Ensemble of musicians
August 19, Calendar, Music, Performing arts

Music: Quartet for the End of Time

18 August @ Dr Robert Braham Auditorium, Trinity College ·
Presented by Chimera Ensemble ·

Messiaen’s iconic Quatuor pour la fin du temps (Quartet for the End of Time) performed by some of Perth’s best chamber musicians – Geoffrey Bourgault du Coudray, Semra Lee-Smith, Melinda Forsythe, and Tommaso Pollio. The musicians will be joined by baritone Robert Hofmann to perform a new chamber work, composed by Perth composer Emma Jayakumar.

Ticket prices: Adults $30; Concession $25; Student $15. (Door Sales) Light refreshments included. Discount for pre-purchased tickets is automatically applied.

As ‘The Quartet for the End of Time”  has been included in the ATAR recommended chamber music list,  the concert is recommended to ATAR music students.

Dr Robert Braham Auditorium is in the Brother O’Doherty Cultural Centre, Trinity College, Trinity Ave, East Perth

We are proud to be supported by Trinity College.

More info
W: www.trybooking.com/BAYDE
E:  chimeraensemble@gmail.com

From left: Geoffrey Bourgault du Coudray, Melinda Forsythe, Semra Lee-Smith, Tommaso Pollio, Robert Hofmann, composer Emma Jayakumar.
Credit: Nik Babic Photography

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5 musicians with instruments
Calendar, June 19, Music, Performing arts

Music: Art & Soul Concert

27 June @ Blue Gum Community Centre, Brentwood ·
Presented by Music Book ·

Seniors and their family and friends are invited to wear their dancing shoes for the next Art & Soul Concert featuring Aquila Music, a dynamic ensemble comprised of classically trained string players who’ve teamed up with a drummer, who will create a delightful mixture of light classics, golden oldies and beautiful modern songs.

Proudly supported by the City of Melville and Forgotten Books, the dementia-friendly concert is suitable for people of all ages, and includes light refreshments.

Tickets: $10 adults, free for children and companion card-style carers

More info
W: www.trybooking.com/BAJGI
E:  musicbookstories@gmail.com

Aquila Music playing in the Art & Soul Concert in June

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Music, News, Performing arts, Reviews

World premiere a thrill for Perth

REVIEW: Musica Viva, Doric String Quartet ⋅
Perth Concert Hall, June 9 ⋅
Review by Ron Banks ⋅

The launch of the world-renowned Doric String Quartet’s national Musica Viva tour was an auspicious occasion for Perth. The performance featured the world premiere of Australian composer Brett Dean’s third string quartet. Programmed between European composers Haydn and Schubert, whose traditional approach to the quartet form is now so well-known and deservedly loved, Dean’s modernistic approach was a complete contrast – but by no means less enjoyable or inventive. Dean is a man of his times of course, as were Haydn and Schubert, and his approach to composition is based on the tempo and issues that confront us in the 21st century.

His String quartet No. 3, subtitled Hidden Agendas, is inspired by, as Dean notes in the program, “the strangely fascinating and invariably unsettling political climate of extreme personalities.” Introducing the world premiere from the stage, Dean amplified that comment by referring to a certain US president. The work is also influenced by the world of modern media, the bombardment of messages by the digital devices we all possess and, to quote the program notes again “other challenges to the democratic process.”

Quite a formidable canvas of issues on which to draw, but Dean is bold in his approach to the string quartet format with five movements that display not only his adventurous compositional skills but the brilliant talents of the Doric String Quartet.

The work begins with the sounds of the digital age expressed musically – noises both subtle and loud of the messaging in this century. There is dissonance, aggression in the notes wrought from the violins, viola and cello that convey a sense of unease. This is a work that aims to unsettle, provoke and confront.

Subsequent movements keep up the tension and confrontation, with little time for relaxation or release. Hidden Agendas is a thoughtful, inventive and complex work that deserves our attention and succeeds remarkably well in getting and holding that attention. The Doric String Quartet, who are familiar with Dean’s previous two quartets, must have thrilled the composer with their interpretation.

