Music, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Exhilarating and absurd

Review: GreyWing Ensemble, ‘Text’ ⋅
The Sewing Room, October 8 ⋅
Review by Eduardo Cossio ⋅

Local ensemble GreyWing are known for performing works that mix environmental sounds with acoustic instrumentation. Their penchant for the extra musical was taken one step further on ‘Text’, a concert presented as part of Tura’s Soup Nights at the Sewing Room. In what might be their most diverse program yet, the pieces explored spoken language as accompaniment for absurdist actions, problematising meanings and emphasizing the allusive qualities of text.

Moving to the other side of you by the French-Australian composer Emmanuelle Zagoria created fluid connections between instrumental performance, choreography, and the voice. The musicians seemed absorbed in their own private conversations as they gathered around a microphone for statements such as ‘Would like to come over?… Maybe I should leave…’. These were delivered in a self-conscious and fidgety manner, evoking a heightened psychological state. Voices overlapped as the ensemble took to their instruments matching their speech to jagged rhythms. A folk-influenced drone by guitarist Jameson Feakes brought momentary calm but it was soon disrupted by a waltz in the style of the French chanson. The sentimental melody was one of the many non sequiturs thrown at the ensemble, each of which was artfully integrated into the dark tenor of the work. The last section was particularly affecting, the musicians gathered again around a microphone to utter laconic statements until they stood together in silence. Moving to the other side of you proved an ambitious work whose changes of mood succeeded in maniacal fashion.

Wheels of a spoke by the local composer Annika Moses paid homage to the sounds and sights of Hyde Park. GreyWing started with sustained tones played at low volume. Guest musician Ben Green rubbed styrofoam on a snare, making creaking noises akin to the sound of tree branches sagging. The austere textures are characteristic of the Wandelweiser aesthetic, a compositional outlook Moses has engaged with in recent years. Yet, her knack for quirky interpolations was evident in the chiming figures Catherine Ashley played on harp. These were followed by playful trade-offs among the ensemble that brought a fairy-tale quality to the music. In the final section Moses joined them on stage to read a series of impressions of Hyde Park. The easy-going work had a variety of attractive textures and demonstrated Moses’ astute handling of the ensemble’s resources.

The concert by GreyWing ensemble focused on spoken word. Photo Tristan Parr

The pieces by Brisbane composers Erik Griswold and Vanessa Tomlinson were in the form of text scores, a format favoured by Fluxus artists during the sixties. Just like in a Fluxus piece, Griswold and Tomlinson favoured intuition and whimsy, as well as a more personal engagement with sound. In Erik Griswold’s Starts of Ours, a series of performance instructions were read by Catherine Ashley and readily enacted by percussionist Ben Greene. A variety of metallic objects were made to chime and rattle against the surface of a bass drum. It was interesting to hear the instructions before seeing them realized. Ashley and Greene seemed like the characters of a Samuel Beckett play, caught up in trivial actions and strange power dynamics. Yet, Greene’s performance emphasized the materiality of the objects, and highlighted the translation of meaning between composer, the score, performer, and audiences.

Taking a more conceptual route, Vanessa Tomlinson’s Nostalgia (Perth) is ‘a preparation for improvisation’ where performers received cards with text written on them: ‘Listen to the sound of urgency’ or ‘Listen to the sound of your father’s voice’ served to prompt the player’s imagination. Although GreyWing are adept improvisers, they had a hesitant start and only half-way through the performance they achieved a cohesive flow of subdued timbres.

Kirsten Smith performing with GreyWing ensemble.

The performance-installations of Dutch composer Cathy Van Eck treat speakers and microphones as musical instruments. In Song #3, a work for solo performer and electronics, Kirsten Smith wore a large cardboard mask with a small speaker attached in front of her mouth. By varying the distance between microphone and the speaker, a feedback signal was further processed by Lindsay Vickery on laptop. Harsh plosives created a gibberish language whereby semantic meaning was abandoned in favour of vocal effects. Song #3 brought a sort of cognitive dissonance in the listener; while Smith moved her hands and arms in a declamatory, opera style, the resulting sounds had a degraded quality. The human voice was also disembodied, being hidden behind a mask and obscured by effects. This fascinating work subverted performance expectations and created an ambiguous context that was eerie and quaint.

