A very exciting and quite intriguing concert formed the latest of the Prelude in Tea series, The Marais Project and Elysian Fields in TIMES AND SEASONS .
The first half celebrated the twenty years since The Marais Project was founded and also heralded the release of a new CD on Marin Marais’ 363rd birthday on May 31. (1656-1728) From humble beginnings in 2000, The Marais Project has become a national leader in the creative presentation of music for the viola da gamba. Led by Jennifer Eriksson, while specialising in the French baroque period, the ensemble’s repertoire has expanded to include new Australian works and sophisticated arrangements of folk music as documented in 6 CDs, several of which were launched at The Independent Theatre .For this performance the Marais Project consisted of Belinda Montgomery ( soprano), Leif Henrikson ,( viol) Tommie Anderson ( lute/theorbo), Jennifer Eriksson ( viol), Catherine Upex( cello) and Susie Bishop ( soprano, violin) .
Beginning the program was the somewhat abstract cantata La Retour de la Paix (1709) by Michel Pignolet de Montclair ( 1667- 1737) . It opened with brisk and spritely scurries and flourishes. The second movement ebbed and flowed and was rather melancholic. It featured Henriksson on viol and Anderson on lute. The third movement had a vibrant dance like melody with soprano Belinda Montgomery’s voice delicately soaring above it, In the fourth movement with its slow, stately, emphatic beat, the music flowed underneath Montgomery’s floating voice .The next movement featured bubbling, cascading cellos and viols, then the next movement became a dialogue between the cellos and viols with Montgomery. It all led to a vigorous, dancelike conclusion.
Then we heard Marais ‘ Suite in G Major for two viola de gamba and continuo.The first movement was refined, lush and flowing, richly multi layered. The second movement was a brisk animated discussion. After an emphatic start the third movement was an elegant, refined discussion by the whole ensemble.
The final piece to take us to interval was A Beautiful Summer, a traditional Swedish folk song (arr. T. Anderson) Anderson delicately began on the theorbo and is joined by Henrikson and Upex on viol and Susie Bishop, who exquisitely sang the rather haunting, wistful song .
The second half of the program, featuring living composers, was brought to us by Elysian Fields Australia’s only electric viola da gamba ensemble and here represented by Susie Bishop (voice),Matt Keegan (sax), Jenny Eriksson (electric viola da gamba),- Matt McMahon (piano), Siebe Pogson (bass) and Finn Ryan (drums). It had a very different feel to the first half and we heard music from, and inspired by, Scandinavia with a cool ‘ jazz’ atmosphere.
Cold Soul by Matt Keegan began with shimmering, quivering drums and featured a smoky saxophone. The piano dominated and rippled.
Peace on Earth by Sofia Karlsson (Arr. M.McMahon) featured cascading piano, pulsating drums and Eriksson on the electric viola da Gamba. Susie Bishop’s singing was poignant passionate and haunting.
Vi Ska Skalla (a Swedish folksong , arr S. Bishop) was next with Bishop both singing and on violin. With an emphatic beginning, it had a catchy infectious melody .
The Garden Party by Jenny Eriksson inspired by Marais’ Fete Champetre had a vibrant dance feel then changed to be elegant, gliding slow and stately. Each member of the ensemble was briefly featured.
The Tragedy/The Journey by Siebe Pogson followed .The first half was rich, lush and limpid with Bishop singing a smoky lament .It then changed to a quite upbeat, boppy snazzy melody and featured a hot saxophone solo by Matt Keegan .
After rousing, very enthusiastic applause, for an encore we heard the compelling and moving Believe Beleft Below ( arr. J Eriksson ) .
Running time just over 2 hours including interval
TIMES AND SEASONS played for one performance only on 26 May 2019 at the Independent Theatre
Photos by Philip Pogson (c)