Now regarded as one of the leading quartets of the younger generation, the UK-based ensemble moves easily between Dean’s 21st century concerns and the old world of European music with its charm, tradition and familiar comforts. Haydn’s String Quartet in E flat major Op 33 is a case in point. Subtitled The Joke because of its ending (we don’t know quite how it will end as the musicians tease out the final bars), the work draws on all kinds of cheeky influences – from comic opera and folk music to the tarantella – to make its bouncy, jaunty impression. The Doric Quartet’s interpretation is, as to be expected, flawless and full of finesse in conveying the sense of joy and humour inherent in Haydn’s Opus 33.

Their execution of Schubert’s no 15 quartet in G major is similarly flawless to the point of majestic. Rather long at 45 minutes for a string quartet, Schubert demands a lot from the players and the Quartet’s energy and skill never falters, which makes the experience of listening to this first-class ensemble entirely pleasurable.

The Musica Viva Doric String Quartet tour continues to Melbourne, Adelaide, Newcastle, Sydney and finishes in Brisbane on June 26. Tickets online.

Pictured top: Hélène Clément, Alex Redington, Ying Xue, John Myerscough from the Doric String Quartet.

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Orchestra playing
Calendar, June 19, Music, Performing arts

Music: Baroque: Rebel, de Filippo, Zelenka and Martinu

29 June @ Callaway Music Auditorium ·
Presented by Izaak Wesson and the Perth Orchestra Project ·

Join the Perth Orchestra Project and conductor Izaak Wesson for an evening that challenges your expectations of the ‘Baroque’ style. POP is very proud to present this programme of unorthodox, and rarely performed works in association with Artists-in-Residence Cecilia Sun and Rob Gladstones. POP also welcomes Composer-in-Residence for this season Stephen de Filippo, whose new work for harpsichord and orchestra will be premiered in this concert.

Experience the eclectic, bold, and ultimately astounding compositional styles of Rebel, de Filippo, Zelenka and Martinu in this one-off performance at the Callaway Music Auditorium.

More info
W: www.facebook.com/PerthOrchestraProject/
E:  saskia.willinge@perthorchestraproject.com.au

Pictured: Izaak Wesson Conducts the Perth Orchestra Project, (c) Finlay Cooper 2018

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Music, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Operatic thriller

Review: Freeze Frame Opera, Tosca ⋅
Centenary Pavilion, Claremont Showgrounds, June 8 ⋅
Review by Rosalind Appleby ⋅

Tosca is opera’s closest thing to a thriller. Puccini’s late romantic opera with its jealous lovers, political activism and gender violence is set within Napoleon’s imminent invasion of Rome and unfolds in a seamless blend of arias, recitatives and choruses.

The design team behind Freeze Frame Opera’s groundbreaking productions of La Boheme and Pagliacci have transformed the Centenary Pavilion at the Claremont Showgrounds into an opera set of cinematic proportions. In typical FFO style the opera has been trimmed and subtitles adjusted to sharpen the action, but the key elements remain and purists won’t be offended. Plus the audience gets to experience the show from grandstand seating while enjoying pizza and beverages – what’s not to love?

Director Rachel McDonald has updated the opera to the Cold War. On opening night crackling loudspeakers announce the escape of the political prisoner Angelotti, who staggers into the pavilion through a side door.  The painter Cavaradossi and his lover the famous singer Tosca help him escape and the suspense begins as Scarpia, the chief of police begins to hunt them down.

Robbie Harold’s set design makes fabulous use of the pavilion, maximising its vastness for the Act One cathedral and Act Three warehouse (with prisoners arriving for execution in the trunk of a vintage car). Even more impressive was the almost claustrophobic intimacy achieved in Act Two. Curtains framed the chief of police Scarpia’s office, revealing at various points Scarpia showering (in silhouette) and the graphic torture of Cavaradossi (a dramatically committed Jun Zhang) taking place. Meanwhile front and centre Scarpia (a menacing James Clayton) attempts his final conquest: the rape of Tosca.

Harriet Marshall as Tosca, wreaking her revenge on Scarpia (James Clayton). Photo Robert Frith.

