All posts by Mark Pigott

A memorable part of Mark’s childhood, in Sydney in the sixties, was spent queuing up in George Street to watch the latest movies. Mark remains an avid cinema and theatre goer, and believe that the essentials of great drama remain the same in both ‘'genres'’. Mark’s other interests are photography, cricket and rugby. He is happy to discuss the finer points of swing bowling at any time.

LE GATEAU CHOCOLAT ‘ICONS’ : A FANTASTIC SHOW

From his dramatic entry from the rear of the Magic Mirror Spiegeltent to his closing with a singalong version of Whitney Houston’s HOW WILL I KNOW, Le Chateau Chocolat comes up  with a fantastic show. Admittedly, in the singalong he didn’t think the Sydney audience was up to reaching the high notes so he said that he would take it from there. This and similar asides during the concert were performed with charm and humour.

He performs a variety of songs from his musical heroes and links them with stories about his life. Madonna is his number one icon but he also plays loving tributes to various disco artists, David Bowie, Meatloaf, Pavarotti and a few fairly eclectic performers. His interpretations are heartfelt, innovative and make full use of his wide ranging powerful voice.

Le Gateau Chocolat entertains us with his soundtrack from when he completed the London marathon. When the audience laughs at his finishing time he takes them to task, explaining what a herculean task it was and the similarities he now has with Usain Bolt! Continue reading LE GATEAU CHOCOLAT ‘ICONS’ : A FANTASTIC SHOW

JULIA HOLTER @ THE SPIEGELTENT

Pic by Tonje Thilesen

Performing in the spectacular Spiegeltent, Julia Holter’s ambitious post-rock music reflects on the turmoil and disharmony of a post truth world. There are moments of extraordinary beauty in her and the band’s performance but she is quick to subvert the melody and introduce tension and discordance. The overall sound is an intriguing mixture of pop, classical and dissonant music.

Her ethereal voice is employed as another instrument and often soars with Dina Maccabee’s violin and Sarah Belle Reid’s trumpet or flugelhorn. Her voice is at times reminiscent of Regina Spektor, Nico or Kate Bush but she has her own style and is quite happy to let her vocals blend in with the other instruments to achieve the sound she is creating.

Julia’s music has been described as melding influences from classical music and baroque to post-rock, 70s pop and folk, and found sound, all held together by her electronic keyboard and delicate vocals. There are also Eastern European folk influences, especially when Tashi Wada is playing the bagpipes. Continue reading JULIA HOLTER @ THE SPIEGELTENT

THE NUTCRACKER AND I : A SUBLIME AND ENCHANTING EXPERIENCE

 

The Nutcracker and I, by Alexandra Dariescu, with ballerina Désirée Ballantyne, animations by Yeast Culture, and choreography by Jenna Lee. Photo by Mark Allen

Blending a piano rendition of Tchaikovky’s romantic melodies with 35,000 digital images and a live ballerina THE NUTCRACKER AND I produces a purely enjoyable and magical creation. Having both a world renowned concert pianist and ballerina performing against constantly changing colourful backgrounds and characters is a sublime and enchanting experience.

The production of THE NUTCRACKER AND I is quite beautiful but an unusual format. Images are projected onto a see-through black gauze screen at the front of the stage. Pianist Alexandra Dariescu and ballerina Désirée Ballantyne are illuminated behind the screen. The images tell the classical Nutcracker story. Snow is falling as the Silberhaus family decorates their Christmas tree. The magician and toymaker Drosselmeyer arrives. Presents are exchanged including a nutcracker. Clara’s dream that night includes the nutcracker fighting with the Mouse King before being transformed into a prince. The familiar story continues with matching images, both static and dynamic, on screen.                                               Continue reading THE NUTCRACKER AND I : A SUBLIME AND ENCHANTING EXPERIENCE

THE WEEKEND @ CARRIAGEWORKS

 

Shakira Clanton is outstanding In Henrietta Baird’s harrowing one-woman play, THE WEEKEND. She dances, swears, laughs and cries as she tells Lara’s story of her search, in various pockets of Redfern, for her wayward husband. She embodies the voices of a variety of women, men and children. These various characters are full of personality and contrasts. Drug use is prevalent in this community and Shakira captures the different levels of degradation apparent in their voices as she searches through some decrepit drug dens in the towers of Redfern. Her performance as Lara captures her humanity, foibles, humour and determination of this wonderfully written character.

