Tag: Hamer Hall

Melbourne Festival 2017: THE INAUGURATION with Taylor Mac

Making history

By Bradley Storer

Skewering convention from the very outset, American cabaret maverick and performance artist extraordinaire Taylor Mac (who uses the pronoun ‘judy’) entered the stage to give a pre-emptive monologue about curtain speeches before introducing the assistant festival director Jonathon Holloway (in a magnificent rainbow peacock headdress) who delivered an opening address for the festival the show began.

The Inauguration.jpg

Described as a taster and preparation for Mac’s full 24 Decade History of Popular Music, playing at the festival from next week, judy kicked off proceedings with the classic folk tune ‘Turn! Turn! Turn!’ rebooted into a barn-burning big-band number, the first of the stunning arrangements by musical director Matt Ray. The over-arching theme of Mac’s ‘radical faerie ritual sacrifice’ is of communities torn apart and at the same time bonded together by pain, and even in this truncated version the audience was required to be active participants. For a thrilling version of Tori Amos’ raging ‘Precious Things’, judy bought up a random audience member onstage to provide backing effects before reaching out to the entire audience to follow suit. The oldest and the youngest members of the audience danced onstage with Mac in a roof-shaking blues song, while two blond members were offered up as sacrifices to Nazi idealism in a campy carriage ride courtesy of Rogers and Hammerstein – it wasn’t entirely clear how this number was intended to ridicule Nazi ideology, but perhaps this would be clearly in the context of the full show. By the end of the evening the audience was so enthralled they were eagerly jumping to their feet to obey Mac’s instructions.

Mac is a masterful and intensely charismatic performer, able to make campy pratfalls sit easily alongside penetrating intellectual ruminations on sexual repression and political conservatism, and judy’s powerful and piercing voice is capable of encompassing rock, blues and jazz in equal measure. While there might be some who’d question the relevance to an Australian audience of an exploration of American political and social history through music, Mac made incredibly pertinent links from the lives of Jewish-American immigrants in the early 20th century to Australia’s current treatment of refugees. The re-fashioning of a homophobic Ted Nugent song explicitly about ‘fag-bashing’ into a soft, romantic slow dance under a disco ball (as well as the entire audience asked to dance with someone of the same gender) was a heavenly conclusion to the evening and made all the poignant by the current climate of homophobia being unleashed in this country.

With such an energetic, anarchic and transcendent opening we can expect a wonderful season for the Melbourne Festival this year, and can only wait in delighted anticipation for Mac’s show in its entirety next week!

Venue: Hamer Hall, St Kilda Rd.

Date: 6th October 2017

Time: 7:30pm

https://www.festival.melbourne/2017/

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Melbourne 2016: THE TALLIS SCHOLARS

Divine music in all senses of the word and experience

By Leeor Adar

Born under Peter Phillips‘ directorship, The Tallis Scholars wonderfully transcend the passage of time and deliver audiences the English Renaissance polyphony.

 The Tallis Scholars.jpg

Since 1973, Phillips has been proving that polyphony draws audiences in the droves. If anything is to be said for Hamer Hall on that balmy Melbourne night, the audiences of varying generations filled the seats to indulge in these beautiful harmonies. Sixteenth-century composer Thomas Tallis, a man who won the patronage of the powerful and elite (and also held the monopoly of printing music), inspired the title of Phillips’ troupe.

Phillips challenges his singers and convention by having only two singers perform a part. Phillips aptly states that two singers for a part are ‘more precise’ and ‘vulnerable’. The fact that the performers must work harder to crystallise their sound is an even greater credit to their ability and to their director. We were treated to some of the most ethereal sounds a human voice could deliver; I was elsewhere for much of this performance, hoisted by these angelic voices to higher ground. The mysticism inspired by Catholicism clearly still affects audiences today through the sacred verses performed.

Phillips began the night with Peter Philips’ Cecilia Virgo, a piece whose text was inspired by the patroness of music, Cecilia. The piece is a perfect opener to the polyphonies that come after, signalling the skill of the alternating groups of voices. Pieces I felt that highlighted the skill of the Scholars and delivered the most compelling music to me would have to be Tallis’ Lamentations of Jeremiah, the modern composer John Travener’s As one who has slept, and William Byrd’s Tribue Domine.

Tallis’ Lamentations of Jeremiah I felt captured the melancholy of the destruction of Jerusalem at a greater depth than Dominique Phinot’s, which Phillips has included after Tallis’ in the program. This was an exercise I suspect in contrasting how the Lamentations could be performed differently, with Phinot’s polychoral style dominating his piece.