Although hardly known in Perth, the work of Irish composer Jennifer Walshe is widely performed across Europe. Walshe belongs to a generation of composers mixing mass-media tropes with a high modernist outlook. He Was She Was started with recordings of distant traffic. An unnerving atmosphere settled in as Vickery whispered gossipy statements into a mic, Jameson Feakes snapped sticks and threw them on the floor, and Ashley blew matches repeatedly. All of these while Green and Smith played quiet textures on their instruments. Yet, the ensemble’s sounds and actions did not interact; rather, the piece unfolded as a series of events co-existing in tense relationship with each other. GreyWing were engrossing in this work of instrumental theatre and convincingly channelled its rarefied atmosphere.

Closing the concert was a new work by Vickery. His predilection for found objects as sources of constraint and possibility informed t o r b u a m m p a. Words from the inauguration speeches of Obama and Trump were put in alphabetical order to create a backing track. GreyWing played over it in twists and spurts; elongating Trump’s drawl or adding hip-hop phrasing to Obama’s assertions. It was a tightly orchestrated work whose contrasting passages evoked a mixture of mischief and despair over the state of US politics. A flurry of growling lines played in unison by guitarist Jameson Feakes and Vickery on bass clarinet was particularly memorable. Although Vickery has used ‘speech-melody’ before (the technique of matching words to instrumental sounds), t o r b u a m m p a might be his most accomplished work in that style.

‘Text’ showcased GreyWing’s ambition and versatility; but most importantly, did so by bringing some of their loosest, most invigorating playing yet.

Picture top: Members of GreyWing ensemble explore spoken language as accompaniment for absurdist actions. Image supplied.

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a king spotlit on a dark stage, with witches in the shadows
Music, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Magnificent Macbeth

Review: West Australian Opera, Macbeth ⋅
His Majesty’s Theatre, 19 October ⋅
Review by Sandra Bowdler ⋅

West Australian Opera’s new production of Verdi’s Macbeth must be one of the best offerings in Australian opera in recent years, a complete success in almost every aspect. The work in itself is an excellent distillation of the Shakespeare play, with great clarity of story-telling, musical characterisation and atmosphere aplenty just waiting to be brought to life by creative operatic forces.

With respect to the staging, Roger Kirk’s simple but clever set comprised a combination of large moveable uprights and lighting effects with bursts of dry ice  brilliantly reflecting the creepy environs of the witches and gloomy Scottish castles, the latter enhanced as appropriate by sumptuous costuming depicting the courtly scenes of Duncan’s visit to Glamis castle and the crowning of the Macbeths.  The witches – in the opera Verdi multiplies the original three into three sections of a women’s choir – are suitably weird in black gowns with large-toothed necklaces, the male nobles are represented as barbaric warriors, all kilts and furs and crossed swords, while Lady Macbeth appears initially in her underwear (bodice and long underskirt), but wears a truly magnificent red and gold gown in her stately scenes. The courtiers define the period with sixteenth century starched ruffs and Elizabethan hairdos.  It is clear that director Stuart Maunder and the designer Roger Kirk were sharing a coherent vision. The coming of Birnam Wood to Dunsinane was wonderfully effected by shafts of green light cutting through the darkling stage, and the battle at the end was one of the best staged fight scenes I have seen, where you could easily track who was doing what to whom in a convincing fashion.

Antoinette Halloran and James Clayton as Lady Macbeth and Macbeth. Photo James Rogers.

The West Australian Symphony Orchestra play magnificently under Brad Cohen, with every nuance and dynamic subtlety of the score brought forth without ever overriding the singers.  The WA Opera Chorus is exemplary, moving confidently around the stage whether representing witches, warriors or courtiers and singing with precision and conviction.

James Clayton in the baritone title role cements his reputation as an operatic star. His voice is resonant and accurate and he projects charisma and authority as a leader, no less convincing in his deterioration and desperation as he follows the course he has set himself. Both opera and play are usually considered to be a morality tale on the dangers of blind ambition, not to mention warnings against heeding false prophets (there is a view this was originally aimed at James I and VI who was unduly preoccupied with witches), but there is also the influence of the ultimate power wife.

