Music

‘WONDER’ – VOX : SYDNEY PHILHARMONIA CHOIRS @ UTZON ROOM SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE

Above : Composer Ella Macens, one of the several Australian composers featured in this programme. Photo credit : Darwin Gomez. Featured image : Vox members in rehearsal. Photo credit : Roland Kay-Smith.

Vox is the young adult choir under the umbrella of the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs. Its latest concert, ‘Wonder’, presented original choral works and arrangements for choir which explored the joy and fragility of childhood.

This vivid hour of music was thoughtfully programmed and narrated by Vox’s conductor and musical director Elizabeth Scott is an asset to Sydney Philharmonia Choirs and wonder-ful musical parent to the talented vocalists of Vox.

The choir’s crisp and agile unison voice, a cappella precision, timbral diversity and impressive composite talents of Vox members in ensemble and solo roles were keenly showcased in this compact concert event.

Through varied pieces and solo spots, joy or wonder were explored alongside tragedy and loss. The emotional predicaments leading to the ten composers’ creations were always developed in clear,
colourful and slick performances.

A joyous resilience and sharp momentum resulted from Vox’s refined attack and arsenal of technique with which to manipulate their choral sounds to instantly achieved the required pure and intense emotions. Exquisite ensemble blend, controlled soft singing, instrumental-like vocal accompaniments and staggering control with flexibility of tone to emphasise even single syllables of text were the order of the afternoon.

The clever and entertaining vocal works of Martin Wesley-Smith should be more frequently programmed. Here, Vox promoted this composer with excerpts from his work Who Killed Cock Robin (1979) for chamber choir. We also heard the Wesley-Smith’s conservation song Who Stopped the Rain?

All pieces were a delight and the choir devoured the intricate textural challenges and complex musical humour. ‘Freddie the Fish’ and ‘I’m a Caterpillar of Society’ were offered to us by Vox with candid and complete caricature as well as a modern child’s affinity with conservation.

Heartache in Eric Whitacre’s When David Heard was sung with a wealth of word painting across a well-handled myriad of languages. In this work one line of biblical text on King David losing his child Absalom is repeated in several languages and musical guises. Vox delivered these intensities and linguistic challenges with skilful musicianship and focussed sorrow, fulfilling the composer’s wish to convey sorrow and grief after a friend’s son died.

The return after that to English only for excerpts from John Rutter’s Five Childhood Lyrics featured continued clear text delivery despite the texture or vocal part structure. The choir were as always sympathetic accompanists for their colleague’s solo voice in Rutter’s quirky manipulation of childhood
nursery rhymes. The requisite subtle atmosphere and balance in Rutter’s work were successfully supplied.

Profound sorrow and measured degrees of stillness were produced across the choral parts early in the hour as Vox sunk into the grief of Australian composer Nigel Westlake’s Nasce la gioia mia (My Joy is Born). Continued demonstration of precision, balance of parts and cutting-edge colouring of music and words across any language featured in this outpouring.

One exciting creative force in the programmed music was Ella Macens, a local composer who was present on the day. Her beautiful lullaby in Latvian text, Neviens Putninš was in good hands with Vox.

Contemporary choral devices which can challenge choirs were many in this work. Birdsong sound effect, a flux of shifting tensions and eventual resolutions, greater division of the standard vocal parts and the chance to float with timeless modern lyricism were mastered like veritable childs-play by this athletic choir. The result was a memorable performance of Macens’ choral extension of the original Latvian tune.

The concert concluded with arrangements by Australians of pop songs ‘Fragile’ (Sting arr. Carl Crossin) and ‘Isn’t She Lovely’ (Stevie Wonder arr. Andrew Piper- from Idea of North). Again the pieces benefitted from contrasting individual  sounds of two soloists from the ranks of Vox. These vocalists were engagingly pitted against  the vocal band’s intricate accompaniment.

These familiar pop songs ended the concert with in exciting and innovative style. The success of these arrangements again owed as much to Vox’s virtuosic abilty to deliver lyrics and emotion as well as be fit enough for the gymnastics required to bring the score to life, sounding quite effortless.