But Scarpia’s political and social power is crumbling and as Tosca wreaks her revenge police agent Spoletta (cast in a fabulous twist as a woman) watches with grim satisfaction. This is a post #metoo Tosca (sung by Harriet Marshall) who takes charge, masterminds rescues and brings hope to those around her, ultimately at great cost.

McDonald’s characteristic attention to detail deepens the story. The meta-narrative is elucidated by Mia Holton’s video projections (Scarpia’s face is superimposed onto the Madonna, Tosca becomes a poster girl for the revolution) while McDonald’s stage direction draws out extremes of tenderness and violence from her cast. Even Jerry Reinhardt’s lighting helps develop character (a halo spotlight for Scarpia) and Tommaso Pollio at the piano invests Puccini’s voluptuous score with real emotion.

Clayton is terrifying as a vocally imposing, glass-smashing Scarpia and Pia Harris is a mix of swagger and frustration as the bullied Spoletta. Kristin Bowtell is a desperate Angelotti and Robert Hoffmann doubles as the Sacristan and Jailer. Zhang, his voice a little worse for wear, nevertheless steals the show with his exquisitely intimate O dolci mani (Oh sweet hands). Gliding through it all is Marshall, singing with vocal splendour as the glamorous, jealous, terrified and gutsy heroine.

FFO has done it again; don’t miss this thrilling night at the opera!

Tosca continues at the Centenary Pavilion until June 14.

Pictured top:  Scarpia (James Clayton) seducing the unwilling Tosca (Harriet Marshall). Photo by Robert Frith.

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His Majesty's Theatre
Calendar, Jazz, July 19, Music, Performing arts

Music: King Street Corner Pocket Jazz Festival

4-6 July @ Various Venues around King Street ·
Presented by WAYJO ·

WAYJO’s King Street Corner Pocket Jazz Festival returns to the city this July.
Boasting 55 shows and more than 200 performers, the festival showcases WA’s top emerging and established jazz musicians. City venues include His Majesty’s Theatre, The Sewing Room, the InterContinental Perth City Centre Hotel, Cheeky Sparrow and Prince Lane. Performances start at 5.30pm, 6pm, 7pm, 7.30pm, 8.30pm and 9pm. Tickets from $15 each from www.ptt.wa.gov.au

More info
W: www.ptt.wa.gov.au
E:  marketing@wayjo.com 

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Two percussionists perform with a bass clarinet player and pianist in the back ground
Music, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Musical artefacts

Review: Intercurrent Ensemble, ‘Walkman Antiquarian’ ⋅
UWA Callaway Auditorium, 27 May ⋅
Review by Eduardo Cossio ⋅

Developments in technology brought new performance tools for musicians in the 20th century: transistor radios, turntables, and voltage-controlled synthesizers made their way into concert programs. At the same time, the rapid pace of technology rendered many of these artefacts obsolete. Walkman Antiquarian, by Perth ensemble Intercurrent, presented a program of works featuring bygone-era devices along with modern equipment in a concert that evoked themes of nostalgia and discovery.

John Cage’s Credo in US is a piece for prepared piano and found objects. Tin cans, a buzzer, a radio and turntable are used to create a performance full of non sequiturs. The original version from 1942 starts with a phonograph playing a classical music excerpt (Cage suggested something by Dvořák, Beethoven, Sibelius or Shostakovich). Intercurrent’s version had Ashley Smith cueing pre-recorded samples from a mixer. Bombastic orchestral music was heard in the loudspeakers and then cut short by the loud clanking of tin cans played by Louise Devenish and Jackson Vickery. Emily Green-Armytage followed suit with repeated phrases on the prepared piano, adding melodic contours to the clangorous racket. It was a wild ride of free-roaming sounds and musical passages. In a solo section, Green-Armytage played a teasing melody reminiscent of Western films; at another, a radio emitted topical news regarding the recent election. Intercurrent’s conciliatory approach bound these elements together but the anarchic spirit of John Cage was missing. It would have been interesting to see more engagement with the randomness of the radio (only one station was used), or having not just one, but several orchestral excerpts play during the piece. Perhaps more stress on the aleatoric elements within the composition would have brought about the ‘unknown outcomes’ Cage sought in his work.