The inclusion of Travener’s 1996 As one who has slept was a beautiful nod to a modern composer. The piece carries with it the weight of tremendous mysticism – the varying tones that take us to sudden and melodious highs and lows were a beacon of light in the evening for me. At one point I felt chills in my body: a testament to how overwhelming choral music can be.

The Tribue Domine by one of Tallis’ contemporaries, Byrd, closed the official part of the evening. With soaring voices that harmonised so beautifully, audiences were guaranteed to leave the Hamer Hall in an otherworldly state.

While Phillips indulged us with one last encore, I was adament it will not be the last time I journey to listen to this marvellous choral music.

The Tallis Scholars performed at Hamer Hall on November 6, 2016.

REVIEW: Melbourne Festival Presents LAURA MARLING

Warm and winning performance from young international artist

By Jessica Cornish

Draped in plain black linen and hugging an acoustic guitar, award-winning UK artist Laura Marling performed in the beautiful Hamer Hall as a part of the 2015 Melbourne Festival. Her stunning warm vocals filled the venue, complemented by her unobtrusive band mates upstage in the speckled light.

Laura Marling

The night began with a barrage of some of her more intense songs all in minor keys, and these were augmented by the stunning movement and colour splashed across the stage from the clever lighting design. All evening the lighting was vibrant and energetic, constantly changing and employing interesting lighting angles and looks or incorporating use of silhouettes and shadows.

Reminiscent of an intuitive storyteller rather than a mere folk performer, Marling’s songs have a genuine nature and often seem open-ended, never allowing us to predict when they will end, before we experience the sudden abruptness of silence. In between songs she was quietly spoken, and preferred to let her songs speak for themselves rather than explaining how they came to be or what inspired what particular composition.

She performed a catalogue of her more well-known pieces including my personal favourite “Ghost” (though she somehow managed to stumble on the words!) Laura charmingly explained afterwards she was distracted as she was trying desperately not to accidentally sing ‘shat’, which can sometimes amalgamates from the words ‘hat’ and ‘sat’ in the lyrics. She also professed Dolly Parton was a hero of hers (good taste, I have to say) and performed a wonderful cover of ‘Do I ever cross your mind?’ while impressing the audience with her new finger-picking technique, which specifically required the growth of her mutant right thumb nail.

Sometimes the lyrics were a little bit lost in the mix, but her vocal quality was continuously stunning. She has a rich, warm tone that sat nicely above the twangy acoustic guitars, and was a constant pleasure to watch and hear. If she ever comes back to Australia, I will be excited to see what this young British modern folk singer will then have in store.

http://www.lauramarling.com/

Image by Deirdre O’Callaghan

REVIEW: Victorian Opera Presents REMEMBRANCE

How do you choose to remember?

By Deborah Langley

It’s a cold night in Melbourne and I must admit I’m feeling quite nostalgic. It’s been a hard week for me, the week I said goodbye to my grandmother, of funerals and sadness, of tears and regret. So it was with a heavy heart that I went along to the Victorian Opera’s Remembrance at the Arts Centre’s Hamer Hall.

Victorian Opera 2015 - Remembrance © Charlie Kinross

On this the centenary year of the ANZAC landing in Gallipoli, I was ready to remember: to shed a tear for the wasted youth and reminisce of times gone by, of what could have been and what we have lost.

With stories, songs and images we were given an historical and musical account of Australia’s involvement in World War 1. From the time of enlistment in 1914, with diggers leaving us and training in Egypt, through to landing in Gallipoli, the Somme and the Western Front and finally the homecoming of some of our luckier diggers. Remembrance gives a respectful reimagining, complete with authentic wartime ditties, but unfortunately this ultimately did not feel a truly heartfelt tribute.

Written and directed by award-winning Australian author Rodney Hall, and composed and conducted by acclaimed artistic director Richard Mills, Remembrance stars one of Australia’s best-known operatic tenors David Hobson, along with eight of Victorian Opera’s talented young artists.

Elizabeth Lewis is a standout in the ensemble, embodying characters both vocally and physically, while Michael Petruccelli and Nathan Lay give equally memorable performances as diggers throughout the war as the cast create a series of moving musical portraits against the backdrop of archival footage.

Accompanied by an impressive chamber orchestra, Orchestra Victoria, and a large rousing community choir, Remembrance does offer a glimpse into what life might have been like during World War 1: something we should all continue to remember.

