eventual suicide?
The device of having the witches (but why more than three?) and Banquo appear on a screen worked well.Paul Macbeth’s interview with a political reporter, also on screen, was amusing, as he used the same wriggle tactics that we see each evening on our TV screens. But I could not get past the mishmash of language. For anyone who loves Shakespeare, it will be distressing. For those who have little knowledge of his work then Shakespeare’s words may confuse. It is like putting sections of a Beethoven symphony into modern pop music. Might work if very skilfully done, but I have my doubts.
Far from the enormous entourages that accompanied Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan to his Womadelaide performances all those years ago, this local version of Sufi music was pared down to the bone, a guitar, an unusual instrument for this music, santoor, or hammered dulcimer, the ubiquitous harmonium, vocals and tablas.
That said, in the intimate setting of Nexus it was all that was needed to get across the powerful emotional impact of this very different music to the normal staple that we are subjected to.
Most impressive was the harmonium player whose soaring and clearly heartfelt vocals added much to the music and special mention to the percussionist, who kept a near perfect beat all night. Special because he is just 8 years old!
The strangest part of the concert came from Afghanistan via Russia. The Russians, when they invaded the country, brought with them music, including Mary Hopkin’s late 1960’s hit, “Those Were The Days”. For some reason this song stuck with the locals, hence a rather startling version, performed Sufi style. Weird and intriguing at the same time.
An enjoyable and informative concert, to an unfortunately small audience.
For a fringe event, this was quite a show, at just over 3 hours! But what a show.
Support acts, as Bogle said in his introduction, are not normally all class, but Ami Williamson was an exception, a very confident performer with a magnificent voice, playing several instruments. Her covers were sympathetic, for example, Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi”, whilst her originals demonstrated more than just promise.
The star tonight was, however, Bogle, backed by erstwhile musical companion of 37 years, John Munro, the ever smooth violin of Emma Wilcox, plus a rhythm section.
Bogle’s songs were on display here and what a display. He seems to have a never ending supply of sublime songs and this includes a number of newly hatched offerings. There were many standouts, but to pick a few, “No Man’s Land” (a hit for the Furey Brothers as “Green Fields Of France”), “Leaving Nancy” and “Lost Souls”.
Special mention to John Munro for his very moving tribute to his father, “Best Of Times”, which concluded with his father’s voice singing over the PA and Munro joining in a father son duet. Something not to forget.
After two hours, when one could not expect anything better, Bogle and Munro joined as a duo for the encore of Bogle’s most famous song, the moving tune about Gallipoli and Anzac Day, “And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda”, a song that has been covered by an astonishing range of artists. Munro added subtle guitar while Bogle just sang with conviction and heart felt emotion. To die for.
Why Bogle is not a national treasure is beyond me.
Magic Mirror Spiegeltent,
Garden Of Unearthly Delights
Russell Morris returned to the Spiegeltent with same band as last year for another knockout show.
This was a heady mix of his recent and frankly brilliant, bluesy songs together with more than a splash of “his father’s” songs held together with witty stage patter. His band were just plain excellent, with Peter Robinson (right) a standout on guitar.
The band kicked off with some of the “Sharkmouth” trilogy songs, including “Bout To Break”, “The Drifter” and “Black Dog Blues” before a some unexpected songs, Thunderclap Newman’s “Something In The Air”, Deep Purple’s “Hush” and Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue”
In amongst all of this, he performed fine versions of “his father’s” songs, including “The Real Thing”, “Wings Of An Eagle” and “Sweet Sweet Love”.
Somehow, although the recent material is completely different from the old, such is the flexibility of Morris and his band that they seamlessly joined the musical genres together to produce a show that should simply not be missed. Simply brilliant, and the standing ovation from the packed audience proves this.
The title of this event was intriguing enough tempt me along. I was very glad that it did! It was a delightful performance by four singers and a poet. The theme and the stage setting referred to the dormouse in Alice in Wonderland, which slept in a teapot, so the first song ‘Have a cup of tea’ echoed that image. From there we went on a journey through poetry and song which touched on so many aspects of our lives. Heaven Knows is a group of four women singers who have sung and performed together for many years, so their fine voices blended and harmonised with ease. Their diction was impeccable, and this was important as their choice of song reflected on and complemented the poetry which was read by the poet,Judy Dally. The poems were ideal for performance as they contained humour, emotion and reflection but in a language that was easy to understand on first hearing. ‘The Dentist’ described the patient’s reaction to the ministrations of the dentist, in delightful double entendre. ‘The Little Lone Ranger’ reminisced about the lollies children could buy years ago for sixpence, and the methods children used to obtain musk sticks, liquorice all sorts, and fruit drops when they didn’t have a sixpence. The songs were taken from a variety of genres and composers. My favourites were ‘Would you Harbour Me’ (Ysaye M Barnwell) in reference to refugees from all walks of life, the Archie Roach song ‘I’ve Lied’ and the encore which met the approval of the audience ‘Older Women are Divine’. ‘Asleep in a Teapot’ is a gem among the treasures offered by the Fringe. Something a little different, but thoroughly enjoyable.
Magic Mirror Spiegeltent,
Garden Of Unearthly Delights
The sisters returned to their hometown for a special gig, rather like Jo Lawry (see below) and left the rather sizeable audience baying for more.
The sisters (Georgia, vocals, guitars and keyboard; Clara, drums, vocals and Ella, cello, bass, vocals) used the gig to show off a number of new tunes to great effect, with “Talking” being a highlight, along with “Thunderbirds”, dedicated to the local netball team of the same name.
They looked impressive, with three totally different takes on a silver and black theme. The trio appeared to relish the opportunity to play before an audience smattered with familiar faces in the fabulous setting of the Spiegeltent.
Along with the aforesaid clutch of new material, they deconstructed Queen’s “Somebody To Love” and each had a turn in attacking the music of other locals made good, including Sia and Guy Sebastian.
Their bright, sunny music is the perfect tonic for these difficult times, and although they seem to be away more than they are here, try and see their show, you will not be disappointed.
Holden Street Theatres Feb.14 – 19 March
Amy McAllister as a solo performer gives a breathtaking display of the art of acting. Beginning as a young girl, innocent and full of the joy of first love she moves, through her experiences to be a young woman who has been burned and scorched. She is aided by the writer, Stacey Gregg and the Director, Emma Jordan, but it is Amy who creates the impish character of Kez, sharing her experiences and confronting the audience with some of the hard truths in contemporary society. Scorch examines transgender, and sense of identity with subtlety, depth and humour
Acting in the round Kez moves among the audience seamlessly so that we become part of the story as ‘the circle’. At times her emotions are so strong that only movement suffices to express them. There is humour and pathos, self discovery and final acceptance that the world is not as she would wish it to be in her telling of the story. It is not surprising that this play, brought by Martha Lott from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, has won so many awards and accolades.
The Soweto Gospel Choir is always invited back to perform in Adelaide. It is no puzzle why this is so. From the moment they greet the audience in all the official languages of Africa to the final Alleluia which reminds us why they are a Gospel choir they have the audience (forgive the cliche) in the palms of their hands. Sixteen musicians with wonderful voices, singing in harmony with the role of lead singer shared among them; exuberant dancing; the rhythm of the drums and occasionally keyboard; playing the audience with humour; songs of protest and rebellion; singing the songs they have made famous; and all with a high standard of professionalism. They make it look easy, if energetic, but such a flawless performance is the product of great talent, versatility, hard work and attention to detail. It was a wonderful concert, and if you do not go to anything else in the Fringe go to see the Soweto Gospel Choir.