Two new premieres by local composers followed. Intimate Distance by Olivia Bettina Davies pits acoustic sounds against a backing track of faint, whistle-like harmonics. Bass clarinettist Ashley Smith played pinched tones in the upper register; his playing was strained, as if wanting to match the roughness of the audio track. Devenish bowed on the marimba eliciting whispering noises and pianist Green-Armytage provided dry, scattered sounds akin to drops of rain. The handling of the material was nuanced, creating a sense of motion that brought different instruments to the fore and then receded them into the background.

Composer Lachlan Skipworth’s reworking of Beata Viscera, by the 12th century polyphonist Perotin, is a response to the recent burning of Notre Dame Cathedral. An audio track of crowds singing hymns during the incident was slowed down and further processed; Smith, Devenish, and Green-Armytage played alongside these sombre vocalizations. Perotin’s modal canticle was repeated over and over in long sighing phrases. Skipworth’s writing is austere and spacious, with a looseness that feels comforting.

Franco Donatoni’s Soft 1 and 2 for solo bass clarinet was a departure from the general theme of the concert; rather, it is part of Ashley Smith’s ongoing investigation into the works of this Italian composer. Donatoni is an interesting figure in 20th century music; early in his career he aligned himself with the ultra-rationalist composers at Darmstadt (Bruno Maderna, Luigi Nono, Karlheinz Stockhausen), and was later influenced by the chance operations of John Cage; an about-face in the polarized milieu of the fifties. Donatoni’s career was marred by depressive episodes and stretches of almost no activity, but he wrote profusely in his later years; Soft 1 & 2 belongs to this period. Smith’s performance had a thespian quality, he seemed to channel an inward, brusque character absorbed in a monologue. There were hiccupping figures followed by silence, and low caressing tones contrasted with high-pitched assertions. It was a thoughtful performance that broadened the scope of the concert. While some pieces in the program flirted with more experimental approaches, Soft 1 & 2 sat firmly within the tough, virtuoso tradition of the European avant-garde.

But the core of the concert was Walkman Antiquarian, a work by the Australian-born Berlin-based composer Thomas Meadowcroft. The piece juxtaposes acoustic instrumentation (piano and a wide array of percussion instruments) alongside degraded audio samples. There was something Cagean in the realization as Jackson Vickery and Devenish explored and manipulated a variety of objects: they poured beads on pulsating speaker cones; in a rotating turntable there were bowls, paper and wood from which they obtained glitch sounds; a glass of water was emptied, and at some point, a tree branch was used as a shaker. On one side of the stage, Green-Armytage played broken chords that evoked the coolness of minimalism and post-rock, the restrained figures  intertwined with noise textures triggered by Smith on a keyboard. The ensemble brought a sense of discovery, of being caught up in the creative process. It was a satisfying conclusion to a concert whose well-considered program was carried out with great deftness.

Pictured top: L-R: Emily Green-Armytage, Ashley Smith, Louise Devenish and Jackson Vickery. Photo Olivia Davies.

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Music, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Singing the message

Review: Perth Symphony Orchestra, ‘Girls Night Out’ ⋅
Astor Theatre, May 30 ⋅
Review by Rosalind Appleby ⋅

The Perth Symphony Orchestra is a diverse orchestra with repertoire that ranges from Mozart to George Michael. On Thursday night they added Madonna to the list for Girl’s Night Out, a concert featuring songs written by some of the greatest power women in history. Chief conductor Jessica Gethin leapt onto the podium and introduced the all-woman line up with exuberance: orchestra, singers, arrangers – even the lighting and stage crew – were all women.

The evening was about celebrating and elevating women and as Perth’s favourite soul singer Odette Mercy (Ofa Fatu) belted out  Chaka Khan’s I’m Every Woman it was clear we were in good hands. With the help of pick-up mics and gutsy bowing the orchestra provided the rhythm section supplemented by percussion, keyboard, saxophone and drumkit. Mercy’s  luscious voice soared easily over the top.

A Samoan singer is backed by three vocalists and an orchestra
Odette Mercy grooves with the Perth Symphony Orchestra. Photo by Angelyne Wolfe.

