Sweet dreams

7 October 2019

AWESOME Review: Giovanni Consort, Cloud Nine ⋅
Centenary Galleries, Art Gallery of Western Australia, October 5 ⋅
Review by Robert Housley ⋅

Chilling out has little to do with temperature and more to do with relaxing. Adults desire and, arguably, need relaxation far more than children. The so-called wellness craze is upon us.

So the idea of programming a choral ensemble with a show designed to “soothe the senses and focus the mind” seems antithetical for a children’s festival. How are they going to sit still for long enough and will they be quiet while dulcet enunciations permeate the ether?

And then to program it at 10.30am when children are at their most energetic. Brave.

These were my first thoughts. But if inspiring a love of the arts in to “bright young things” is Awesome Festival’s ultimate goal then Giovanni Consort’s glorious expression of music is a great place to begin.

Inspiration is readily garnered by adults and children alike from the nine-member Consort’s offering Cloud Nine, which is a condensed, child-friendly version of its 2019 Fringe World festival show Sleep with Giovanni. So too is wonderment.

The audience members are provided with an eye-mask each before being ushered downstairs in to the bowels of the old section of the Art Gallery of Western Australia. Shoes are taken off in an adjoining room before the small opening-day audience is directed to the cavernous, acoustically generous performance space.

It is a chill-out zone. Yoga and gym mats are spread in concentric rings around a clear, circular central space from where most of the singing is presented. We are told to put on our eye masks and . . . relax.

And then it begins. Stirring voices that defy the capacity of the uninitiated to believe such a sound can emanate from so few people. The power, the beauty and the seamless integration of such a range of different voices is totally overwhelming. With your eyes closed the music simply inhabits your being. Relaxing? Not so much for this reviewer. Rather, gently invigorating.

The group performed four varied works including Sleep (Eric Whitacre), O Salutaris (André Caplet), Kondalilla (Stephen Leek) and Pais Dinogad, regular Consort member Joshua Adams’ arrangement of a 6th Century Welsh lullaby, composed specifically for this show, which was created and directed by Jonty Coy in collaboration with Giovanni Consort Artistic Director Hugh Lydon.

A brief Q&A with the audience afterwards offered a better understanding of the experience and was an important addition.

Junior review by Saskia Haluszkiewicz (aged 9)

Cloud Nine is a treat for all the senses. From the moment I entered the evocative room downstairs at the Art Gallery WA and saw the mats placed on the ground I knew this was going to be an unusual theatre experience. Audience members are asked to lie down and wear eye masks while listening to the beautiful voices of the Giovanni Consort and their quirky selection of instruments. For thirty minutes the stunning voices of the choir soar throughout the room and the eye masks help sharpen your senses and open your mind to a whole new world. You are completely in your own experience and quickly forget the presence of the audience around you.

At the end of the show your body is drawn back down to reality and the performers ask you questions about what you have heard and give you an opportunity to try the instruments. I would highly recommend this delightful show to anyone who loves floating in their imagination and being taken on a musical journey.

Cloud Nine is on Octber 7, 9 and 11 at 10.30am.

Read an interview with the Awesome Festival’s artistic director Jenny Simpson.

Pictured top: Members of the Giovanni Consort  Photo: Rebecca Mansell.

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Author —
Robert Housley

Robert Housley returns to arts journalism following a 20-year hiatus managing performing arts venues. He was the last arts editor of Perth’s Daily News and has worked as a journalist in London, Cape Town and Amsterdam. Robert’s favourite item of playground equipment is the swing and its enduring challenge: how high can you go?

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