This play focuses on the conflicts of a mother who loves her children and goes interstate for three weeks work so that she can provide for them. She leaves them in the care of her partner Simon, the children’s father, but his drug addiction leads him to abandoning the children. She has seen many admirable aspects of Simon but as she discovers the drug houses he frequents and the women he has relationships with she begins to realise more about the situation and about herself. Continue reading THE WEEKEND @ CARRIAGEWORKS

PAMELA SHAW PRESENTS : NAUGHTY…WITH A BAND

 

Pamela always wanted to be a performer. She wanted ballet lessons when she was six years old but her mother, a former model, disdainfully rejected that idea. Ballet dancers get fat legs. She eventually found her people by a fairly meandering path and became a performer, and in Naughty, Pamela tells the story of the some of highs and lows of her show business life. The joys and sorrows are linked by a selection of songs that lend insight into her remarkable life. Her voice is well suited to the show tunes that make up a considerable part of this show.

Pamela has been inspired by Roald Dahl’s Matilda. Matilda’s strength and intelligence and her ability to reject negativity are some of Matilda’s inspiring characteristics. Pamela sees Matilda’s willingness to take risks as a creed to live your life by. After opening with It’s Possible (In McElligot’s Pool) by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty from the musical Seussical she jumps into Tim Minchin’s Naughty, from Matilda The Musical. These lyrics from Naughty give us significant insight into Pamela’s life. She set out to climb the hill to show business, ran into various difficulties and in the end decided you have to take risks and make your own way. Continue reading PAMELA SHAW PRESENTS : NAUGHTY…WITH A BAND

ELEANOR AND MARY ALICE @ THE SEYMOUR CENTRE

 

Petra Kalive and Adu Sappir in Eleanor and Mary Alice

What happens behind the scenes at major points in world history? Are the men who are world leaders discussing sport and are their wives discussing catering? In Peta Tait’s play, ELEANOR AND MARY ALICE, we discover that these are some of the peripheral elements of world events 70 years ago. Eleanor Roosevelt and Mary Alice Evatt, respectively the wives of the President of the United States and of the Minister for External Affairs, met several times and this play presents one meeting in Sydney during World War II and a second meeting in Paris in 1948. They discuss modern art, writing, speech making, morale boosting, diplomacy, refugees and the burden of catering.

The 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is 10th December 2018. ELEANOR AND MARY ALICE celebrates and examines this significant occasion. Peta Tait’s play is both an intimate exploration of the relationship of these two fascinating women and a wider look at equality, refugees, the roles of women and world history.

Sarah McNeill plays Eleanor and nicely captures her as a privileged patrician. Petra Kalive has a complex character to portray and strikes a good balance as she explores Mary Alice’s artistic and painting background and her Australian homeliness and her role as a politician’s wife.

A highlight of the performance is the cello playing of Adi Sappir. The music supports the text and adds wonderful atmosphere and commentary to the drama. Adi’s singing is fascinating and adds to the evening’s sublime music. She sits on stage with her cello and the dramatic lighting makes a striking image.

Director Deborah Leiser-Moore draws excellent intimate performances from Sarah McNeill & Petra Kalive. She mostly has them right in the middle of the room between the two halves of the audience. The two halves of the audience are facing each other. We feel like we are listening in to private conversations. The disadvantage of this format is one has to twist around to see the images projected on a side wall. The projections are mostly of paintings being discussed and are partially obscured by the audience.

