18 May 2008

Canberra cantata (Sat 1)

First of a double bill for this Saturday was the Canberra Cantata. It’s a new work in cabaret style. Not a serious, staid cantata with glorious rising choral work, but a joyful, tongue in cheek look at Canberra from a local cabaret star, and featuring some well-known local names. Peter J Casey was the composer and presenter, and a pianist and singer for several tunes. The other performers ranged widely indeed.

The show started with the Royal Military College (acronym: RMC) All Stars Big Band and continued with 13 tunes played by a rich range of artists. The Canberra Youth Choir sang a tune composed to the words of a local primary school student, Keean Walton, a paen to Canberra life called “I love where I live”. Natalie Magee teamed with Peter J Casey and the RMC band for a skit on Northside/Southside rivalries. The Singing Ambassadors (as far as I know, these were 12 real, honest ambassadors) sang about their appointments to Canberra in a song called “Tiger look at this”. They obviously enjoyed their unison singalong, and carried it off with aplomb. A classical trio (Suzanne Powell, piano; Anne Ewing, cello; Nicole Canham, clarinet) played the “Roundabout rondo”, dedicated to roundabouts on Canberra roads: nice one. The Gay and Lesbian Qwuire sang a deliciously beautiful love song written for same-sex marriages called “For all of us”. The RMC Band played a rousing big band tune with shouts of Canberra acronyms, appropriately called “TLA” (=Three Letter Acronym). John Shortis and Moya Simpson performed a tune dedicated to “Stasia the Soup Lady”, an institution in Canberra for many years. Lucy Bermingham, Moya Simpson and classical soprano Louise Page jokingly sang “Don’t make me choose” (between the Brumbies and the Raiders). Peter J Casey himself sang a tune about writing and performing the cantata, complete with a topical reference. Louise Page teamed again with Suzanne Powell and Nicole Canham on a tender piece (“Beautiful”) that spoke of the cockies that appeared in Canberra after the fires of a few years back. Four names were memorialised (Alison, Peter, Douglas, Dorothy), presumably the four lost in our local disaster. More happily, Queenie Van de Zandt sang with the RMC band about Canberrans making their names overseas but returning (We move back home). The show ended with a lively bash from the Big Band, with a string of solos, including Reuben Lewis who was sitting in on trumpet, and a wonderful, rolling drum solo from Amanda Waite, who I reported playing with Zip in my first post on CJBlog.

The other star of the show was the Llewelyn Hall. It’s been refurbished after a lengthy repair and restoration following a damaging hailstorm over a year ago. The new hall is decked with soft timbers and raked seating, to give improved wood infected acoustic and better audience ambience. It sounded rich and sweet to me, although there was a good bit obviously passing through the PA on the day. Being free and part of the Canberra International Music Festival, it was well attended by families young and old, again typically Canberran. I had a nursing mother on one side with a cute 12 week old girl and a toddler behind me continuingly observing the bebe (=baby), bebe, bebe, bebe…. A very pleasant event, and an opportunity to hear these singers and musicians I miss in the core jazz scene. Much enjoyed.

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