It’s tough to cover some of the greatest singers of all time but PSO’s soloists were outstanding. Contemporary singer Sophie Foster channelled Aretha Franklin with a mix of power and vulnerability that was impossible to fault. Her cover of Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance with Somebody sparkled with vitality thanks to the tasty harmonies of backing singers Alana Fay, Chelsea Cullen and Mia Matthiesson – nothing beats three-part harmony sung by voices as sweet as these.

Lucy Peach, of ‘My Greatest Period Ever’ fame, arrived on stage to sing a sleek version of Madonna’s Material Girl. Minogue’s Can’t Get You Out of My Head drooped a little but Peach’s sultry growl was perfect for Winehouse’s Rehab, with tenor saxophone solos from Erin Royer adding extra grunt.

Blues-folk singer Rose Parker delivered a heart wrenching original number She Makes Her Future before rocking out to Piece of My Heart by Janis Joplin, ‘the biggest-ovaried singer in the history of music’. Tina Turner’s What’s Love Got to Do With It and the Divinyls’ I Touch Myself had the audience singing along. But it was the irresistible combination of all four singers belting out the Spice Girls’ Wannabe that finally got the (mostly female) crowd dancing.

Straddling classical and popular genres is not as easy as it looks; fortunately PSO commissioned arrangements which ensured neither the song nor the orchestra come out looking foolish. Stephanie Nicholl’s visceral arrangement of Beyonce’s Single Ladies (low strings have so much grunt) , Kathy Potter’s rumba version of Franklin’s Sisters are Doin’ it for Themselves, and Nicholl’s plaintive string quintet arrangement of Parton’s Jolene utilised the intimacy and power of the orchestra.

The irresistible combination of Parker, Mercy, Foster and Peach. Photo by Angelyne Wolf.

As the songs rolled by with their messages of endurance, politics, love and survival, there was a sense of warm solidarity in the room. Historical facts about the songwriters were projected on a screen (did you know Nina Simone studied piano at Juilliard School?) as PSO brought a spirit of celebration and inspiration to the #metoo conversation. Unfortunately the need to elevate women was illustrated by a male spectator who verbally abused another audience member, ironically missing the memo from Aretha: R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

But the music prevailed. My enduring memory will be of Odette Mercy stumbling over the lyrics in Adele’s Someone Like You as the act of singing took her on a journey down memory lane. The strings swelled beneath her achingly sweet melody line, and when she hesitated the audience took over. “It just shows the power of singing,” she explained afterwards. “Some things are cleverly hidden within and don’t come out unless you sing”.

Pictured top: Perth Symphony Orchestra bring a spirit of celebration and inspiration. Photo: Angelyne Wolf.

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Cast of a Rock Opera, Gothic appearance
August 19, Calendar, Music, Performing arts, Rock

Music: The Diments – An Original Rock Opera

1 – 3 August @ The Astor Theatre, Mount Lawley ·
Presented by Platinum Entertainment ·

The Diments is a big original rock score, and a musical plot with a dark twist.  The brainchild of Perth artist Keshet, an international veteran musician and sound engineer, and his writing partner Lefelman, The Diments Rock Opera is a dark tragedy about falling from grace into the realms of insanity, and one man’s quest for redemption.

More info:
W: www.platinumperth.com/whatson/the-diments-2019
E:  publicist@platinumperth.com.au

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Head shot of man
Calendar, Classical music, July 19, Music, Performing arts

Music: Tchaikovsky Symphony No.5

4 July @ Perth Concert Hall ·
Presented by West Australian Symphony Orchestra ·

Grief, joy and triumph.

Estonian-born Hendrik Vestmann makes his WASO debut with Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony. This irresistible work explores the agonies and ecstasies of fate, journeying from a bleak funeral march to a powerful conclusion. We open with the kaleidoscopic textures of Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Nyx, named after the Greek Goddess of the night.

The performance commences at 11 am.

More info
W: www.waso.com.au/concerts-tickets/whats-on/concert/Tchaikovsky-Symphony-No.5-morning
E: waso@waso.com.au

Pictured: Hendrik Vestmann – Tchaikovsky Symphony No.5

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