ELEANOR AND MARY ALICE reminds us of the origins of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As human rights are deteriorating in Australia and around the world this Declaration should not be taken for granted. ELEANOR AND MARY ALICE has a brief run at the Seymour Centre until 8th December. Other events that reflect on the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are a public address on ‘The Decline of Human Rights Protection in Australia by Gillian Triggs on 9th December and a public forum on ‘The Next 70 Years at the University of Sydney on 10th December.

Petra Kalive in . Eleanor and Mary Alice

CHARENEE WADE @ FOUNDRY 616

 

Jazz singer Charenée Wade used her dynamic voice and her considerable performance skills to entertain the full house at Foundry 616 for the second last night of the Sydney International Women’s Jazz Festival.

The evening opened with an instrumental featuring the outstanding pianist Oscar Perez. His energetic and embodied performance drew on both his Cuban roots and his New York background. Local musicians Brett Hirst on double bass and Paul Derricott on drums supported and complemented this world class pianist. Continue reading CHARENEE WADE @ FOUNDRY 616

BILL MURRAY, JAN VOGLER & FRIENDS : NEW WORLDS

 

Vanessa Perez, Jan Vogler, Bill Murray, Mira Wang. Pic Ben Apfelbaum

Bill Murray opened his Sydney Opera House show by reading from the last interview Ernest Hemingway granted. “Hemingway: I used to play cello. My mother kept me out of school a whole year to study music and counterpoint. She thought I had ability, but I was absolutely without talent.”

Murray could well be warning us that he is without talent as a singer but that he believes in himself, or perhaps his mother believed in him, and he enjoys singing, and his acting skills allow him to convey the story and emotions of the songs he chooses. He is accompanied by an exquisite world class, classical trio which would be a joy to listen to on their own but they are absolutely enthralling as they blend with Murray’s performance.  The trio is made up of cellist Jan Vogler, violinist Mira Wang and pianist Vanessa Perez. They have performed as soloists for world renowned orchestras, including The New York Philharmonic, Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Bill Murray recites, reads, sings, and dances his way through a variety of works. After opening with George Plimpton’s interview from The Paris Review with Ernest Hemingway he read an excerpt from Walt Whitman’s Song of the Open Road: “Let us go! whoever you are come travel with me! Travelling with me you find what never tires.” This was followed by nature lover James Fenimore Cooper’s The Deerslayer, fittingly coupled with the music of another nature lover, Franz Schubert. Continue reading BILL MURRAY, JAN VOGLER & FRIENDS : NEW WORLDS

HELEN SUNG AND SYDNEY WOMEN’S JAZZ COLLECTIVE

The Sydney International Women’s Jazz Festival kicked off at the fabulous Foundry 616 in Harris St, Ultimo with a great set from the Sydney Women’s Jazz Collective  before they were joined by the outstanding American pianist Helen Sung.

I thought that the Sydney Women’s Jazz Collective was playing at a level above their normal entertaining selves.  Opening with a lyrical folk song allowed Louise Horwood on trumpet to display her impressive skills. This was followed by Berlin based Silke Eberhardt’s composition Max Bialystock, featuring Alex Silver on trombone, Kali Gillan on baritone sax and Ali Foster on drums. Ali was especially impressive.   Of course, any reference to Mel Brooks’ The Producers should bring a smile to the audience.

A Paul Cutlan song, Knock on Effect, opened with some staccato guitar work before the horn section took it away in a different direction. The collective came into its own with Freyja Garbett’s Bulga. Opening with a blasting wall of horns the band toned it down with a smooth interlude before raising the tempo with a Laura Corney soaring sax solo and then taking it down again with some very mellow piano. Freyja switched from piano to some quirky synthesiser to complete a complex and diverse number.

Loretta Palmeiro’s tenor sax was the highlight of Lift, a song that also featured some mellow piano and Hannah James’ punchy double bass.

Saltwater, a brand new piece by Harri Harding was premiered at this opening night of the Sydney International Women’s Jazz Festival. Harri was there to introduce and conduct the piece. Initially this was to be a piece about loss, reflecting experiences that recently occurred in Harri’s life. Harri was pleased that the composition’s aesthetic turned out to be hopeful, which he felt was much more satisfying. It was a special treat to experience the richly varied composition with its sounds evoking birds and water.