Throughout ‘Wonder’ we as audience often watched the performances in youthful, joyful and justified wonder as Vox entertained us with prodigious talent, disciplined and timeless choral communication and an ability to create stunning sonic atmospheres.

THE CHOIR OF MAN @ THE STUDIO

 

Blokes singing in a pub, some good banter, a bit of tap dancing, some practical jokes and the playing a few musical instruments sounds like a great night out. The infectious bonhomie of this show is hard to resist. Added to this are their delightful harmonies, a pleasing balance of voices and free beer. Before the show the audience is encouraged to walk up to the bar on stage and grab a beer. Again, this is hard to resist.

The narrator weaves together a story about the merits of an intimate local watering hole, the benefits of friendship with diverse characters, and some references to their partners so that they can launch into some superb arrangements of popular songs such as Queen’s Somebody to Love, The Pina Colada Song, The Proclaimers’ I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles), The Kinks’ Waterloo Sunset and The Impossible Dream.

With the help of some participation from a talented lady chosen from the audience their rendition of Eagle-Eye Cherry’s Save Tonight is one of the funniest songs of the night. The line “So take this wine and drink with me” helped to continue the alcohol infused evening’s theme.

Just as I was beginning to think these nine men from UK are a choir that have added some dialogue and choreography they took out their instruments and played guitar, piano, banjo, trumpet, ukulele, melodica and drums. It’s a more dynamic show than a straight choral performance and features some very talented artists.

THE CHOIR OF MAN, brilliantly directed by Nic Doodson is a fun show and is highly recommended. The audience was clapping and cheering, up on their feet and having a great time. THE CHOIR OF MAN is playing the Studio at The Sydney Opera House until 7th April, 2019.

 

SAM ALLCHURCH PICKS UP RICHARD GILL’S BATON WITH HIS DEBUT CONCERT

The Sydney Chamber Choir has has a new Music Director Sam Allchurch. This is after the recent passing of its long time and much loved Music Director Richard Gill. Sam is picking up the baton with his debut concert Saturday week, 30th March at the Great Hall, Sydney University. Music lovers are in for a treat. Mr Allchurch  shared his thoughts about the first program he has curated.

Taking on the mantle of musical director of Sydney Chamber is a very exciting prospect for a choral conductor – something akin to be handed the keys to a Rolls-Royce!  

To begin our time together, for my first concert as Music Director, I was keen to perform one of the great motets of JS Bach, Singet dem Herren ‘Sing to the Lord a new song’. This is a tour de force of virtuoso choir writing and one of my favourite pieces: joyful and ebullient in its outer movements and beautifully reflective in the slow middle movement. I was also drawn to Singet by the skill of the singers in Sydney Chamber Choir, one of the few ensembles in Australia who can tackle music of this complexity.

I designed a program of music which is about music. In some cases this is obvious – from the Italian Renaissance, Palestrina’s Kyrie from Missa ut re mi fa so la is based on the major scale and Elliott Gyger’s ut queant laxis picks up on the same idea.

In other cases, the link is more subtle – Joseph Twist’s How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? and William Byrd’s Quomodo cantabimus set singing as a means of consolation in difficult times – Twist in contemporary Australia and Byrd in 16th century England. Twist’s piece combines the Latin psalm text with poetry of Oodgeroo Noonuccal to make us think about the relationship between what we are singing and where we are singing it. Continue reading SAM ALLCHURCH PICKS UP RICHARD GILL’S BATON WITH HIS DEBUT CONCERT

AUSTRALIAN CHAMBER ORCHESTRA : BEETHOVEN AND PROKOFIEV

 

A most glorious concert full of superb playing by the ACO under the guest leadership of Lorenza Borrani who was very stylish in elegant black culottes.

What was interesting to note is that all three works were not originally written for a string orchestra.

First we heard PROKOFIEV’s Violin Sonata No.1 in F minor, arranged for violin and strings by Borrani. It was given a powerful, passionate performance. The cellos and basses generally took the piano parts, with the violas acting as the middle of the keyboard, the violins on top.