Magic Mirror Spiegeltent,
Garden Of Unearthly Delights
Jo Lawry, the Adelaide singer who found fame as long time backing singer to Sting, returned for her third appearance at the Fringe and again in the Spiegeltent, the perfect intimate setting for her.
Supported by her husband and brilliant soprano and alto saxophonist (doubling up on keyboards), Will Vinson, the superb and sublime acoustic bassist Christopher Hale and Angus Mason on drums, Lawry presented a programme of nearly all original material spanning her career including teasers for her new album, due out later this year, and an EP, released immediately after the show!
She is a very impressive vocalist and composer, spanning ballads, rock songs with more than a sprinkling of jazz. What stands out is her crystal clear voice, perfect pitch and phrasing, reminiscent of Judy Collins. Her songs would sound good in any context, but when combined with a truly great group of musicians, they are taken to another level.
The only sad part is there was only one show, so those who missed it will have to wait until next year, so make a note in your diary to make sure you don’t miss it at her next Fringe appearance. On the strength of this performance, Lawry should be a household name, not only in her home state, but also internationally.
Panama Club, Royal Croquet Club
What a way to kick off the Fringe! If you think that a gospel choir is just that, well then you are very very wrong! This was a dazzling display of colour, dance, superb singing, topped off with a staggering display of energy and power. Brilliant!
The show kicked off with a number of great gospel songs sung in the native tongue backed only by percussion. The only “low” point followed with a ballad, in English, which didn’t gel for this reviewer, but that doesn’t get in any way of the fact that this is one hell of a show.
Thereafter we were treated to a succession of songs giving full effect to the choir’s strengths; precision singing and amazing energetic dancing from virtually the whole 17 strong ensemble. The show reached a climax with James Brown’s “I Feel Good” and a dramatic and emotion reading of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, which they not only rearranged to fit in African elements but also had the whole audience on their feet singing along. At the end and indeed before it actually finished, the choir received 2 standing ovations. Enough said!
Thoroughly recommended. One final word: go see now!
CHOIRMASTER AND THE CHORISTERS AFRICAN ENSEMBLE
Port Dock Brewery Hotel – City of Adelaide Room 17 February
The audience was treated to a taste of Africa with the Choirmaster (Eugene Baah) from Ghana and his ensemble, drawn from the local community. Jason Stacey (guitar) Aflah Hammond and Fred Kpakpo Addo (djembe) and Iddi Waziri (limbo) gave a performance full of rhythm and exuberance. The two djembre players warmed the audience with an amazing display of drumming and African chant, later joined by Iddi Waziri who displayed his skills as a rap dancer/acrobat with gravity defying moves. This served to warm up the audience for the Choirmaster who then sang a number of songs from Ghana. He reached out to his audience with a rich voice and engaging manner. We learned that his fans in Ghana are known as the Choristers, and as they had not been able to be there we became his choristers for the night. In that role we laughed, clapped along with the music and danced. African music is full of life and rhythm, but be warned, it can also be loud in a small space.
Choirmaster and his Ensemble are playing at the Port Dock Brewery Hotel until 26 Feb, and then move to other venues. Check the Fringe guide for details.
Singin’ in the Rain Festival Theatre 1-23 December
If you want to forget the stresses and worries which have accumulated over the last year go to see ‘Singin’in the Rain’ at Festival Theatre. It’s a dazzler of a show, bright, brassy, energetic with a touch of nostalgia and lots of laughs. The dancers and ensemble players are terrific. The four main characters, Rohan Browne (Don Lockwood) Gretel Scarlett (Kathy Selden) Jack Chambers (Cosmo Brown) and Erika Heynatz (Lina Lamont) are all excellent, while navigating the difficulties of dancing, singing, splashing about on a wet stage and acting all at the same time. There are some wonderfully funny moments, particularly from Jack Chambers, who seems to have an elastic body, and Erika Heynatz, whose efforts to learn to speak nicely would challenge even Henry Higgins. Filmed segments, showing the difficulties of changing from movies to talkies were hilarious. The love story between Don Lockwood and Kathy Selden does not go smoothly, nor should it, because they are given the opportunity to play some enchanting scenes and sing some appealing songs, as well as dance, climb ladders and embrace at length, much to the discomfiture of Cosmo.
But all praise to the entire cast. The overall impression of the show is one of brightness, toe-tapping music and laughter. Go and see it. You’ll feel younger and lighter for the experience.
P.S. Listen to my interviews with Rohan Browne and Gretel Scarlett on 5mbs.com Kaleidoscope podcasts before you go.
P.P.S. The role of Don Lockwood alternates between Rohan Browne and Grant Admiral.
ZUCKERMAN TRIO CONCERT
Adelaide Town Hall Wednesday 23 November 7.30pm
There was an air of expectancy in the Town Hall on Wednesday evening, a feeling of “something great is going to happen”! And it did! Already in the opening duo pieces by Gliere the wonderful blend of the violin and cello captured the audience. The rich, expressive tone of the cello with the sweet violin sound like icing on the top! The unusual and diverse “8 Pieces for violin & cello” are a challenge for the cellist; there are difficult accompanying parts, but Amanda Forsythe revelled in them and always kept an eye on her husband, Pinchas, who soared with the melodies. The theme of the opening Prelude sounds better on the cello, I think! But the violin dances better in the Gavotte! The syncopated, lively Scherzo, with perfectly played octaves, made a brilliant finish: we didn’t miss the 8th piece. Etude’!
The pianist, Angela Cheng, joined the String players on the platform and the Shostakovich Trio No 2 immediately commanded our attention. The fullness of sound from all instruments was like a river that carried us along, with features on the way that hastened or slowed the flow. The piano was never too loud, as is often the case in Piano Trios, but the sound was strong and full when necessary.The breathtaking cello harmonics at the beginning created the suspense and the sweet, high notes of the violin, perfectly controlled, moved the music forward and with the piano harmonies we were wrapped in a sound world. The ensemble was impeccable, the balance always right and the music drove them incessantly. It was the death of Shostakovitch’ best friend that inspired this work and one senses that he was driven by grief.
There were special moments: the violin’s piercingly clear and beautiful high notes in the first movement, the plaintive cello melody in the Largo, the piano’s lingering last chord in that movement and the perfect chromatic runs disappearing into the distance in thein the 2nd. The last movement is such a contrast, almost cheeky and light-hearted! But not for long, the marching theme with percussive bow sounds and the popular Jewish melody eventually disperse and we are left with the tragic piano chords and a sadness and wonder.
The interval made a bridge to the lighter, though still melancholy, Piano Trio no 1 of Franz Schubert. This was a polished, exuberant rendering of an obviously familiar work. The precise fingering and controlled bowing of the Strings, so necessary in Classical period compositions, was wonderful to watch and hear. The pianist’s light touch, perfect timing and awareness of the other players was superb. Again there were special moments: in the first movement the violin and cello played the 2nd subject together in perfect union – a marriage of sound! In the 2nd movement there were sublime, breathtaking moments when the violin and the cello were deeply engaged in the mood. The contrasts of pp to f in the the 3rd movement with intense, naturally flowing, singing melodies in the Trio. In the last movement the triplets in the piano were so delicate and humorous and the tune in the higher regions of the instrument so perky! The Zukerman Trio played as one and one could sense their “togetherness” as they took their bows.