The second set featured American pianist and composer Helen Sung. Helen explained she has had an eclectic music career and originally started in classical music. She told us how the Californian North Coast Brewing Company commissioned her to write a theme song for their Belgian style beer. Belgian beers were originally made by Trappist monks but as America had its own monk and the brewmaster was a jazz fan she composed Brother Thelonious. Helen then played Diego Rivera’s arrangement of Brother Thelonious with some very Monk like bass and heavy piano.

This was followed by a Thelonious Monk song, Oska T. Helen introduced the song by explaining that Monk’s music is geometric, that is it goes in all directions. This was a soaring version that got the audience moving in their chairs. Helen made the piano talk and the horns put on their A game, with Ellen Kirkwood outstanding on trumpet.

From her latest album, Sung with Words, she performed Convergence. As the notes, rhythms and harmonies collided in a manic high energy piece it stylishly lived up to its name. Sung’s performance of Monk’s Reflections was a sublimely beautiful rendition with the impressive Loretta Palmeiro featuring on saxophone. Next up was a highly energetic and creative rendition of Duke Ellington’s It Don’t Mean a Thing. Helen Sung’s clever blending of the classical jazz and the discordant avant-garde was an exciting way of looking at this well known song. Her encore went even further back into the history of jazz to ragtime and Carolina Shout by James P Johnson. Her virtuosity as a pianist was celebrated by the audience with rapturous applause.

Helen Sung is a special talent and is highly recommended.

Helen Sung was at Foundry 616 on Wednesday 7th November.  She returns on Friday 9th November.

The Sydney International Women’s Jazz Festival runs until 17th November.

 

JURASSIC LOUNGE : HALLOWEEN @ THE AUSTRALIAN MUSEUM

 

It’s a Saturday night in Sydney and the Australian Museum is holding a ghoulish fancy dress party. There are numerous other bars and dance parties in Sydney but none that have the gothic spaces, skeletons and stuffed animals of the Australian Museum.

The morbid Sydney crowd embraced the macabre theme and dressed as ghosts, skeletons, handmaidens, axe murdered victims, Red Riding Hood and her wolf, Cruella de Vil, droogs, zombies and a great variety of macabre characters. The crowd was happily terrorised by deadly, giant black birds as they entered the museum and then presented with a diverse arrangement of Halloween suitable activities.

The various bars and the silent disco were enthusiastically embraced. The bars were serving beer, wine, cider and devilish cocktails and at the disco you could choose from three DJs with a simple flick of the switch on the supplied headphones. Continue reading JURASSIC LOUNGE : HALLOWEEN @ THE AUSTRALIAN MUSEUM

RENATA ARRIVOLO TRIO @ FOUNDRY 616

Renata Arrivolo, at the piano, had good patter with the audience between songs

Jazz pianist Renata Arrivolo performed two sets of mellow instrumentals on Thursday night at the delightful Foundry 616. There is nothing artificial or flashy about her piano playing. It is smooth, highly competent, understated and on point with her excellent double bassist, Josh Spolc, & innovative drummer, Alex Masso.

The set list included mostly original tunes, opening with a tribute to pianist & composer Geri Allen. ‘Autumn Song’ showcased Josh Spolc’s creative work on the double bass and was followed by ‘Beautiful’, a tune Renata dedicated to her wife and which lived up to its title. A bright and cheery rendition of ‘Someday My Prince Will Come’ followed. Its catchy chord progressions are always irresistible.

The seasons featured again with Renata’s own composition, ‘Spring’. She explained that it is influenced by her very hip local birds in Mortdale that happen to warble in fourths. Piano and drums engaged in a marvellous conversation. Alex Masso excelled in this piece with his vast variety of skills. The first set concluded with a very enjoyable singalong version of ‘When Irish Eyes Are Smiling’. Continue reading RENATA ARRIVOLO TRIO @ FOUNDRY 616