The motivation of Verdi’s Lady Macbeth is somewhat more obscure than that of Shakespeare’s. In the play we find out early on that Lady Macbeth bore a child who has somehow disappeared from the Macbeths’ lives, presumably dying young. Verdi omits this information and we are left with a far less sympathetic character who seems bent on evil almost for its own sake.  The character has been portrayed by many a famous soprano, and often tends toward caricature. Antoinette Halloran teeters on that edge, but overall manages a convincing portrait of a woman determined for her husband to rise in society no matter what it takes. Her vocalism suffers somewhat however, with her undeniably powerful high notes tending to sound somewhere between shrill and squally at the top. Overall however her dramatic rendition provides a suitable reading of the character.

Jud Arthur is a commanding Banquo. Photo James Rogers.

The rest of the cast is nowhere less than excellent. Jud Arthur is a commanding Banquo and a terrifying ghost, and tenor Paul O’Neill a ringing Macduff, ably partnered by Matthew Lester as Malcolm.  The small roles of Lady Macbeth’s Lady in Waiting and the Doctor are more than adequately performed by Ashlyn Tymms and Kristin Bowtell, respectively.

Verdi is not exactly an obscure composer for the lyric stage, but Macbeth is certainly more of a rarity than the well-trod path of Trov and Trav. It is great to see this collaboration between WAO and State Opera South Australia bestow such excellent production values on something rather off the beaten (Australian) path.

Macbeth continues at His Majesty’s Theatre until October 26 with a season in South Australia in 2020.

Picture top: James Clayton as Macbeth, shadowed by witches. Photo James Rogers.

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Music, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Flamenco maestro still in command

Review: Paco Pena, Ensencias ·
Regal, October 11 ·
Review by David Zampatti ·

It’s been my joy and privilege to see the giants of Spanish instrumental music, Jordi Savall and Paco Pena, in one year (and squeeze a music-rich trip to their homeland in between)!

Savall’s musical interests range across Europe and the Americas to encapsulate the Baroque, before and beyond, while Pena stays close to his native Andalucia, and flamenco.

But, like that magnetic province, flamenco absorbs so many influences  — Arabic, Jewish, gypsy and ancient Spanish folk music —that are integral to its own wide, sun-browned, olive-drenched world.

Pena has been at it a very long time (he’s been a professional musician for 65 years and an international star for 52 of them), and there isn’t a trick of the trade he hasn’t mastered.

One of them is to respect your age; so, at 77, he’s careful to surround himself with artists who can steal his show, and skilled musical colleagues that let him lay back a little.

On this tour that artist is the celebrated flamenco dancer Angel Lopez Munoz, and his compadres are the marvellous guitarists Jose Luis Fernandez Losada and Rafael Montilla Recio and the singer Rafael Planton Heredia.

The maestro steps into the spotlight throughout the show with gorgeous solos, but often provides tempo and structure for those around him. We are rewarded by exquisite playing from the other guitarists, especially Recio, who added some fine improvisation to the band’s solid core.

Pena himself insists that the song, and its singer, are at the heart of flamenco, and Heredia evokes the pain and struggle that hard times in a hard country bring. He’s not as dark or elemental as Granada’s amazing Juan Pinilla, but he fits this company like a glove.

There’s an understood vaudevillian drama to a flamenco “show” that’s the same whether it’s in the tourist traps of Cordoba (Pena’s home town) or the world’s concert halls — and it’s all about the dancer.

Imagine a building site. The musicians are the brickies, toiling to erect the building, and the dancer is the interior decorator, dropping by to admire his handiwork in his too-tight party clothes.

They plough on as he taps and flounces, spins and bows. In his early pretty turns the dancer is out of place (a little ridiculous even) as all that grunt goes on behind him. If he gestures to the players, they bury their heads in their work.

There’s only one way he can win their respect, and our admiration. He must work even harder than them. The sun must beat on his handsome head as fiercely as it does on their grizzled ones. He must sweat as much as they do.

Munoz, who is tall, dark and very handsome (and in far-too-tight clothes) plays the part to perfection, and, after interval, the stage is his.

He smoulders, his boots flash, his arms reach skywards, sweat pours from him like the spring from which the mighty Guadalquivir rises. The bull is slain, the musicians beam at their shared triumph and we are on our feet even before its all over.

And Paco Pena, who has seen it all before but is not tired, or tired of it, at all, smiles knowingly as the theatre explodes in applause.

Pictured top: Paco Pena, who has been a star for 52 of his 65 professional years.