Visually it was a treat, too, it was so nice to see colour on the stage! Why always black? Amanda’s expressive features mirrored the music and Angela’s bright smiles at certain points betrayed her enjoyment. Pinchas was undemonstrative, but one could hear his intensity and he did manage a smile at the end! The light-hearted Kreisler Trio as an encore finished off a memorable evening and there are still two concerts to go!
DON PARTIES ON
Holden Street Theatre November 2016
The Red Phoenix Theatre, recently founded by Michael Eustice & Libby Drake, launched their 2nd production this year, “Don Parties On” by David Williamson. This 2010 sequel to the 1970’s play “Don’s Party” sees the same characters 40 years later! They haven’t changed much! Maybe they are a bit mellower and look back with a slight touch of self -awareness, but the brashness of the men and the self- righteousness of the women is still there!
A son with marriage problems and his daughter with generational misconceptions add a dimension, but it is a play for 40 year olds upwards! Having experienced that era, even if they don’t like it, they can see the humour. I think many younger people would be irritated and even shocked by the attitudes and beliefs of the characters! As Belle puts it “They don’t tell us things like that in our Self Improvement classes!”
It was very well acted, in fact it didn’t seem acted! Don, played by Wayne Anthony had the right mixture of regret and reticence. Julie Quick as Kath epitomised the tolerant but slightly resentful wife. The character of Mal seemed to be created for – or by – Adrian Barnes! His serene, self -possessed wife, Helen, played by Victoria Morgan, was the calm centre of the stage, a foil to the self-centered posturings of the men! Cooley, the eternal would-be bachelor type was wittily played by Brian Godfrey and Lyn Wilson who played his ex-wife, Jenny, brought the serious element very convincingly. Brant Eustice as son Richard was in the well-known triangle and his confusion was apparent! Jessica Carroll successfully played the “husband snatcher” as a flighty, over-emotional, young woman, accepted by no one except the infatuated Richard! Belle was a great picture of modern youth – full of theories and lost when confronted with reality! What a romp it was! But the hints of deeper issues gave the play some depth and one had the feeling at the conclusion that maybe the men had learnt something!! Well done directors Michael Eustice & Libby Drake for an imaginative set and a production that progressed seamlessly. Everything ran smoothly thanks to the back stage team, Richard Parkhill, Heather Jones & Joshua Mensch. So if you missed this successful production of the Red Phoenix Theatre look out for their 2017 program starting on May 17th with “Two Brothers” by Hannie Rayson.
Tosca by Puccini
State Opera Festival Theatre 7.30 12-19 November 2016
The pianist Stephen Hough, in an interview, said that there is no silence more pleasing to a performer than the silence of an audience who is totally caught up in a performance. There was such a silence in Festival Theatre last night, as the drama of Tosca unfolded. Romantic love, passion, attempted rape, treachery, murder, suicide: what is there not to love in Puccini’s Tosca? Add three strong roles, several supporting roles, wonderful music, evocative sets and lighting and the evening is made.
Floria Tosca (Kate Ladner) Mario Cavaradossi (Rosario La Spina) and Baron Scarpia (Mario Bellanova) are the three linchpins around whom this opera revolves. Each role requires a singer of exceptional vocal and dramatic ability. The three singers delivered most satisfactorily. Kate Ladner totally fulfilled the part of Tosca, singing with strength, and conviction, and looking every inch the Diva. Mario La Spina possesses a strong tenor voice with the Italianate quality essential for Puccini operas. This is a big tenor role, and he sang magnificently. Mario Bellanova also sang strongly, portraying the ‘two Scarpias’ – the one in the first act who is pious, solicitous, cunning and imperious, and the Scarpia in the second act who is lecherous, cruel, manipulative and imperious. Scarpia and Tosca created the tension and drama inherent in this part of the plot. The third act belongs to Tosca and Cavaradossi, and here the drama, of a different kind was maintained, as she gloried in the belief of their freedom, and he, not disillusioning Tosca, sang with her of the joys of their future life together. The Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Nicholas Braithwaite served the singers well, occasionally too well, when the balance between voice and orchestra favoured the orchestra, but one could not fault the quality of the playing. The smaller roles were well served by Jeremy Tatchell, John Bolton Wood, Bernard Hull, Pelham Andrews, Robert England and the young boy, Angus Brill Reed. The chorus sang and acted con brio.
The setting in Rome 1800, revolves around a church, Scarpia’s apartment and the Castel Sant’Angelo, and the story reflects historical events of that time. The librettists, Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, adapted a play by Sardou, and at the original performance of Tosca in 1900 some of the audience were repulsed by the subject matter. How would audiences today, who were seeing Tosca for the first time, and who knew nothing of the story, react? Surely the drama would draw them in? Could they, like Tosca, believe that Scarpia was really going to let her and Cavarodossi go free? Or would they be so totally swept up by the music and singers, to immerse themselves only in the moment? Few of us can experience a performance of Tosca without some prior knowledge or association with the story, the music, or, at least, some of the more famous arias. But Tosca surely answers the criticism that opera is full of unbelievable stories only saved by the music, which to some people goes on too long anyway! What is more universal and contemporary than opposition to an occupying army, misuse of power, lust, betrayal, love and death? Puccini’s glorious music completes the drama, when the singers and orchestra are as accomplished as those we heard at Festival Theatre. And not a note too many, as Mozart might have said. Instead, we can appreciate, with a deeper understanding, this most dramatic of Puccini’s operas. As did the audience on opening night.
LEADING LADIES – Therry Dramatic Society Arts Theatre 3-11 November
If you want a distraction from all the stresses in your life at the moment let me recommend ‘Leading Ladies’. It is a very funny play and the production is a winner.
Therry Dramatic Society’s last performance for 2016 is great entertainment. ‘Leading Ladies’ written by Ken Ludwig, and directed in this production by Jude Hines moves from absurd situation to even more absurd situation at a furious pace, but never allowing the momentum to obfuscate the narrative. The story involves two rather mediocre Shakespearean actors donning female attire in an effort to gain a large inheritance from an elderly lady, who threatens to die, who is in fact announced dead twice, but who refuses to be robbed of life. The challenge is for the two male actors to portray women effectively enough to convince the family that they are Stephanie and Maxine, and given some suspension of disbelief, they succeed. There are those who doubt, not their gender, but their identity, and who attempt to thwart their quest for dollars (millions of them). But all comes out well in the end, as should happen in all good comedies.
There are no weak links in the cast, but special mention must be given to Jock Dunbar in the dual roles of Jack Gable and Stephanie, Patrick Clements in the dual roles of Leo Clark and Maxine, and Mollie Mooney who teeters about on her roller skates, attempting to impress with her expanding vocabulary. Jock Dunbar creates a simpering Stephanie, teetering on high heels, chewing a rose during the tango; fleeing, to the accompaniment of high shrieks, not one but two ardent suitors. Patrick Clements, as Maxine, exudes an aura of authority that draws the young woman of the house, Margaret, to him/her. Margaret, played by Laura Antoniazzi is the epitome of a well brought up young lady, confusing loyalty with love, while showing, in the end, that she has learned to think for herself. The love complications come in the forms of a pompous vicar, excellently portrayed by Steve Marvnek, and an incompetent doctor, played by Tim Blackshaw. Penni Hamilton-Smith, as the dominating Aunt Florence, keeps them all on their toes, dancing attendance to the tune of her millions. Alec Proeve makes a delightful contribution, especially in the play segment.
Last night’s audience laughed and cheered throughout, then emerged from the theatre with that happy buzz that always confirms a successful production. Treat yourself to a night of laughter and book a ticket for this play.
