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.

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

DEGENERATE ART @ THE OLD FITZ

Presenting the noble artistic credentials of one of the most evil group of men in history to the knowledgeable Old Fitz theatre crowd is a very clever conceit. Theatre crowds generally have artistic interests. They frequent cinema, galleries, music venues and museums and would not expect themselves to be confronted with the vile Nazis displaying their affection, knowledge and desire for the various genres of creativity. Take these themes and meld them with some fine writing, directing and strong performances and you have impressive theatre.

The opening monologue introduces the idea of the humanity of these creeps but then slowly breaks their personalities down into their foibles, prejudices, vanities and pathetic weaknesses. The play runs at a frenetic pace as it presents the history and examines what art was considered suitable and what art was declared degenerate. Narrator Megan O’Connell presents a timeline of major events starting with the groups’ disillusionment with the state of their country in the aftermath of World War 1 and how they coalesce into a group that rides on bigotry and injustice to lead Germany and then invade large swathes of Europe. Simultaneously the actors present scenarios of their artistic interests or those foisted on them by Hitler’s dominant personality and his particular taste in art, music and architecture. Continue reading DEGENERATE ART @ THE OLD FITZ

ASSANHANDO QUARTETO @ FOUNDRY 616

Assanhado Quarteto played bright and cheery Brazilian Jazz at Foundry 616 on the last night of their Australian tour. They played numerous songs from Feira, their first album. Feira means market in Portuguese and it is the music of the street that the quartet brought to the Foundry 616 crowd. You can imagine this music being played in a noisy & vibrant Brazilian marketplace.

I find that at Foundry 616 you not only get to listen to great music but you also gain an education. The band featured an instrument that looks like a small ukulele called a cavaquinho. Lucas Ladeia plucked away through both sets with energetic and skilful high pitched tinkling. Our education continued with some songs in a Brazilian style called choro, a word that translates as crying. Paradoxically these songs have a snappy rhythm and a joyous feel. We learnt about and listened to Forró, the catchy and dynamic dance music of north eastern Brazil, and other songs that were redolent with deep emotion.

In contrast to the tiny cavaquinho André Milagres played a rich and vibrant seven string guitar. Its beautiful resonant tones and André’s extraordinary musicianship gave great balance to the band. André and Lucas played off each other providing enjoyment for themselves and the audience. Joining in this camaraderie was Rodrigo Magalhaes on bass and Rodrigo Heringer on drums.

Assanhado Quarteto put on a fine show at Foundry 616. Their music is played with skill and passion and is often spirited and lively whilst at other times evoking deeper emotions. Assanhado Quarteto played at Foundry 616 Wednesday, 17th October, and hope to return next year. They are a band worth seeing.

 

 

 

THE GREASY CHICKEN ORCHESTRA : GOOD MUSIC FOR THE SOUL @ THE FOUNDRY

Shut your eyes and imagine you are on a riverboat on the Mississippi. The Greasy Chicken Orchestra takes you to 1930s New Orleans with lots of energy, harmonising horns and some classic jazz tunes.

The Greasy Chicken Orchestra is an eight piece ensemble  led by Phillip Johnston, an American saxophonist and composer who lives in Sydney, and still plays occasionally in New York City. Four saxophones lead from the front of the Foundry 616 stage surrounded by piano, guitar, banjo, drums and a sousaphone.

Opening with a rollicking version of Jelly Roll Morton’s Wolverine Blues. This was followed by Louis Armstrong’s Potato Head Blues and a Duke Ellington’s tune. Phillip Johnston joked that they could only go downhill from a start featuring these great legends. Rather than go downhill the band went on a different tangent with a sultry version of Panama and a longingly, heartfelt rendition of I Want a Little Girl, an uncomfortable title for today’s audience. The first set also included Zooming at the Zombie and a toe tapping version of At Sundown with just the right amount of cowbell. Continue reading THE GREASY CHICKEN ORCHESTRA : GOOD MUSIC FOR THE SOUL @ THE FOUNDRY

MAGGOT AT THE SYDNEY FRINGE FESTIVAL

MAGGOT is funny, silly, full of energy and definitely worth catching.

Performers Angela Fouhy, Elle Wootton and Freya Finch are playing characters that were ostensibly  the international pop sensation The Baby Girls. They explain they are moving away from pop and into art, possibly to talk about the stock market but possibly to talk about themselves. MAGGOT is part comedy sketch show, part musical cabaret and part circus. The artists’ clowning background shows in their dance routines, fight scenes and being lost in the desert but surreal dialogue and eclectic music choices has the audience laughing, cheering and clapping. It is such a fun show that the audience eagerly participates when requested. Continue reading MAGGOT AT THE SYDNEY FRINGE FESTIVAL

DANIEL ROJAS & ORQUESTA LA LUNA TANGO: SULTRY AND PULSING

 

Uno, dos, tres, cuatro, and the passionate tango of Daniel Rojas & Orquesta La Luna Tango is pulsing through Foundry 616 in Ultimo. The sultry music of Latin America fills the packed out venue with love songs and dance rhythms.

The opening set features Daniel Rojas solo on piano performing a variety of songs from Argentina, Peru, Chile and Cuba and excerpts from a Bach prelude. Songs included Consuelo Velázquez’s Bésame Mucho, Piazzolla’s Libertango and Resurrection of the Angel, Mambo Influenciado, the classics Guantanamera and El Cóndor Pasa and an evocative 17th Century liturgical composition. Daniel also played his new composition, Idillico, an expressive song about love. Daniel shared some of his extensive knowledge the indigenous, folk and popular music of Latin America with brief and informative comments on the history or context of the song. Continue reading DANIEL ROJAS & ORQUESTA LA LUNA TANGO: SULTRY AND PULSING