Live local music is always a plus

12 August 2021

How about fun, fresh and diverse live music as the perfect antidote for a dreary Tuesday night? Tiffany Ha reviews Wind Quintet Plus.

Wind Quintet Plus, Musica Viva ·
Perth Concert Hall, 10 August 2021 ·

I always love Musica Viva events. Maybe it’s because I have fond memories of them coming to my primary school and teaching us about all these weird and wonderful orchestral instruments and demonstrating irregular time signatures (I distinctly remember having my mind blown when I learned that 7/8 was a thing). And maybe it’s because they put together really exciting, diverse and enjoyable programs, drawing from a wealth of local, interstate and international performers.

Sadly, Ensemble Q – who were scheduled for last night’s performance – got stuck in Queensland due to border closures. But luckily for us, Musica Viva (without skipping a beat) recruited local talent Wind Quintet Plus for an absolutely delightful offering of chamber music that would have had most audience members saying: “Ensemble Who?” (no shade!).

Spirits were high during Musica Viva artistic director Fiona Campbell’s welcome speech. She reminded us how lucky we are to be able to attend concerts: “Yay! We’re here!”. Percussionist Paul Tanner eased us into the night’s musical journey (“a travelling expedition for the ears”) with a jaunty conga solo for Valerie Coleman’s joyous, festive Umoja – First day of Kwanzaa (2001) and was progressively joined on stage by the wind players, quasi-flash-mob style, with Stephanie Nicholls on oboe, Catherine Cahill on clarinet, Diane Riddell on flute, Wendy Tait on French horn and Joanne Littlely on bassoon.

Next up was Australian composer Ross Edward’s Laughing Moon (2012), a suite of bagatelles inspired by the birdsongs and frog rhythms of the Australian landscape. The work is based on one of his earlier works, Djanaba (which translates to ‘laughing’ in the language of first nations people from the Sydney basin). The ensemble captured the distinct character of each bagatelle, juxtaposing buoyant dance motifs with slow and sinuous fugue-like textures. I especially enjoyed Tait’s majestic horn solos, answered by Nicholl’s flitting, mystical oboe lines in the fourth movement, “Moon Song”. There was a lovely sense of synergy and collaborative leadership within the ensemble.

One of the highlights of the evening was seeing Tanner flex his chops in French composer Emmanuel Séjourné’s Attraction (2017)for marimba, vibraphone and audio. The ten-minute piece was an exhilarating display of virtuosity and a fascinating exploration of sonic possibilities. The eerie introduction – which featured indiscernible drones, bells, bowed vibraphone and splashes of cymbal – was a fitting contrast to episodes of blisteringly fast, kaleidoscopic marimba/vibraphone lines. Tanner made it look so easy: he plays with astonishing fluidity, with the most chilled-out facial expression I’ve ever seen on a classical musician.

The rest of the program took us to France – with Riddell’s gorgeous rendition of Debussy’s solo flute piece Syrinx (1913) and a fantastical, whimsical version of Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite (1910) arranged for wind quintet and mallet percussion – and then Latin America, with a Piazzolla Milonga and two foot-stomping numbers by contemporary Cuban-American composer Paquito D’Rivera.

What I loved most was seeing how much the musicians genuinely enjoyed playing this fun, fresh and diverse selection of pieces. I certainly couldn’t ask for more on a dreary Tuesday night in the middle of a global pandemic.

Pictured top: L-R: Wind Quintet Plus are Joanne Littlely, Paul Tanner, Wendy Tait, Stephanie Nicholls, Catherine Cahill and Dianne Riddell. Photo supplied

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Author —
Tiffany Ha

Tiffany Ha is a pianist, composer, arranger, music educator and vocalist with a soft spot for anything a cappella. She has degrees in Music (Composition) and Arts (English) from UWA and works as a freelance musician. Her favourite playground equipment is anything that involves climbing and balance: monkey bars, rope towers, trees, human pyramids!

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