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AN orchestra and conductor in a cathedral setting acknowledge applause
Music, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Mozart plus some

Review: Perth Symphony Orchestra, ‘Mozart by Candlelight’ ⋅
St George’s Cathedral, 17 October ⋅
Review by Sandra Bowdler ⋅

The Perth Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Jessica Gethin, has been in existence for nine years now. As last night’s concert demonstrated, they have reached a polished level of consummate performance, which was rather at odds with the church fête-like atmosphere surrounding them.  Candlelight is fine and makes for an attractive atmosphere in St George’s Cathedral’s gothic-ish interior, but flashing coloured lights, illuminated personal screens (audience members were encouraged to look up the program or take photos), people constantly moving around, fast food and drink consumed during the performance and sales of merchandise could all be ignored if they didn’t interfere with the music but, initially, they did.

The opening number, Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik, was played in chamber music style led by concertmaster Paul Wright, one of Perth’s most eminent musicians. Comprising four movements, these were punctuated by applause (annoying in itself to this fuddy duddy) and the distraction of excerpts from Mozart’s letters read over a loudspeaker. The music itself was beautifully, crisply played but its integrity was rendered problematic. After that, things improved, with the flashing lights stilled, most of the audience tiring of waving their phones around and the music allowed to unfold as written.

The programming was creative and stimulating, bookended by works of Mozart with homages to him by modern composers in between. It was remarkable how distinctive these were, given they were drawing from the same well. Australian Calvin Bowman’s string quartet, led by Wright, began with a moving Largo which did not remind me so much of Mozart as other later composers, while the second (of two) movements, a lively Presto, referenced Eine kleine Nachtmusik as well as Figaro’s aria ‘Non più andrai’ from Le nozze di Figaro.

The actual orchestra under Gethin came together for Jonathan Dove’s An Airmail Letter from Mozart, which takes its first movement, Theme, from Divertimento KV 287 followed by eight variations, and is scored like the original for two horns and strings, with the inclusion of a piano delicately played by James Huntingford. This delightfully represented the idea that Mozart flew around the world in a plane, and encapsulated musically the different countries he visited (northern Europe, Italy, Hispanic countries) culminating in a modern ragtime/Broadway like finale.

Joe Chindamo was present for the premiere of his composition Fantasie auf Nachtmusik. Photo by Ezra Alacantra Photography.

The centrepiece of the evening was the premiere of a chamber work by Australian pianist and composer Joe Chindamo (who was in attendance), commissioned by the PSO.  This lively work entitled Fantasie auf Nachtmusik intertwined variations on said Nachtmusik sounding as though they had been written by a variety of people from Shostakovich (in Moscow Cheryomushki mode) through Strauss to Stravinsky but returning punctually to Mozartian sonorities. An exciting premiere which elicited much applause.

The final piece for the evening was a more or less traditional rendition of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No 17 in G major (K453), said to include aural references to the composer’s pet starling.  This is a relatively large scale work; as well as strings and piano, it features a flute, the welcome return of the horns, two oboes, and two bassoons. Gethin held this together with flair and discipline, with excellent dynamics in the remarkably good cathedral acoustics. Huntingford has a wonderfully light touch while clearly articulating every note, and sparkled where the score calls for sparkles. The Andante was noticeable for the mellow tone of the band overall, and the winds shone in the last movement, the flute happily echoed by an oboe, the horns blending nicely for an exultant finale. Perth can be proud of its symphonic namesake, and Jessica Gethin’s mastery of her role as its conductor.

Pictured top: Jessica Gethin leads James Huntingford and the PSO through Jonathan Dove’s An Airmail Letter from Mozart. Photo by Ezra Alacantra Photography.

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hip hop, Music, News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

Hip-hop odyssey tells confronting truths

Review: Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company, Ice Land: A Hip h’Opera ·
Subiaco Arts Centre, 17 October ·
Review by Gina Williams ·

Don’t let the lush red curtains, the painted ponies and the pretty lights fool you; this production was never going to be about beauty or feeling good. Ice Land: A Hip h’Opera examines the ugly consequences of a society that stops living like a community and begins to function as an economy. As the bottom falls out of the mining boom and the cracks appear in community, our most vulnerable fall into the abyss of ice addiction.

