Concert Review: Musica Viva Sessions


Musica Viva Sessions,

The National Herbarium of NSW The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney

29 June 2017

Written by Deen Hamaker

Musica Viva’s Sessions series is a bold initiative which aims to attract new audiences and re- invigorate the way classical music is heard and where it is performed. The prospect of an unusual combination of instruments being played in an unexplored space seemed to resonate with the aims of the event. Performing were two lauded soloists – Kerryn Joyce, a percussionist renowned for her Japanese drumming and the other, Kirsty McCahon, a double bassist with serious early music credibility, renowned for her work with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra. It was hard to imagine what to expect, the prospect was too intriguing to miss, and so, despite the chill of a Sydney winter’s evening, I was off to the National Herbarium of New South Wales in Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens, to find out.

What a joy this evening was!! Joyce on drums and McCahon on lower strings made an unlikely combination that worked exceptionally well. After a brief introduction over drinks in the lobby of the National Herbarium, we were led through the back-stage area of the Herbarium where we saw a selection of the diverse plant and seed samples that the institution has collected over its 164 years.

A brief walk led to the original building and in a grand Victorian room on the lower floor we were treated to music from different times and places – from Renaissance Scotland and the United States to Brazil, from contemporary Italy to Australia. Music such as we are unaccustomed to hearing – some of which was written especially for this concert.

The curtain-raiser was the premiere of a piece composed for the concert by Kerryn Joyce, featuring Joyce herself on Japanese taiko drums and McCahon on violone. Joyce played the taiko beautifully, drawing on a range of colours and expressions. Particularly wonderful was her playing of a solo version of Dedication, a contemporary piece composed by Ian Cleworth, director of Taikoz. She demonstrated her versatility by moving to the vibraphone, playing a Brazilian piece titled Bem-vindo by Ney Rosauro and accompanying Kristy McCahon in adapted versions of Elena Kats-Chernin’s Adrift, Robert Davidson’s Melody for Julia and David Anderson’s Blue Cheese and Rush Hour.

Kristy McCahon likewise showed her versatility playing Tobias Hume’s Love’s Farewell on the violone, written for the instrument in renaissance Scotland around 1600. She moved to the double bass to bring us into the 20th century playing Luciano Berio’s Psy, a complex modern piece which she played with verve, capturing the frenzy of Berio’s musical language.

The soloists’ banter, explaining and sharing their insights into the pieces and their instruments added levity to the evening which ended with a series of duets by Kats-Chernin and a double from David Anderson, in which both musicians gave virtuoso performances.  The concert over, the audience was treated to a nocturnal walk through the Royal Botanic Gardens – a rare treat even in the crisp winter weather.

Musica Viva deserves plaudits for starting this intimate series of concerts in unusual spaces. It was an evening of exceptional music played by two extraordinary artists. Hopefully Musica Viva’s Sessions will become a regular fixture in Sydney’s concert calendar.

Deen Hamaker for SoundsLikeSydney©

Deen Hamaker is a passionate opera aficionado and commentator. Introduced to theatre, opera and classical music at a very young age, he has acted in and directed several theatre productions, both in Australia and overseas. Deen lived in Japan for several years and studied the performing arts of Asia. Deen’s particular passion is opera, particularly the Russian, French and Modern repertoire. Deen was a contributing author for “Great, Grand and Famous Opera Houses”, 2012. Fluent in Japanese, Deen holds a Bachelor of Arts in Japanese from Griffith University and currently lives in Sydney.




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