Victorian Opera’s Remembrance was performed at Hamer Hall on August 13 2015, before touring:

Ulumbarra Theatre, Bendigo
15 August 2015, 7:00pm

The Cube, Wodonga
31 August 2015, 10:30am & 7:30pm

West Gippsland Arts Centre, Warragul
3 September 2015, 8:00pm

Eastbank Centre, Shepparton
12 September 2015, 7:30pm

http://www.victorianopera.com.au/what-s-on/remembrance/#TabDatesTickets

REVIEW: Victorian Opera Presents THE BIG SING

With voices raised

By Narelle Wood

For one night only Victorian Opera, community choirs from around regional and metropolitan Victoria, VOYCE (Victorian Opera Youth Chorus Ensemble), students from the Master of Music Opera Performance program and Orchestra Victoria came together for the very aptly named The Big Sing.

In the magnificent surrounds of Hamer Hall we were treated to performances of Verdi, Mozart, Bizet, as well as Gilbert and Sullivan and Maestro Mills’ own arrangements of Australian folk songs “Click go the Shears” and “Waltzing Matilda”. The program provided a great variety of musical moods, from the joyful drinking song “Brindisi” from La Traviata to Purcell’s haunting “When I am Laid in Earth” from Dido and Aeneas.

The Big Sing

It was, however, the ethereal performance of “With Drooping Wings” also from Dido and Aeneas and sung by VOYCE that was a highlight, demonstrating the depth of talent that Victorian Opera has to work with.

Michael Petruccelli and Matthew Tng were very entertaining (they seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves) and I could have listened to Kate Amos and Cristina Russo sing all night. But for anyone unsure whether opera is for them, nights such as these are a perfect introduction. Selection of music aside, Maestro Mills provides a history and context to the pieces in a passionate, sometimes brutally honest, but always entertaining style.

While in an opera performance the opera singers will always be the stars, listening to, and on this very fortunate occasion watching, Orchestra Victoria is an incredible experience. This time we were treated to some introductions to the various instruments, and personalities, of the orchestra, which added a relaxed and very personable feel to the evening.

I did find the request to join in the singing of “Waltzing Matilda” a little confronting and was a little too self-conscious to join voices with likes of Elizabeth Lewis and Nathan Lay. Hopefully The Big Sing will be back next year as I certainly thought it was a big hit, and who knows – maybe next year I’ll be game enough to sing along.

Victorian Opera’s The Big Sing took place at Hamer Hall on 13th Oct 2014.

REVIEW: Melbourne Jazz Festival and CASSANDRA WILSON

Innovative, iconoclastic and exquisite

By Anastasia and Peter Slipper

The Melbourne International Jazz Festival certainly brought out the star power for their closing night last night with a standing ovation for singer Cassandra Wilson at Hamer Hall.

Cassandra Wilson

Wilson’s voice – honey-smooth, seductive and powerful – had the entire audience under her spell for two deceptively long sets, so that it almost seemed that she had the power to control time itself. Infused with the swampy blues sound of her native Mississippi, her performance showcased songs ranging from her early career to her latest album, Another Country, released last year. Wilson’s performances of covers were as heartfelt and individual as that of her own material, and the encore of Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time was a masterpiece.

She is known as a performer who transcends genre, and this performance was no exception, although the blues were never far away. The backing ensemble of bass, percussion, guitar, violin and harmonica wove elements of latin, country and folk around jazz- and blues-based grooves in a perfect synergy. Arrangements were often sparse, providing plenty of opportunities for the five musicians to show off their improvisatory prowess – exciting and very much in-the-moment.

Swiss harmonica player Gregoire Maret was an absolute stand-out, kicking off the gig with his version of Stevie Wonder’s The Secret Life of Plants. Often compared with Wonder, Maret created supple tendrils of sound from his chromatic harmonica, building into virtuosic extended solos.

The diversity of Wilson’s performance reflected the nature of jazz in the twenty-first century – it doesn’t fit into neat little boxes of genre, or exist in isolation, but is one of many musical styles constantly evolving and adapting with new influences and innovation.  Under the stewardship of Michael Tortoni the Melbourne International Jazz Festival is to be commended for reflecting this diversity in the programming for 2013 – and these reviewers are certainly looking forward to what delights next year’s festival may bring.

Cassandra Wilson performed at Hamer Hall on June 9 2013 for the Melbourne International Jazz Festival.