It’s almost midnight in the Emergency Department of Royal Perth Hospital. Unseen staff move slowly as the plot unfolds. Here, we meet Joy (Layla Hanbury), Carly (Moana Lutton aka Moana Mayatrix of West Australian rock band Moana) and Cole (Benjamin Hasler of WA hip-hop group Downsyde). As the title suggests, this is a story told through the densely packed blend of words, song and beats that is hip-hop.

Research has ensured this production has authenticity. Pictured is Layla Hanbury as joy. Photo: Dana Weeks.
Research has ensured this production has authenticity. Pictured is Layla Hanbury as joy. Photo: Dana Weeks.

There’s plenty of drama; Joy’s only child has taken ill and is receiving emergency treatment. Carly is almost driven to distraction with fear as her brother is placed in psychiatric care following a psychotic episode. And Cole is waiting for his critically ill nanna, who is in intensive care.

Collectively they battle a common enemy; methamphetamine addiction. Their stories are held together and moved along deftly by Dnale Ci (Downsyde’s Scott Griffiths). As dealer, devil and seducer combined, Griffiths is compelling to watch; at once menacing and charismatic.

We discover that Joy has fallen into addiction following the rejection of her parents and the loss of a previous pregnancy. She loses her job and significant relationships and supports, leaving her child as the sole reason to continue living.

We learn that Carly’s parents died in a car crash, leaving Carly with her brother. Depression, alcoholism, self harm and domestic violence are never far away.

But Cole has the story which is easiest to relate to and hardest to watch. Cole lives with his nanna, his family torn apart by addiction. The intergenerational trauma is palpable. Cole, the King of Belmont, named “Waarlitj” (Eagle) by his nanna, has swagger to boot. Yet if you dig a little, you’ll find a hurt little boy who is disconnected from culture and community, who was abandoned by his parents and now struggles to articulate what he needs to heal. “I have love to give,” he says, and it’s hard not to feel the sadness.

It’s hard not to feel the sadness: Benjamin Hasler as Cole. Photo Dana Weeks.

Under the clever direction of Kyle J Morrison (King Hit, The Fever and the Fret, Skylab), the performance moves along swiftly. The set and lighting (Matthew McVeigh, Joe Paradise Lui) add to the dramatic effect of the storytelling without distraction.

Of course, the music is fantastic – a real credit to the collective talent of the four cast members/lyricists, and music director Darren Reutens (Downsyde), librettist/lyricist Zac James and lyricist Ryan Samuels aka Trooth. I’d love to see the soundtrack released as a concept album.

For me, the musical highlight was a rare moment when Lutton softly sang to herself and we were treated to one of the most bittersweet, purest voices you’re ever likely to hear. But again, this production was never going to be a thing of beauty and her powerful vocals are undeniable.

Avoiding clichés: Dnale Ci (Scott Griffiths) and Carly (Moana Lutton). Photo: Dana Weeks.

It would be easy to trot out all the regular tropes and clichés around stories of addiction, but Ice Land manages to avoid this. Interviews held for 18 months with various sectors of the community in the lead-up to the creation of Ice Land have informed this production and given it an authenticity it may otherwise have lacked.

Ice Land: A Hip h’Opera was confronting and difficult to watch. But lots of important stories are. At the end of the opening night performance, Scott Griffiths thanked the audience and hoped out loud that “we fill this venue, because we need to start these conversations and we need to start ridding ourselves of this scourge that is ice addiction.”

After watching this production, it’s impossible not to agree.

Iceland: a Hip-h’Opera runs until October 26.

Pictured top: Layla Hanbury and Scott Griffiths. Photo: Dana Weeks.

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Composer stands next to performer holding her cor anglais
Music, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Pomp and gloom

Review: West Australian Symphony Orchestra, ‘Beethoven’s Eroica’ ⋅
Perth Concert Hall, October 11 ⋅
Review by Varnya Bromilow ⋅

If you’re lucky enough to find them, there are some pieces of music so personally transcendent, so transportative, that they seem to have been created with your specific ears in mind.  For me, Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams is one of these.  This means of course, that I can’t possibly describe the music to you.  But hang on, that’s my job.