The first movement opened sombrely and sorrowfully and featured an eloquent, almost heartbreaking solo by Borrani. The cellos and double bass rumbled in agreement with Borrani’s anguished statement, the violins then joined the discussion. The music became shimmering and floating yet sharp and spiky. This then changed to a somewhat lighter mood and melody that swirled and pulsated.

The second movement had a very energetic opening by the cellos and double bass, with a rather ominous march like tempo.
Borrani was fiery and defiant with sharp, spiky flurries. An angry discussion developed between the two sections of the Orchestra with Borrani attempting to be a peacemaker. A relentless driven rhythm took us to the dramatic ending. Continue reading AUSTRALIAN CHAMBER ORCHESTRA : BEETHOVEN AND PROKOFIEV

ALLY and POLYMORPHIC ORKESTRA DOUBLE BILL

Family-friendly venue, Lazybones Lounge is hosting an exciting double bill of new Afro-Peruvian Jazz group ALLY performing with well-established Jazz trio Polymorphic Orkestra on Sunday April 14th, 2019.

ALLY will kick off the evening in style at 6.30pm. Ally uses a blend of Afro-Peruvian music and jazz to create a rich fusion of African rhythms, Latin melodies and modern jazz harmony. Their music explores the meeting point of ancient and new cultures and the polyrhythmic tension that rises from overlaying contrasting music structures.

Afro-Peruvian Ensemble ALLY are:
Eamon Dilworth: Trumpet Gai Bryant: Saxophones and Flute
Jonathan Cohen: Piano Stamatis Valacos: Double Bass
Giorgio Rojas and Steve Marin: percussion

For audio samples please go to: 
http://www.gaibryantspareparts.com/ally

“There are plenty of fine trumpeters in the world, but Eamon Dilworth’s own place in it stands distinctive ” — Barry O’Sullivan Presenter of A Jazz Hour – Fine Music 102.5fm

Polymorphic Orkestra will then hit the stage. Each Polymorphic performance is unique however some do share themes. They play freely but there is always melodic and harmonic interplay with a large dash of rhythmic invention.

Polymorphic Orkestra are:
Lee McIver: Trumpet / Flugelhorn / Laptop /
Ed Goyer:Vibraphone / Mallet Kat / Samples
Ed Rodrigues: Drums / Percussion / Samples

For audio and video samples please go to: 
http://www.polymorphicorkestra.com

“[Polymorphic Orkestra] creates contemporary improvisation of a very high order-not only does the listener experience the joy of spontaneous creation by the players but also, and this is I think pretty unusual, you are left with memorable snippets of tunes and melodies that stay with you long after the music ends.” — Chris Baber, Jazz Views

All are welcome to come along and enjoy fabulous artists performing culturally diverse Australian original music. Doors are open from 5.30pm with food, including a Sunday roast, available from the restaurant.

Tickets are on sale now through http://lazyboneslounge.com.au and available at the door. If you have questions, please contact the venue on 0450 008 563. For more information contact Gai Bryant on 0415 063 662 or email: gaibryant@hotmail.com

The price is $15 Full and $10 Concessions & Students.

DATE FOR THE DIARY
Sunday April 14th 6.30pm-9.30pm at Lazybones, 294 Marrickville Road, Marrickville. The entrance to Lazybones is on Illawarra Road.

For more about ALLY & Polymorphic Orkestra Double Bill, visit http://www.lazyboneslounge.com.au
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REFLECTIONS OF OPERA IN CINEMA @ ROCKDALE TOWN HALL

 

Cabaret

Rockdale Opera Company presents: REFLECTIONS OF OPERA IN CINEMA, A CABARET.  This will be a cabaret celebration of musical highlights of Opera in Cinema Featuring Megan Chalmers, Nik Roglich, Julie Paik and many more, accompanied by the Rockdale Opera Company ensemble.

DATE FOR THE DIARY 
Saturday 13th April 2019 at 2pm and 7.30pm at Rockdale Town HalL, 448 Princess Highway, Rockdale.

