Photographer  Prudence Upton captures the great atmosphere conjured up by the show SECRETS currently playing in the famous Spiegeltent.
Photographer Prudence Upton captures the great atmosphere conjured up by the current show SECRETS.

Sydney Festival is quickly earning a worldwide reputation as unmissable and this quirky, cheeky, flagrant, even luscious presentation is yet another reason this is so.

The first throaty nuanced vocals from  American Conceptualist/ Singer Claron McFadden promised an intimate insight into the foibles and eccentricities of ordinary people from across the world. Her promise is fulfilled as she treated  us to little tales that ranged from a cute pet goldfish requiem right up to tragic and traumatic suicidal admittances that made the audience uncomfortably close to voyeuristic accomplices. But just like the ‘rubber-necking’ motorists queuing slowly past an accident, we were ‘engaged’ and begged for more.

But it was much more than gossip or persiflage,  uplifting and eudaimonic or not.   Ms McFadden’s soaring soprano or plunging contralto was ably complemented and matched by virtuoso musicians, Tuur Florizoone on Piano Accordian, Marine Horbaczewski on Cello and Michel Massot playing Tuba and Trombone. But when I say playing it doesn’t really begin to explain what these talented trio accomplished in the short hour we had together.

The compositions ranged from beautiful and catchy during Claron McFaddon’s whimsical little stories about a secret tipple taking old senior lady,  to eerie and scratchy accompanying her cacophonous, almost mentally unbalanced rant of admissions repeating on an ever tightening spiral! (Her invitation to the audience was to “See if you recognise any of these passing secrets in yourself?!”)

I’ve never seen an Accordion played like a drum, heard a Cello screech like a cat or watched a giant Tuba used as a didgeridoo, complete with  that famous circular breathing technique that makes the continuous characteristic drone possible. Moreover,  Messrs Florizoone and  Massot  on Accordian and Tuba  respectively were so engaged with the audience, and in character,  that it was hard to look away.

My only reservation was that, a good as Ms McFadden’s scatting was, I would have liked a couple more songs with lyrics. But let me hasten to add, as a modern jazz  phobe, (I don’t particularly like it),  I was converted; at least for yesterday’s performance!

The final song, the encore we had to have, (“We call it ‘Groove’. I don’t know why.”) saw Michel Massot and Tuba transform easily and clearly,  into a giant frog fossicking by a water hole! Magical, mesmerising –  bravo!

A Sydney Festival event, SECRETS, produced by Muziektheater Transparent, JazzLab series, Aventura Musica and co produced by Opera Days Rotterdam with the support of  Flagey, is playing the Famous Spiegeltent in Hyde Park between the 9th and the 11th January.