Williams (1872-1958) had strong opinions about the English music of his time.  In short, he found it wanting and so set out to create his own “national music”, drawing on the folksongs of the past, as well as the Golden period of Tudor music and interweaving these with the Romantic stylings of his time.  The piece referred to in the title is from a 1567 hymn tune Tallis created for Psalm 2.  A little like the way Michael Nyman was to riff off Mozart’s melodies a century later, Williams transposes Tallis’ gorgeous vocal strains for strings.  The effect is a song of strings – the violin and the viola in a heavenly call and response that makes your heart burst. Williams intended the music to evoke the beauty of the British countryside (the word pastoral is used almost constantly to describe his music) but for this listener, with no such associations, the music is simply a step into the sublime.  As though he managed to distill all the tiny beauties and griefs of the world into 15 minutes.

The West Australian Symphony Orchestra, under the accomplished direction of guest conductor Douglas Boyd, (music director of L’Orchestre de chambre de Paris and artistic director of Garsington Opera), gave it their all.  Of particular note were genuinely extraordinary performances from concert master and violinist Laurence Jackson and associate principal violist Alex Brogan.

So for this reviewer in particular, Williams is a tough act to follow.  Luckily, Iain Grandage’s brand new work Orphee – Concerto for Cor Anglais is, to use an underused term in classical circles, an absolute humdinger. Grandage introduced the work with a piano accordion in tow – his punishment for the time needed to reset the stage for his own composition. Using his prop, he gave the audience a charming but perhaps slightly bewildering account of the work’s tonal similarities to Williams, whose work is a frequent inspiration for the Perth-born composer.  Grandage created the work as homage to his music professor, UWA Professor Emeritus David Tunley.  Tunley specialises in French Baroque and the Orphee concerto embraces this tradition with the criminally neglected cor anglais at its centre.

Where Williams is beatific and reassuring, nothing is as certain in Grandage’s world. The piece is gorgeous yes, but with a pervading sense of menace. The cor anglais was played with a sinuous fervour by the brilliant Leanne Glover, glittering in green. Trembling drums, a single bell, sliced across by a draught of strings. It felt ominous, the slightly mournful horn carried on a bed of dense strings, at times lushly beautiful, at others like a buzzing, frenzied cloud that brought bees to mind.  Grandage has an acute ear for melody and pacing – again and again we were brought back to the cor anglais’ pleading refrain, almost jazz-like at times.  The end result was a genuine triumph – a charged, evocative work that challenged as much as it delighted.

It was a special joy to witness the composer’s own response to this world premiere of his work, especially one so personally dedicated. Grandage, seated across the aisle from me, twisted his beard, leaning forward nervously, in response to the work’s more ambitious movements.  Wonderful too, to relish the prospect of a Perth Festival curated by an artist who seems as eager as he is accomplished.

And then there was the Beethoven.  Caveat – I’ve got Beethoven baggage.  More specifically, symphonic baggage. I’m not sure whether it stems from my horror of A Clockwork Orange or from sheer overexposure, but when I hear the crashing chords of any of his symphonies it’s all I can do to stop myself from keeling over in boredom.  In admitting this, I don’t mean to be contrary for the joy of contrariness. Beethoven’s contributions to Western music are perhaps unsurpassed, (with the possible exceptions of Mozart, Miles Davis and the Beatles) laying down formative melodies and musical structures that inform music of all varieties.  Maybe it’s because his symphonies are so ingrained in our musical imaginations that it’s difficult to find them interesting now? The bombast; the driving cadence; the building crescendo and then, the requisite moment of delicacy.  Listening to a Beethoven symphony is like slipping into a warm bath – you don’t do it because it’s exciting, you do it because you know exactly how it will feel and it’s lovely.

WASO performed Eroica (Symphony No. 3) with great verve.  The work (1802-1804) is often heralded as a stylistic dividing line between the Classical and Romantic periods, reflected in the different tonal flavours of the four movements.  Primarily, it’s a Classical work but there are generous hints of the incoming subtlety of the Romantic period – oh, the glorious strings early in the second movement! It’s almost like you can feel something more tender trying to escape from the heavy majesty. The players worked hard to extract every last gasp of pomp out of the score, under the feverish direction of Boyd, rousing them on towards the last grand notes.  And grand it was.

But ultimately, I tend to side with Charlie Brown’s famous curmudgeon Lucy.  In her words: “Beethoven…he’s not so great.”


Pictured top: Iain Grandage with cor anglais soloist Leanne Glover. Photo Rebecca Mansell. 