For more about Reflections in Opera in Cinema Cabaret, visit http://rockdaleopera.com.au
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PIANO EX MACHINA COMING SOON TO THE CON

 

photo credit Raphael Neal

PIANO EX MACHINA is the latest mind-bending piano and multimedia international tour by award-winning London-based pianist, Zubin Kanga. Kanga returns to Australia this April to perform newly commissioned ground-breaking works exploring video games, internet culture, 80s action cinema, sci-fi, 3D motion sensors, interactive visuals, analogue synths, stop-motion animation and Artificial Intelligence.

Following his acclaimed 2015 DARK TWIN and 2016 CYBORG PIANIST tour, Zubin Kanga returns in a program of ground-breaking works for piano and multimedia by some of the hottest composers from around the world.

DATE FOR THE DIARY
13 April 2019 7.30pm-9.30pm at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music

For more about Zubin Kanga’s Australian premiere of Piano Ex Machina, visit https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/piano-ex-machina-sydney-tickets-58007621357
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ELYSIAN FIELDS CD LAUNCH @ THE FOUNDRY

 

To say the least, an electric viola da gamba is an uncommon instrument. Consequently, I had little preconception of what Thursday’s CD launch would entail. The simple answer is that it is all about exceptionally creative and innovative music and extraordinarily skilful performers that display their considerable talents with complex and intriguing compositions.

Jenny Eriksson’s electric viola da gamba is at the heart of Elysian Fields and she is joined by the impressive contributors: pianist Matt McMahon, saxophonist Matt Keegan, vocalist and violinist Susie Bishop, bass guitarist Siebe Pogson and Dave Goodman on drums. Their diverse backgrounds might seem at odds but it is fascinating how the classical, baroque, jazz and folk sensibilities can complement each other when the compositions, arrangements and skills of the musicians are all of such a high standard. The delicate interplay of styles and the impeccable harmonies are some of the features that make this unlikely mixture very entertaining and enriching. Continue reading ELYSIAN FIELDS CD LAUNCH @ THE FOUNDRY

CHAMBER POT OPERA RETURNS TO SYDNEY

Following seasons in Adelaide, Edinburgh and St Petersburg, Russia, CHAMBER POT OPERA returns to Sydney to play in Australia’s foremost Opera venue, the Sydney Opera House for its final season, commencing 11 April 2019. Tickets went on sale on Friday 22 February.

 CHAMBER POT OPERA tells the story of three women who meet for the first time in a public bathroom. One is in an abusive relationship, another is terrified that she has come on too strong on a date, and the third has been promoted through the glass ceiling to land her dream job. Together they sing of shared histories, traumas and fantasies using a catalogue of popular music from the operas of Puccini, Mozart and Bizet.

The production will be performed  for only 42 audience members at a time in the elegant Playhouse Ladies Bathroom at the Sydney Opera House. The three performers will utilise the entirety of the splendid and intimate space from the bathroom sinks and decorative mirrors to the hand dryers and toilet stalls to weave together a story in a setting where women can safely express themselves.

Originally performed in November 2016, this new season of CHAMBER POT OPERA Is due in no small part to the Sydney Opera House’s commitment to creating new operas for contemporary audiences as well as its commitment to fostering new, young, and exciting artistic talent.

CHAMBER POT OPERA features a talented team of singers and creatives from NIDA and the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Created by director Clemence Williams (Banging Denmark), musical director Keiren Brandt-Sawdy (Mansfield Park) and dramaturg Thomas De Angelis (Unfinished Works) and with a cast including Sally Alrich-Smythe (The Phantom of the Opera), Britt Lewis (Rent) and Jessica Westcott (La Boheme), this production brings together Australia’s next generation of opera performers and creators.

Director and co-creator Clemence Williams says that this season “is the culmination of three years of touring the world and bringing our message of the timelessness and beauty of opera to the masses, one bathroom at a time!” The idea for the show came from Williams’ own experience being a performer confined to the ‘bitches, witches and breeches’ roles in opera.

http://www.sydneyoperahouse.com.au

THE METROPOLITAN ORCHESTRA : A NIGHT AT THE MOVIES-MET CONCERT#1

 

 

Above : the climactic scene in ‘The King’s Speech’ made use of Beethoven’s Symphony No 2 (2nd movement) as heard in this concert. Featured image: a powerful performance of John Williams’ Superman March was included in the first half of this concert.

