A big crowd gathered last Sunday afternoon for the performance of Elysian Fields, an off-shoot from the Marais Project created by Artistic Director Jenny Eriksson, composer / pianist Matt McMahon and Sax-specialist Matt Keegan. Being a part of the infamous “A Prelude in Tea” series at The Independent Theatre drew many regular sweet tooth subscribers to the large cake buffet but, there were plenty of new faces attending as well.
The stage featured a unique mix of classic contemporary band instruments (drums, bass, sax and keys) mixed with violin and Eriksson’s stunning electric viola da gamba. The ensemble took a relaxed meander through a diverse program from re-arranged folk songs, jazz and new works. The starring piece was a World Premier written especially for the group “I dreamed I moved among the Elysian Fields” based on a poem of the same name by Pulitzer Prize winning poet Edna St Vincent Millay. The composer Gordon Kerry is much in demand in the classical music world and was there to read the poem before his composition began. The piece flowed in a dream like creation expertly interpreted by singer Suzie Bishop and was very well received.
The program also featured a large portion of Swedish songs arranged by Bishop, McMahon and Tommie Anderson. Also works written by the ensemble members McMahon, Keegan, Eriksson and bass player Siebe Pogson. The majority were easy listening, something you might play at the end of the day to wind down. The order of pieces was beautifully put together creating a flow as if wandering through a garden where each turn of the path reveals a new feature in the garden… It matches the name of the concert beautifully. A Singular Path.
The overall presentation of the group is well rehearsed and workshopped. The drums seemed to provide more of a soundscape rather than a beat to grab hold of which added to the dream like wandering. There were some gorgeous saxophone solos by Keegan and singer Bishop, who doubled on violin, was an absolute stand out star. With a humble, relaxed attitude she would explain the meaning of each song as if you were sitting in her lounge, then shimmy in her skin tight dress whilst imparting the music in a crystal clear voice. Anything from a smouldering, sexiness in the surprise “folk song” Vi Ska Ställa Te En Roller Dans (We shall make ourselves happy) through to being the drama queen teenager losing her first love in ‘The Tragedy’. The audience adored her.
After much applause at the close of the program, the group burst into a classic styled, upbeat jazz encore that left everyone buzzing. A great afternoon’s entertainment and a joy to see Eriksson’s project be so bold in trail blazing a new path for Australian composers and arrangers.
Find out where you can see Elysian Fields performing next on their website: https://www.maraisproject.com.au
Performers: Jenny Eriksson, Susie Bishop, Matt Keegan, Matt McMahon, Siebe Pogson, Dave Goodman.