OPERATIVO II Italian Opera Gems Elder Hall October 30
In 2015 Eugene Ragghianti organised Operativo, with four singers combining in a number of arias and ensemble singing. It was such a success that this year he arranged Operativo II, following the same formula which had been a celebration of glorious Italian music, for it can be claimed that Italian opera is the jewel in the crown of musical theatre.
Eugene Ragghianti, who is no stranger to public performance, created the link between the items, with a witty and informative introduction to each. The singers, Teresa La Rocca, Catriona Barr, Brenton Spiteri and Mario Bellanova each have considerable experience in opera, both in Australia and overseas, so were ready to take on the challenge of singing this demanding music.
Teresa La Rocca, opened the concert with Quel quarto il Cavaliere from Don Pasquale in a spirited performance, although she showed in Vissi d’arte from Tosca that she can equally express strong emotion. In the quartet from Rigoletto she sang with a beautiful restraint that encapsulated the fragility of Gilda, about to sacrifice her life for love.
Brenton Spiteri, is from Melbourne, but he had already impressed Adelaide audiences in The Magic Flute, and he showed that his voice is particularly suited to the bel canto roles. Catriona Barr, well known for her appearances with State Opera joined Teresa La Rocca in the duet from Norma, Mira o Norma. Cate has the perfect voice and figure for the so called pants roles and she demonstrated this in her singing of Il Segreto per esser felici from Lucrezia Borgia.
Mario Bellanova, who will be appearing as Scarpia in the next production by State Opera of Tosca, convinced in every way. His is a voice of power and nuance and his stage craft is impeccable.
The singers were accompanied by Michael Ierace. The job of accompanying opera arias is not always the most rewarding work for a pianist, but he supported them all in fine style, as well as playing two charming waltzes, one by Verdi, the other by Puccini, as solo pieces. Puccini’s waltz was actually Musetta’s Waltz, later used in La Boheme, and I noticed half the women in the audience hummed along. Such was the joyous atmosphere evoked in this afternoon of opera gems. If you missed it, there is Operativo III to plan for next year.
Dido & Aeneas – Ensemble Galante and Mopoke Theatre Productions October 9 2016
The atmosphere started before the production! Wandering musicians used the large empty space of the gutted Queen’s Theatre to play and interact. The haunting sound of the Baroque violins and viola really setting the scene for the tragedy that would unfurl. Ben Dollman led the Ensemble Galante through the emotional and intricate music of Purcell’s Opera with aplomb. The theorbo was eye catching and delicately played by Samantha Cohen. Bronwen Wyatt, Baroque cello and Glenys March, harpsichord played the Continuo with spirit and as the name suggests it was no-stop! Baroque oboes have a beautiful mellow sound and Jane Downer and Tim Nott used it to full advantage. Violin, viola and double bass completed the Ensemble and added to the texture of sound. An excellent and homogeneous Ensemble.
Bethany Hill was a queenly Dido, no mean feat without regal robes! She was so convincing and vocally pleasing one forgot about her Army gear! David Hidden captured the confusion of Aeneas very well and his voice suited the young hero’s role admirably. The queen’s companion, Belinda, was so naturally and warmly played by Karen Fitz-Gibbon and Elizabeth Campbell as the Sorceress was superb, devious, confident and with a beautiful mellow timbre of voice.
Each member of the supporting cast was an individual and acted, sang, interacted naturally and with a real sense of fun and enjoyment. The costumes didn’t convince me, except for the Sorceress who looked very seductive! But the production, staging, imaginative touches and interaction of the musicians with the singers was extremely well planned and executed. Congratulations to director Nicholas Cannon and also his backstage team. This afternoon’s performance was a highlight of my concert going this year! If you missed it, it is your loss. It was the last performance.
Sacred Song – Naomi Hede and Andrew Georg
Christ Church, North Adelaide Sunday 18th September 2016
Those who braved a cold windy afternoon – weather still not ready to abdicate in favour of Spring – and resisted the lure of the OzAsia Festival, but instead went to Christ Church North Adelaide on Sunday afternoon were rewarded with a concert of sacred music that gladdened the heart and uplifted the spirit.
O Domina Nostra by Gorécki,which began the program showed that both the singer and organist were more than ready for the challenges of this piece, which begins with a long organ solo until the voice enters with an invocation, later soaring to heights of joy and then returning to the plea ‘ora pro nobis’. (pray for us). To follow, Andrew Georg played é by Arvo Pärt, a choice which both complemented the preceding piece and led to the music of Bach, Gounod and Mozart which made up the final part of the program.
Andrew Georg is the Organist and Choir Director at Christ Church and his skill sets include not only organist par excellence, but also accompanist and répétiteur. Thus he was an ideal partner for Naomi Hede. As solo organist he excelled in the Bach’s Praeludium et Fuga in C, BWV 547.
Naomi Hede possesses a voice of purity and strength throughout the registers. She filled the large church with ease, yet never with any sense of excess effort.In particular the two final Mozart pieces, Laudate Dominum and Laudamus Te allowed her to demonstrate these qualities. This is a singer who should be heard more often in Adelaide, as every aspect of her performance was totally satisfying.
The next 2016 concerts at Christ Curch are on October 15, 5.00pm(Shirley Gale: Pipe Organ Recital) and November 6, 2.30pm (Lumina Vocal Ensemble) Mark the dates in your diary.
Grigoryan, Muthspiel, Schaupp, & The Australian String Quartet
Guitar Festival, Adelaide Town Hall, 14 August
This is, on paper, an unusual concert and very much in two parts. Firstly there is the Adelaide Guitar Festival Orchestra, comprising of god knows how many young, some very young, guitarist playing, for the most part in 3 sections. The orchestra was led by the effervescent Dr Paul Svoboda and Richard Charlton, playing compositions of their own as well as a Coldplay tune and the Dr Who theme. Such a mass of guitars does sound impressive and Slava Grigoryan must be praised for the concept which hopefully attracts more young people to the instrument.
The other part featured the main performers with the Australian String Quartet. First up, Karin Schaupp taking the place of first violinist, Dale Barltrop in an arrangement for guitar of Haydn’s Quartet In D major op.2 no.2. There can be no question of Schaupp’s considerable skills and the revised quartet for guitar was an inspired success.
Next, Festival Director Slava Grigoryan joined the full quartet for a rendering of his hero, American guitarist Ralph Towner’s “Migration”. Towner comes from a jazz background as a member for many years of Oregon, and is somewhat surprising to hear his “Migration” composed for guitar and quartet. Grigoryan, as we has come to expect was flawless but equally passionate, supported brilliantly by the quartet.
Finally, jazz guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel, pictured above, presented his own composition, “Flexible Sky”. I confess, even as a jazz aficionado, I had some pre-concert misgivings about a composed piece from the guitarist. Thankfully, not only were these fears completely smashed, but to my ears, this was the highlight of the evening. A powerful piece, played with passion and great enthusiasm by all concerned and in so doing proved that Muthspiel is not only a fine guitarist, but also a composer of note.
Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn
Guitar Festival, Adelaide Town Hall, 12 August
Bela Fleck has almost highhandedly transformed the image of the banjo. It has long been an instrument of derision, but through his jazz fusion group The Flecktones, his work with Chick Corea through to his Concerto For Banjo & Orchestra and numerous other projects, he has raised its profile and created a genre of his own. In the course of his career, he married clawhammer banjo wonder Abigail Washburn, who comes very much from the bluegrass tradition. It is only natural that they tour together, with their young son in tow, and present their slightly skewed take on the old time music.