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Calendar, Dance, Music, November 19, Performing arts

Dance, Music: 歸屬 Gui Shu (Belong)

12 – 16 November @ Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA) ·
Presented by Steamworks Arts ·

World Premiere | Presented by PICA and Performing Lines WA

Through your eyes, I see myself 透過你的雙眼, 我領悟了自己
Come on a contemplative journey through the streets, suburbs and open spaces of Taipei and Perth. Devised by an extraordinary interdisciplinary team, each performance of 歸屬 Gui Shu (Belong) fuses dance, music, sound and video projections live on stage. The result of a 4-year intercultural exchange, this moving new work by Steamworks Arts asks how our understanding of self and home are shaped by our experiences with others.

歸屬 Gui Shu (Belong) is an invitation to reflect on moments of isolation, connection and finding your way.

22 October – 22 December
PICA Reading Room
Duration: 8 minutes
View the 歸屬 Gui Shu (Belong) video installation, a sweeping history of the project so far, featuring scenes from Taiwan and Western Australia.

More info

Pictured: Gui Shu: Image by Christophe Canato. Design by Tim Meakins.

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Photo of the Edith Spiegeltent
Calendar, Music, October 19, Performing arts

Music: VAMP presented by Drug Aware

25 & 26 October @ The Edith Spiegeltent, Edith Cowan University, Mount Lawley ·
Presented by Jazmin Ealden and Sean Hayes ·

We invite you to join us for a musical experience that will broaden your musical horizons.  Whether you listen to classical orchestras, jazz, pop, rock or Eastern-European folk music,  his show will take the music you love, then spin it, twist it and fuse it to create an  extraordinary palette of musical worlds for you to discover and enjoy. VAMP is a concert project that aims to bridge the gap between musician and audience, musical genres, and the ways in which we enjoy concert experiences.

Directors Sean Hayes and Jazmin Ealden have devised the show as part of a creative goal  to open the door for audiences of classical music to experience music that falls into the medium they are familiar with, in a more relaxed atmosphere. Featuring an eclectic mix of musical styles from contemporary classical to Klezmer, VAMP presents music that everyone will enjoy, in an audience-focused format.

The Edith Spiegeltent, Between Buildings 1 and 5, Edith Cowan University, 2 Bradford St, Mount Lawley WA 6050.

More info

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Sara Ouwendyk as Grandma with Emma-Rose Barrowclough as Peter with Mayume Noguromi as the Bird watching on. Photo by Scott Dennis
Classical music, Dance, News, Reviews, story telling

Inspiring the next generation

AWESOME Review: West Australian Ballet, Peter and the Wolf ⋅
Perth Cultural Centre, October 5 ⋅
Review by Amy Wiseman ⋅

It is always a thrill to see a buzzing young crowd gather for an outdoor performance, particularly the morning after one of Perth’s vicious spring storms almost blew the temporary stage over.

Thankfully the weather cleared for the opening of West Australian Ballet’s Peter and the Wolf, a short symphonic story ballet presented to the next generation of ballet fans through a collaboration with AWESOME Arts Festival. This work serves the dual purpose of introducing children to the instruments of the orchestra as well as telling a cautionary fairy tale of bravery and vigilance.

Opening the performance is a short divertissement that displays the dancers’ technical skill and reinforces to the young audience that although we’re about to enter a fairy tale world, the dancers themselves are not to be feared. The cast, a selection of WAB’s corps de ballet and young artists, perform Andries Weidemann’s neat, complex choreography with aplomb.

The story itself unfolds – quite literally – in the form of a pop-up story book, in which characters are introduced in turn and adorn themselves with an additional costume piece, accompanied by a particular orchestral instrument. Design graduate Maeli Cherel’s clever sets and costumes are intricate yet functionally designed, with the potential for future touring.

Michael Brett’s arrangement of Prokofiev’s original score for Perth Symphony Orchestra is superb, but the highlight of this iteration is Julia Moody’s narration, her mellow, gravelly tones exuding warmth and character in spades.

Mayume Noguromi as the Bird with Kassidy Thompson as the Cat and Emma-Rose Barrowclough as Peter copy
Mayume Noguromi as the Bird with Kassidy Thompson as the Cat and Emma-Rose Barrowclough as Peter. Photo: Scott Dennis.

Though each character danced beautifully it was corps de ballet member Mayume Noguromi who shone as the Bird, with twinkling footwork and ethereal lightness.

The young cast felt a little too reserved for this style of performance, where exaggerated mime and facial expression are a must to establish the story. Weidemann’s musicality and penchant for comedy, however, proved entertaining in the main.