OPERA AUSTRALIA : SALOME @ DAME JOAN SUTHERLAND THEATRE

Above: Gennadi Dubinsky as First Soldier, Paul O’Neill as Narraboth, Alexander Krasnov as Jokanaan, Lise Windstorm as Salome, Ryan Sharp as Second Solider and Alexander Hargreaves as Cappadocian. Featured image: Lise Lindstrom as Salome. Photo credit: Prudence Upton.

A visually stunning and musically riveting version of Richard Strauss’ Salome is now playing at the Sydney Opera House’s Dame Joan Sutherland Theatre. Opera Australia’s revival of this 2012
production is a compelling modern romp. The quality creative team and cast deliver a slick and penetrating performance event to us on a scintillating platter.

Presented without interval, this focussed tranche d’opera is an attractive package for all assembled. Vivid set design from Brian Thomson works very well with John Rayment’s relentlessly excellent lighting so the scandalous, self-centered and seedy world of Herod, Herodias and the manipulative young Salome are appropriately packaged.

There is a captivating rear tapestry with repeated full body x-rays which respond in savage mood-ring-like lighting sequences to reflect the manipulation of the sacrificial beast or prophet and the hysteria levels of other cast members. From a steamily lit cell comes John the Baptist’s voice foretelling the arrival of Jesus Christ to help the Tetrach Herod and other lusty punters repent.

The conflicts of faith, behaviour and persecution or imprisonments various on this layered stage set for this Biblical tale are many. This opera requires a troupe of fine character actors to satisfactorily
depict the predicament of all trapped dramatis personae from Oscar Wilde’s play.

Opera Australia’s version is not wanting in this regard. Even the mute moments of movement and curiosity depicted by the slaves and guards around the cell and Salome are fleeting moments
brimming with expression.

The infamous dance of the seven veils demanded by Herod of his step-daughter Salome is given a modern boost thanks to the innovation of choreographer Kelley Abbey, continued lavish and tongue in cheek costuming from Julie Lynch and a big salute to recent pop culture and fetish icons. The dance styles include pole dancers and acrobatic aerialists thrill. A favourite twentieth century movie star celebrity and special interest sex outfits are also tangled up in the stage drama as  fitting caricatures for Herod’s dwelling.

The successful stage chemistry is gilded not just by suggestive outfits but a realisation of Richard Strauss’ challenging vocal score and pointed German translation of Wilde’s play. Conductor
Johannes Fritzsch leads the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra in a compelling and bold delivery of the musical emotions throughout, from the tiniest motif to broader utterances.

Lise Lindstrom’s command of the stage, the music and facets of her character saw her work as an unfailing triple threat opera superstar. The crowd supplied primal cheers and applause at the conclusion at a fitting level for Salome’s demonstrated bloodlust.

The hero’s applause Lindstrom’s powerfully diverse tone and characterisation received rivalled any Australian sporting hero’s sideline screaming of fans. And rightfully so, as her chillingly athletic performance is not to be missed.

In the role of Herodias Jacqueline Dark’s beautiful timbral depths combine with cheeky and confrontational movement around the set swathed in wonderful colour. Andreas Conrads gives a lively performance as the failed lecherous King Herod in degrees of emotional and physical deshabillé as he struggles with the prophet, his women and his higher compulsive power. All crowned with a somewhat whimsical gold headpiece.

When either de profundis off stage or chained before us, Alexander Krasnov as the prophet Jokanaan’s vocal strength above the rich orchestral layer haunts us. His ensemble interactions are full of otherwordly mysticism and he moves as one whose cause can’t be silenced even if he is decapitated at the angry whim of a teenager imprisoned in a strange adult world.

This is a darkly sensual and exciting piece of theatre from which you just can’t turn away. Its compact length, visual packaging and directness make it a perfect vehicle to celebrate or introduce opera for us in a modern audience as a completely relevant and powerful way to be entertained.

Salome plays at the Dame Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House until March 26.

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