The setlist, pictured above, doesn’t really convey the diversity and staggering skill on display, from duos of not only great intricacy but gorgeous melody, to Washburn’s delicate and moving vocals and solo brackets from both, highlighting their phenomenal talents. Whilst the aura of bluegrass pervaded the music, Fleck, being such a diverse musician, took traditional tunes somewhere else altogether, and that is not a criticism.
In the hands of these two, the banjo will go places undreamt of and no doubt remove the stigma that the instrument once had.
LAST NIGHT OF THE PROMS
Adelaide Symphony Orchestra conducted by Guy Noble
Adelaide Festival Theatre 1 & 2 July 7.30pm.
In these uncertain times it is comforting to know that some things never change. Fortunately civilization as we know it was preserved, conserved and celebrated at Festival Theatre during the Last Night of the Proms.
Thousands of patrons, ignoring the football in a nearby venue, came expecting to enjoy. Nor were they to be disappointed. Master of Ceremonies, Guy Noble, held the capacity audience in the palm of his hand, with scintillating banter and musicianship. Orchestra and choir were primed to the highest level, eager to obey his every wave of the baton or stamp of his foot. The audience clapped, sang and stamped along in appreciation.
The ASO was prepared for all contingencies. Zadok the Priest, sung in stirring style, heralded the unlikely event of the Queen abdicating and Charles finding himself on Coronation Street. Mellifiluous notes of the flute, led us to the Greensleeves Fantasia. Oboe and harp charmed in a familiar melody. Nimrod teased with its enigma and Colonel Bogey vied with British Sea Songs to establish military or naval superiority. The orchestra stirred patriotic fever further in numbers which reflected the glory of a people who never would be slaves.
The Elder Conservatorium Chorale combined with the Graduate Singers to sing majestic melodies, and to lead the audience in familiar songs until a frenzy of streamers united friend and foe alike as they strove to disentangle themselves, and balloons bounced without discrimination on heads of the mighty and the lowly.
Baritone Jose Carbo showed why his Largo al factotum is his signature tune, although the voice has matured and deepened since he made his debut in this role. With latin blood coursing through his veins he rendered the Toreador’s Song and Granados with fire and authority. Showing another side to his art, he sang the pensive Mein Sehen mein Wahnen from Die tote Stadt. Unfortunately, he did let the side down rather badly by revealing his underpants at the end of Rule Brittania.
Guy Noble sang a satirical patter song, and then, while Britannia ruled with Pomp and Circumstance Matilda waltzed and the party was over.
As Dame Edna would say: A nice night’s entertainment.
Zephyr Quartet Waterside Theatre Port Adelaide 28 June to 2 July.
Zephyr Quartet, formed in 1999 have established a reputation for presenting music that goes well beyond the boundaries. From a base of solid musicianship they commission new works, and combine with other media, to produce exciting and challenging performances. Between Light is, as they describe it, a conversation between music light and space.
The music is five commissioned pieces on the theme of light and dark. The composers, Lyndon Gray, Stephen Magnussen, Tony Gould, Andrea Keller, and Matt Keagan come from Jazz backgrounds, but the music could not be classified as jazz. Rather it is an exciting exploration of the ideas that the theme evoked, with light and shade, pulsating rhythms, some exquisite solo work from the musicians and lush ensemble sounds. Without commenting on all the pieces individually I was particularly enamoured of Tony Gould’s ‘Songs in a Gentle Breeze’.
The quartet, followed by the audience, moved to different parts of the theatre to allow for the different light displays designed by Geoff Cobham, with Chris Petriadis Lachlan Turner and Alexander Ramsay. The lights danced and wove in response to the music, sometimes colourful, sometimes contrasting light and dark, sometimes enveloping the audience in a veil of light which transformed to pencil thin shards of colour which were also reflected on the heads and bows of the performers. The final piece moved from utter darkness to flickering lights and then full illumination.
The space allowed for this movement throughout. The high ceilings and bare walls were ideal for the shadows and light displays, throwing up dramatic silhouettes.
Between Light is a successful combination of the music, light and space, and Zephyr Quartet are to be congratulated on their sense of adventure and their musical insights which led to this wonderful performance.
Her Majesty’s Theatre until 21 May
FANTASTIC WORK BY STATE OPERA SA
From the wonderful set and lighting, to the music, the singing and the acting, Cloudstreet is a triumph. Adapted from the novel by Tim Winton, George Palmer wrote the libretto and composed the music, and Gale Edwards was the director.
It takes a great deal of courage, faith and ability for an opera company to produce a new work, and State Opera SA has all these in abundance. Cloudstreet was a tremendous undertaking because of the complexity of the novel and George Palmer, working from the novel, rather than a later play of the same name, found the thread of the narrative which linked the two families, the Lambs and the Pickles. Gale Edwards, who was an enthusiastic supporter from the beginning, drew on her experience in theatre to guide and polish the final version. The music is hard to categorise, ranging from quasi spiritual to operatic, but, in these changes, matched the action, which contained at different times humour, tragedy and romance. The orchestra under the direction of Tim Sexton was in excellent form.
Rather than producing a series of grand arias sung by a small group of principals, the cast performed as an ensemble, with clear diction which allowed Australian accent and idiom to sound quite natural. All the singers were very accomplished, but I would like to give Nicholas Cannon as Quick, Nicholas Jones as Fish and Desiree Frahn as Rose special praise.
Credit should also be given to set designer Victoria Lamb and lighting designer, Nigel Levings for their work. They created some magical effects.
It is not easy to categorise Cloudstreet. When I asked that of Tim Sexton he replied that it was an Australian opera, and I think that he is right. This is an opera to which Australia can proudly lay claim. It would be a terrible shame if this is the last we see and hear of Cloudstreet. It was years in the making. How foolish to allow it to languish after a few perfomances.
Forget any ideas you may have had that Gilbert and Sullivan Operas are fusty, outdated remnants of the Victorian era. This Mikado, directed by Richard Trevaskis does not have a dull or a dud moment. I laughed throughout the entire show, both at the witty dialogue and the reactions and interaction among the singers. From the entrance of the impressive PoohBah (Eddie Muliau) who knows how to command a stage with the lift of an eyebrow, to the final triumphant chorus the story unfolds with pace and sparkle. The singers, most of whom are conservatorium graduates with experience in opera and musical theatre, give universally satisfying performanes. They were all terrific, but I would like to give special praise to two.Rod Schulz as KoKo, with his cockney accent, is wonderfully funny and his wooing of Katisha (Sidonie Henbest) stole the show. Sidonie has a strong operatic voice, and it was strange to think that last time I saw her she was singing torch songs, but she played the femme fatale, just a little past her best, with aplomb. It’s a new take on Katisha, and it works. Grace Bawden was a suitably pert and silly Yum-Yum, with a voice that could soar into the heights. Her two little maids, Pee Bo (Karina Jay) and Pitti-Sing (Bethany Hill) sang beautifully, pouted, primped and sulked as needed and contributed to the fun. Nor should I neglect to mention the Gentlemen of Japan, Pish-Tush (Macintyre Howie Reeves) and Pish-Tish (James Moffatt), with their iPads and Selfies, as well as Daniel Smerdon who appeared in the second act as the Mikado, portraying a vacuuous despot in fine style.No one has pronounced a long, slow painful death sentence with more good humour.