An engaging performance aside, the wonderful thing about this collaboration is the opportunity for West Australian artistic development – the young performance team and all areas of the production behind-the-scenes. And the other outcome? Inspiring a love of the arts in the next generation.

Peter and the Wolf  is on at 11am from October 7-11.

Pictured top: Sara Ouwendyk as Grandma with Emma-Rose Barrowclough as Peter with Mayume Noguromi as the Bird watching on. Photo: Scott Dennis.

Junior review by Bethany Stopher (13)

Peter and the Wolf, performed by West Australian Ballet, is a free event as part of the AWESOME Festival. Not only does this event add culture to the city, it also is an amazing experience for all ages. Peter and the Wolf is cleverly designed to be suitable for young children. Full length, traditional ballets are sometimes hard for young ones to focus on and they can get fidgety and bored. Peter and the Wolf has aspects that mean even a toddler can keep up with the story line.

Firstly, the characters are beautifully depicted. As Peter, Sara Ouwendyk is courageous and valiant, skipping and jumping merrily around the stage. Mayume Noguromi, as the Bird, is adorned in a pretty, feathered plume and tutu, and flitters about, full of personality. I especially admired her, as out of the dancers her spirit, expression and technique was most commendable.

Dancing the role of the Cat, Kirsty Clarke is also amazing, practically screaming the smugness of the animal she’s portraying. Playing Peter’s grandma, Asja Petrovski appears very little, and although she acted well she wasn’t given much choreography. I have seen Asja perform as Clara before, so I think her talent is wasted just hobbling around.

Emma-Rose Barrowclough is excellent as the Duck, making the children shriek with laughter as she paddled around on a little blue mat. Kassidy Thompson and Sarah Ross appear only briefly as the Hunters, but play their parts well, very brisk and foreboding.

Finally, Nathan Claridge, as the Wolf, is a truly sinister character, with a million-dollar snarl that could rival an actual wolf. His jumps are amazing. At the performance I saw the little boy in front of me screamed “Wolf!” to warn the characters every time he got too close. The Wolf was my little brother’s favourite character, even though he hid in my dad’s shoulder.

Providing a voice-over of the story helps engage the audience, especially younger viewers. Although the portable stage is small, the company makes the most of it, adding a raised top level to resemble a tree. The scenery is well-used and effective, though simple. When the unfortunate incident occurred between Wolf and Duck feathers blew across the stage, which made us chuckle, although we were sorry for the duck!

Another interesting element is that the different characters in the story are represented by different musical instruments, as is usually the case for this story.  For example, the flute for the bird, the oboe for the duck. The narrator explains this to the audience when the characters are introduced.

The choreography is fun and playful, the dancers frequently turning cartwheels. The choreography showcases the different characters.

Throughout the show there is audience interaction. When the audience cries out to the performers, the dancers acknowledge them by gesture. At the show I saw I think this made the younger children feel as if they were part of the story. Sometimes the performers prompted the audience to clap, when someone was executing a challenging sequence. At the end of the show all the littlies were called up to the front of the stage, where they were given a mini dance class. I feel like this really added to the experience.

Peter and the Wolf  is a touching, enjoyable piece that considers the needs of younger viewers. This free event is a great opportunity to open up the world of ballet to a new audience, but experienced viewers will also appreciate this wonderful performance. If you have spare time on your hands definitely head to the Perth Cultural Centre, where the AWESOME Festival is being held. I absolutely recommend Peter and the Wolf to everybody!

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Calendar, Music, October 19, Performing arts

Music: Parallel Resonance: Piñata Percussion & UWA Guitar Studio Collaboration

31 October @ Fremantle Arts Centre ·
Presented by Fremantle Arts Centre ·

Parallel Resonance will be a spirited night of music for marimba, vibraphone, guitar and percussion  influenced by the energetic rhythms and harmonies of flamenco, tango and jazz. The program will feature joyful instrumental music from a diverse range of composers including Rodrigo y Gabriela, Julia Wolfe, Emmanuel Séjourné as well as lesser known gems from Joe Duddell, Terry Riley, Robert Davidson, Olga Amelkina-Vera and more.

Tickets $24 Adults; $15 Concession & Students from

More info

Pictured: Parallel Resonance, credit: Olivia Davies

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