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Reviews/Music

Suave sounds

24 August 2020

From HIP to honky-tonk; Rosalind Appleby discovers the musical breadth of the new-look Baroque ensemble HIP Company.

HIP Company, ‘HIP Company at the Ballroom’ ·
23 August 2020 ·

They are young, personable, and they make beautiful sounds. Meet HIP Company (formerly St Andrew’s Baroque) who launched their new-look ensemble at Government House Ballroom on the weekend.

HIP is a reference to the historically informed performance movement that has shaped the interpretation of Baroque and classical music over the past several decades. But the name could be interpreted in several ways; this is a very suave outfit that has arrived on the Perth stage.

Soprano Bonnie de la Hunty is a graduate from early music studies at The Hague and the Royal Academy of Music, while Sarah Papadopoulos (violin) and Krista Low (cello) are proteges of the early music string teachers at the University of Western Australia. Harpsichordist Michael Lukin specialised in the historical keyboard program at the WA Academy of Performing Arts and flautist Jonty Coy is a UWA graduate who has recently turned his focus to early music.

Together they make up a delightful combination of sounds; Coy’s wooden transverse flute filled the Ballroom with a creamy warmth, and was matched perfectly by the purity of de la Hunty’s soprano. Lukin (playing his own harpsichord in its first public outing) and Low were a well-matched continuo team, bringing vigour and focus. Papadopoulos’ beautifully honed violin sound (love those mellow gut strings) was welcome as both a solo and interior voice.

The program on Sunday revealed musicians who know their craft and how to select music that takes the audience on a journey. Corelli’s “Trio Sonata in D major” was energised, perfectly balanced and immaculately in tune (not something to be taken for granted with period instruments.) The program continued with arias from Purcell, Bach and Handel interspersed with instrumental pieces. It was fun to hear a reprise of Bach’s Coffee Cantata which was the first work the group performed together at the 2019 Fringe World Festival. Lukin’s colourful performance of Couperin’s Tombeau de Monsieur Blancrocher was a highlight with its dramatic harmonic corners and moments of potent dischord.

The music was well-served by witty introductions from the performers who didn’t allow their knowledge to get in the way of their personalities. The musical lamenting and wheedling in Bach’s Capriccio on the Departure of Beloved Brother took on almost cartoonish qualities, and there was outright laughter when, in the movement that warns the “departing brother” of various risks associated with travelling abroad, the performers donned medical face masks.

 The Baroque repertoire was offset by occasional side explorations into folk and jazz (who knew a harpsichord could play the blues?). Peggy Lee’s “There’ll be Another Spring” was a magical ending with its sweet melody given a honeyed balm by the classical instruments and Lukin delivering some banjo-like strumming and hot honky-tonk on his harpsichord.

These are versatile and talented performers. The bad news is that the two male members of HIP Company are pursuing studies overseas shortly. However the ensemble intend to continue to perform with guest artists and together – where possible – in both Europe and Australia. I hope it won’t be too long between gigs.

Picture top: HIP Company are Bonnie de la Hunty, Jonty Coy, Sarah Papadopoulos, Krista Low and Michael Lukin. Photo supplied

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Author —
Rosalind Appleby

Rosalind Appleby is an arts journalist, author and speaker. She is co-editor of Seesaw Magazine, author of Women of Note, and has written for The West Australian, The Guardian, The Australian, Limelight magazine and Opera magazine. She loves the percussion instruments which can be found in the uber cool parks.

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