The singers were fortunate to be supported by members of the RCS Ensemble, which is now the permanent orchestra for Co-Opera. Having this permanent ensemble, with Brian Chatterton conducting, is a great asset to Co-Opera.
There are only three more chances to see this fantastic production in Adelaide before they go on tour again. Don’t miss it
SEASON RCS Ensemble
May 1 Flinders Street Baptist Church
To celebrate the seaons the RCS Ensemble presented a program based on works with that name. The one exception was Rachmaninov Elegiac trio Op 1 in g minor for Violin, Cello and Piano. The reason given for this exception was that May 1 was a day of great celebration in Europe, but it needed no excuse, being a work of voluptuous sonority and drama. The musicians, Wendy Heilenberg, Gemma Phillips and Michael Ierace, revelled in the sweep and variety of the music, but special mention must be made of the pianist Michael Ierace. His playing was magnificent. In singling him out I do not wish to detract from the performances of Wendy Heilenberg or Jacqui Finlay, for I imagine that when Rachmaninov composed this piece, at the age of 19 he ensured that the pianist would be given maximum opportunity to shine. This work reflects Rachmaninov’s respect and admiration for Tchaikovsky, through final funeral march which reflects that composer’s Trio in A minor.
Iranian Seasons by Amir Eslami Mirabadi opened the program. This is a compostion originally scored for violin, piano and shakuhachi, but was arranged here for flute, violin and piano. Flautist, Linda Pirie, used three different flutes to capture the mood of the shakuhaki, and she was joined by Wendy Heilenberg and Jacqui Finlay. All three played with great beauty of tone. The piece, based on the four seasons, beginning with spring and finishing with winter, following the order of Vivaldi’s famous Four Seasons, was totally delightful. The music evokes the desert winds, dancing feet, haunting sounds from different world. Mirabadi incorporates elements of Iranian folk music in this work. The time signatures which vary dramatically from 10/8, 7/8, 15/8 must have challenged but certainly did not defeat the musicians. I hope that this work is performed again and soon.
After interval the Ensemble increased to 13 players played Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. This is such a familiar work, yet rarely performed in its entirety. The poems that had originally accompanied this composition were printed in the program, so we could follow Vivaldi’s thoughts about the four seasons. Summer, rather than being a period of long languid days, is depicted as working under relentless heat to bring in the harvest, and fear that a summer storm may ruin the corn. Autumn is a more relaxed time, as the peasants celebrate the harvet completed and the hunters set out in the early dawn. Winter is shivers and chills, but also warmth by the home fire. It is interesting that Spring and Autumn are in major keys while Winter and Summer are in minor keys.
Carolyn Lam was the soloist, and she played with authority and sensitivity. The Ensemble showed both the energy and change of mood that the seasons dictate.
The RCS Ensemble is now well established, and, together with their regular concerts, support Co-Opera. It gives further opportunities for professional musicians and gives young musicians the chance to play alongside more experienced instrumentalists. Long may they reign.
Garden Of Unearthly Delights, 26 February
For a 68 year old, Morris is travelling very well, here was an Australian icon having a ball!
For the first half or more of this, his only and sellout show, he and his crack band concentrated on his blues and roots material. This consisted of a healthy chunk of the ARIA winning album “Sharkmouth” and the recent “Red Dirt Red Heart”. To this reviewer, this was somewhat of a revelation, these are great songs and deserve a far wider audience. More than that he performed them with a passion and commitment which proved that he is the real (blues & roots) deal.
But this was Russell Morris after all and many of the gathered just wanted to hear the hits, so Morris summoned the Tardis and back we all went, “Wings Of An Eagle”, “The Real Thing” (without Molly’s production) and so on. To his credit, he breathed new life into these well-worn ’60’s hits.
The whole thing ended with a deserved standing ovation. Whilst this reviewer would have been happier with just the blues material, the gathered left very happy!
Tandanya 25 March
All is not well in Abbott land, the polls are lower than the oil price and still sinking; there seems no solution. What to do?
A PR visit across the nation seems a good idea and off they go, Malcolm Turnbull, Julie Bishop, Joe Hockey, Peter Dutton and, of course, the Great Leader himself! Lurching from one PR disaster to another, from a women’s gathering speech that has to be heard to be believed, to a calamitous Christmas Island visit, Nic Conway (pictured) as Abbott does a great job of delivering streams of excruciating actual Abbott quotes, punctuated by a bright light, while all cast members perform the numerous original songs with much passion, especially Alister McMichael’s (Joe Hockey) “F#&* Them All“.
Does Abbott save the day or will Malcolm strike? After seeing Abbott face the people in this fast paced production, it’s a no-brainer!
A CELTIC DREAM Aldgate Church of Christ, 6 March
If you wish to enter a magical world, steeped in the stories and music of the Celts, there is no better way than A Celtic Dream, presented by Emma Horwood and Steve Peterka. Emma, singing and playing both a Celtic harp and pedal harp, and in one item the two together, presented a range of Celtic music from traditional to contemporary compositions. She possesses a voice that suits this music perfectly, no more more evident than in ‘The Fairy’s Song’ and ‘The Lady of Shalott’. Steve Peterka, who is the Principal Percussionist in the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, gave support to the music, with bells, gongs, soft drum rolls and other sundry sounds. He came into his own in ‘The Skye Boat Song’ where he took over the melody. Emma also showed her abilities as a harpist, particularly in the trio of compositions by the legendary musician Turlough O’Carolan. Linking the items Emma told the myths and legends behind the music, fascinating stories of silkies, fairy people, banshees, and St Patrick. Adelaide is fortunate to have two such musicians combining in what is a felicitous and possibly a unique partnership. You can catch them at the Radford Auditorium, Art Gallery of South Australia, on 12-13 March, 3.00pm.
CHRISTINE ROSSETTI: REMEMBER St John’s Church Halifax Street 28 February
The poet Christine Rossetti still continues to intrigue us so this performance gave us a wonderful opportunity to learn more about her life and her poetry. She was born in 1830 and died in 1894, one of the famous Rossetti family, and while being a successful poet she was also shy almost to the point of being a recluse, and had to cope with two serious illnesses, the second being terminal cancer. Her deep religious faith may have been less of a consolation than a source of anxiety as she strove for perfection, yet always found herself wanting. These circumstances may not have led to a happy life but undoubtedly enriched her poetry. Adelaide poet Greg Hammond narrated the performance and read some of the poems. He explained that he had a lifetime interest in the poet and that only the barrier of time had prevented him from having a deep, personal relationship with Christine Rossetti. Many of Rossetti’s poems have been set to music and it would have been a difficult choice to limit the program to twelve pieces. Those selected reflected contemporary and earlier compositions. The program began with a setting of Remember Me, by Anne Cawrse, a young Adelaide composer now well established. This was bookened by Alistair Knight’s setting of De profundis, fittingly, already part of the Corinthian Singers’ repertoire. He accompanied the singers and added his tenor to some of the songs. The three singers, Nicole Hardie-Campbell, Gillian Dooley and Catherine Cox are all members of the Corinthian Singers, and their ensemble singing, often unaccompanied, was a joy to hear. The two settings of In the Bleak Midwinter, the first by Gustav Holst and the second by Harold Dark were especially effective. Nicole Hardie-Campbell in Young Love Lies Sleeping, had clarity of tone and glorious high notes. GillianDooley sang what is probably Rossetti’s best known poem, When I am Dead with an emotional intensity that highlighted the pathos of the words, while Catherine Cox brought out the more humorous side of Rossetti (she did have one) in Boy Johnny. St John’s Anglican Church in Halifax Street has long been a supporter of music and musicians, and the beauty of the church, with the light shining through the stained glass window added to the feeling that we were being transported to an earlier world. This was the only performance scheduled, but they may be prevailed upon to repeat it later in the year.
