REVIEW: The Song Company Presents SHIP TO SHORE

Be sure to get on board for their next stunning concert

By Anastasia Russell-Head

Once again The Song Company triumphs with an innovative and engaging performance at the Melbourne Recital Centre. As part of their year-long exploration of the theme of “water”, the final concert in their 2012 series was devoted to sea shanties and other songs about sailors and sea-faring.

Of course, many of these songs are folk songs – like Cockles and Mussels, What Shall we do with the Drunken Sailor? and Blow the Wind Southerly – which, with their simple form of repetitive verses, presents a challenge for an “art music” ensemble – how to make this material consistently musically engaging?

The Song Company rose to this challenge in fine form, with expert arrangements incorporating interesting harmonies, stunning solos and delicious humour. It was refreshing to see a group of ostensibly classical musicians really relishing being funny!

Guest Director Ruth McCall is to be congratulated on the superb and very effective blend of fun, pathos, rowdiness and simplicity in this performance.

Of course, as is to be expected from an ensemble who brands themselves “Australia’s leading vocal ensemble” the singing was faultless. Sopranos Anna Fraser and Susannah Lawergren were stunning, and guest mezzo Virna Sanzone’s jazz training came to the fore in an inspired version of Bobby Shaftoe.

Accompanying the singers were favourites of the classical guitar scene Slava and Leonard Grigoryan, providing harmonic support throughout and punctuating the vocal numbers with virtuosic instrumental duos.

As always, these two stellar performers did not disappoint – showing supreme mastery of their instruments and musical sensitivity.  For the audience, it was a real highlight to have these two brilliant musicians sharing the stage.

It was a pity that this performance was not particularly well-attended, with many empty seats in the (albeit rather large) Elisabeth Murdoch Hall. The Song Company is new to Melbourne, having built up a devoted following in their home town of Sydney, but they are well worth seeing, and I encourage you to take the opportunity to see them next time they are around.

The Song Company’s Ship to Shore was performed on 14 November 2012 at the Melbourne Recital Centre, Elisabeth Murdoch Hall