CHOPIN’S LAST TOUR GC Lounge The German Club 26-29 February, 1-5 March
During his life Philip Aughey has combined a love of music, especially that of Chopin, with the love and care of thoroughbred horses. There may not seem to be an obvious connection between the two until you reflect on the capriciousness, sensivity and awareness of being a creature set apart that charaterizes both exceptionally talented composers andmusicians, and the noble horse. Both from his study of piano and lengthy research Philip Aughey has come to a close understanding of the Polish composer. In his protrayal of Chopin, reminiscing towards the end of his life, he highlights both the triumphs and difficulties that Chopin encountered: ill for most of his life, living in the world of aristocrats though never accepted as ‘one of them’, never finding lasting happiness in love, and exiled from his beloved Poland and his family still living there. Despite this, Chopin composed and performed the music that we still love to hear. The narrative is told with humour, pathos and drama. The music serves to support elements of Chopin’s life, and while Philip Aughey does not reach the brilliance of his compatriot, Roger Woodward, he does convey the spirit of the composer and his conflicts through his playing. This perfomance gives a new awareness to the life and music of a great composer.
ELEANOR’S STORY: AN AMERICAN GIRL IN HITLER’S GERMANY
Tandanya Cafe 253 Grenfell Street 24-28 February, 2-6, 9-12 March 7.00pm
by Emily Sutherland
As the title suggests this is a play based on the experiences of a young girl who lived through World War II in Berlin. The family were US citizens, a fact which exacerbated the inevitable difficulties of living in a war-torn city. Working a simple stage settling, with some lighting and images, Ingrid Garner, brings her grandmother’s experiences to life, as she struggles with the idea of leaving her home in Stanford, wonders why she has to ‘Heil Hitler’, when she has never met him, to facing the increasing hostility of the Germans after USA enters the war. As emotionally poignant was her despair when the war had ended and the world had not returned to normal, and the difficulty in settling back in the USA, where none of her contemporaries had any idea of what she had experienced.
It was a brilliant one-woman show, one that held the audience’ attention from start to finish and which rightly earned a long applause.
The Idea of North
by Denis Wall
What better way to open the 2016 Fringe Festival than to hear and see a performance from the Australian a capella group, The Idea of North? The group are regular visitors to Adelaide as the two female vocalists are Adelaide educated. Both Sally Cameron and Naomi Crellin attended Marryatville and the Elder Conserv. The two male Canberrans, Nick Begbie and Andrew Piper complete the group. They are based in Sydney but tour regularly.
In front of a capacity crowd at St Peter’s Cathedral, the group wowed us with their professional performance. Their variety was as usual also marvellous, beginning with a number made famous by the Bee Gees, then numerous ballads and other tunes including a hilarious Gregorian chant.
Part way through the performance we were introduced to a fifth member, Melbourne based tenor Ed Fairlie. He certainly fitted in well, despite some pseudo disparaging remarks from the senior members!
As they often do, the group in delivering their encore song, put down their microphones and using the acoustics of the cathedral, delivered a final masterful performance.
If you were unlucky enough to miss the concert, don’t fret, The Idea of North will be back in Adelaide and Mount Gambier in the middle of the year.
Spiegeltent, Garden Of Unearthly Delights
The Adelaide singer / songwriter is probably best known for her role as backing singer to Sting. By rights she should be just as well known as a performer in her own right, based upon her great show at last year’s Fringe and this even better show. Both of her Fringe shows have been sellouts, a sure testament to her obvious talents.
Supported by hubby Will Vinson on keyboards and (not enough) sax, the brilliant Christopher Hale on 6 string acoustic bass guitar (this man is a genius) plus local drummer Ben Todd, Lawry was able to flesh out her excellent songs, making them all the more compelling. More than this, what really stood out was her crystal like voice, always immaculately tuneful and a simply a delight to listen to.
Lawry’s programme was comprised almost entirely of originals from her back catalogue, most notably last years “Taking Pictures” plus some new material from an album, due out mid year. The sole exception demonstrated that although Lawry dosen’t sing jazz much these days, she has none of her skills, singing in perfect pitch at breakneck speed, brilliant!
This was an absolute highlight and here’s hoping she will return next year for another sellout show, or maybe two.
Lord Of The Strings – Matthew Fagan
There is no doubt whatsoever that Fagan is simply an amazing guitarist. He was technique to burn and in this 90 minute show, to a small but highly appreciative audience, he demonstrated that he can perform at the highest level in just about every genre.
Fagan utilised a classical guitar, a 10 string acoustic, a bright red electric and a ukelele in a remarkably varied programme, highlighting the broad range of styles at his command. Fagan covered much territory including flamenco, blues, rock, traditional, Spanish and so on. Whilst featuring the 10 string, he managed to turn “Greensleeves” into “Stairway To Heaven”, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and back!
In a request segment, he presented a medley of the songs sounding like a composed work, rather than one made up on the spot, great stuff!
The concept is to demonstrate the versatility of the guitar to his audience and along the way have a lot of fun, interacting in a enjoyable way with the gathered.
Fagan interspersed his playing with interesting tales and discussions, all adding to this rewarding night. Recommended.
Garbut has been at the forefront of British folk music for about four decades and this show confirmed just why.
Armed with nothing more than a borrowed guitar and tin whistles (actually made of plastic!) Garbut played an almost two hour set, centered mostly on his latest album, “Synthetic Hues”, recorded two years ago, but only just released. This delay in the release was caused by a year long illness and on occasions it was apparent that he was still recovering, he played only one set of jigs and reels on the whistle, after which he struggled to get enough air into his lungs.
This was of no moment, however, as his guitar playing was as good as ever and his quavering voice was in fine fettle. He also had the very enthusiastic and quite sizeable audience in the palm of his hands, telling no end of hilarious tales. Garbut also provided insights into each song, making them all the more meaningful and captivating.
Standouts were”Diary Of A northumberland Murder”, “The Fallen Of Fulstow” and “Silver And Gold”
A great show from a great performer.
ECHOES The Studio at Holden Street Theatres 10 February to 13 March
A successful piece of theatre is one that keeps you thinking long after the final bows and dimming of lights. Such is Echoes. The writer Henry Naylor has used the device of juxtaposing the lives of two young British women, born 175 years apart, one, a schoolgirl jihadi; the other, a Victorian blue-stocking. Both feel deep discontent with their lives, and travel to other lands hoping that in finding a husband in a new environment they will achieve and a more meaningful existence than Ipswich can offer them. Their stories do not end happily. Both meet tragedy in lands where violence and bloodshed reigns.
Filipa Braganca as Samira and Felicity Houlbrooke as Tillie, acting an almost bare stage with some changes of lighting, bring the stories convincingly to life, although a few times audibility is sacrificed to expression of emotion. Their performances are compelling.
While the initial reaction of the audience is to empathise with the two women, on further reflection there is a greater story. Their fates are metaphors for the destruction wrought by the exploitation of countries and cultures by so called civilized nations. History of individual lives reflects and highlights history writ large. While the women are, individually victims of their society, so too are the men they marry. These men have no redeeeming features, in their brutality and condescension, but can be considered products of their culture and society. By the same token, the two women, as a reaction to their disillusion and anger come to use violence to achieve their freedom, leading to their ultimate demise. Others may see it differently, but Echoes is a play that all should go and see.
REVIEW Emily Sutherland
PROHIBITION The Speakeasy Gluttony 12-28 Februry 9.45pm
A cabaret show with a story line held together by Paddy the Plank and Dirk the Detective. The audience are part of the party and the night I was there we certainly had fun. It made me think of what a travelling show might have been like in the early days of Australia. The speakeasy was not menacing as the big three crime bosses were soon dealt with in a card game by Dirk the Detective. That settled the audience was treated to just over an hour of classy entertainment, by skilled performers. Special mention to the singer, Sidonie Henbest and the Hunch Man who played the audience to perfection by the raising of a finger or a tap of his foot. That was when he wasn’t threatening the manhood of a hapless member of the audience, who held a red balloon between his legs to be used as target practice. All good, and we went out smiling which is a sure sign of a successful show.
Louise Blackwell – A Night In Paris
Louise Blackwell spent some years living and singing in Paris and her love of the city is palpable. Its soul oozes out of every pore and that’s no bad thing. Now she is home and bringing her love of Paris to Australian audiences and if this show is anything to go by, they will just love every moment. Blackwell gave context to her songs with informative insights, even though some in the gathered, including this reviewer, didn’t speak French and so couldn’t understand her vocals. She covered a wide range of styles and handled all with aplomb. She was ably supported by keyboard, bass, violin and guitar, although the guitar appeared to have missed out on being amplified! Nonetheless, the highlight was the excellent violinist, whose name I could, sadly, not catch.
If I have one criticism, it would be that the excellent band did not get enough solo space. This would have added that extra dimension. That said the sole instrumental piece was a delight.
She performs again on the 20th at Gluttony and back at Nexus on the 25th of February, so if you have an attraction to the French side of things, then go see, you won’t be disappointed.
Moonshine Jug & String Band
German Club, 13th February
The Festival / Fringe season has commenced, if you hadn’t noticed! I first saw this bunch at the Adelaide Rowing Club about 40 years ago and they were fun times. Why the reunion? Well, in the intervening years most of the members of this group carved out a living as the rock band, The Angels and went down in history as one of the most successful acts we have produced. With singer Doc Neeson’s departure from this earth the Angels are no more. So the Brewster brothers reformed the jug band and here they are, playing at the Fringe.
As you’d expect, they are all class and with nothing to prove they just had fun performing many jug and blues classics, including “Stealin’ “, “He’s In The Jailhouse Now” and “Nagasaki” There really is not much more to say than this show was just thoroughly enjoyable throughout and the almost sold out audience lapped up every second, giving the band a standing ovation at the end.
If you missed them, then keep your eyes peeled for future gigs and “do yourself a favour”!
Click on icon for review of Faust (State Opera, August 2015)
REVIEW Emily Sutherland
The Royal Commonwealth Society Ensemble -The Best of British
Sunday 20th September
The RCS Ensemble has already presented programs featuring German and French music. On Sunday afternoon it was the turn of the British. It may be tempting to regard British composers as the poor cousins to more frequently featured composers, but the RCS Ensemble, composed of professional musicians, has taken the opportunity to showcase some of the gems in the British musical tiara.
Handel is often adopted as a British composer, and his Concerto Gross Op 3 No 10, was an exuberant and joyful finale, serving to highlight the masterly playing by the young oboist, Joshua Oates. Earlier we heard perennial favourites, Salut d’Amour by Elgar. The violin part played by Esther Cheah brought out the romance and emotion of a work that the composer had dedicated to the woman he was to marry, and Fantasia on Greensleeves by Ralph Vaughan Williams, where Linda Pirie’s flute playing set the mood and charmed throughout.
The concert opened with the Finzi’s 5 Bagatelles for Clarinet and String Quartet. Composed in 1945 this piece reached back at times to the Baroque period, but was ever lilting and wistful. Amanda Home, playing the clarinet, wove her melodic line with assurance.
Once we enter the realm of British music Shakespeare lurks in the wings. His plays and poems have inspired countless musicians. In this instance it was Gordon Jacob who composed Six Shakespearean Sketches, with Jeremy Tatchell reading the extracts from Shakespeare’s work, while musicians then played music related to the reading. To my mind this was the least successful piece in the program, which is no reflection on the abilities of either the reader or the musicians. It was the musical cameos that were not closely allied enough to the mood of the readings. Others may entirely disagree.
Harpist Carolyn Burgess joined the string players in Bax’s Elegiac Trio for Flute, Viola and Harp. Program notes reveal that she once played for Michael Jackson. Let us hope he was as appreciative of her music as were Sunday’s audience.
The RCS Ensemble provide a permanent orchestra for Co-Opera, and in this, as well as the concerts they present, they are adding a valuable contribution to Adelaide’ musical life.
REVIEW Emily Sutherland
Faust by Gounod. Adelaide Festival Theater until August 29
Kate Ladner sings Margeurite
You will not feel short changed if you buy a ticket to see the SA State Opera’s production of Faust at the Adelaide Festival Theatre. It is grand opera, with memorable music, fine singers, a large chorus, dancers and the Devil.
The story is the familiar one of Dr Faustus who sold his soul to the devil for the gift of youth. Once restored to youthful vigour he pursues Marguerite, who finally succumbs, brought down as much by the sight of herself decked in jewels as she is by Faust’s blandishments. Behind it all, like a malevolent puppet master, Mephistopheles manipulates and controls. Marguerite, now deserted by Faust, and cursed by her dying brother, loses her reason. In the end, but there is much suffering on the way The audience on opening night came out buzzing and excited, and that is always a sign of a successful production.In the end goodness defeats evil, but much happens before then.
This production is based on one performed at Covent Garden in 2004. The sets are wonderful, brooding and gothic at times, sylvan, or brash at other times. The lighting, designed by Paule Constable, contributed to this effect.
Dancers ranging from balletic, reminding one of Les Sylphides, to acrobatic and all the way between fleshed out the story line. Praise to the large chorus, singing with gusto and acting effectively.
The orchestra, under the baton of Kynan Johns provided the right balance in supporting for the singers, without being in any way subservient to the music. .
Teddy Tahu Rhodes has the voice and presence to create a Mephistopheles who dominates the stage in a variety of guises and costumes, including a black ball gown which reveals his magnificent shoulders. Maybe he portrays the devil as more cynical than sinister, but there is no mistaking his purpose to bring his victims to eventual doom.
As Faust, James Egglestone through his voice and acting, creates an old man who has lost his moral compass, and, as a young man has become Mephistophele’s toy.
Kate Ladner as Marguerite was outstanding, especially in the famous Jewel Song, and it was a joy to hear her sing the French language.
Mention should be made of the lesser characters. Michael Honeyman, as Valentin had some problems, so he acted his part, which was sung from the wings by Jeremy Tatchell. The two worked in tandem very smoothly, but it is to be hoped that Honeyman does get the chance to sing as well as act by the end of the week. Cherie Boogaart was Siebel, the young man who loved Marguerite, and she, too, sang well. Desiree Frahn was Martha, one of the minor characters who did not have an aria but whose portrayal of the newly widowed woman hoping to make Mephistopheles her new husband (if only she knew) was an absolute gem. Joshua Rowe, as Wagner, sang well.
It’s a long opera, but the pace never flags and at the end we are rewarded with the beautiful trio, as Marguerite wins back salvation for herself and for Faust. The audience on opening night came out buzzing and excited, and that is always a sign of a successful production.