music / “Sticks and Stones”. The Song Company with Oday Al Khatib. At Wesley Uniting Church, March 24. Reviewed by GRAHAM McDONALD
THIS concert featured two artists who are impeccably partnered.They brought together romantic music and poetry in an intense, emotional performance.
For an exquisite hour and a half, the music of Debussy, Fauré, Vaughan Williams, Reynaldo Hahn, Frederick Septimus Kelly, Roger Quilter and Graeme Koehne, combined with the verse of poets Shelley, Byron and Verlaine, captured the audience at the Wesley Music Centre.
Christina Wilson and Alan Hicks have been in a musical relationship for about 25 years, just slightly longer than this husband and wife duo have been together. Their clear understanding of each other shows in their professional stagecraft communication.
The idea for the concert was to find and perform beautiful music and romantic poetry, Hicks says.
Throughout the concert, Wilson’s singing prowess was fused with a great story-telling ability. Between songs, she kept the audience enthralled with her knowledge of these dangerous poets’ antics.
Frederick Septimus Kelly’s melodic and charming music set to Shelley’s poems began the concert. The works of another Australian composer, Graeme Koehne followed. His languid and quirky style was most effective in his setting of three poems by Byron. Pianist Hicks handled these pieces, particularly well.
Wilson’s mezzo-soprano voice, clear and decided, especially in its lower register, brought the music of Fauré and the poetry of Verlaine alive with colour and subtlety in the next four songs.
The performers charmed everyone in the following set with the music of one of the greatest songwriters of his time, Reynaldo Hahn (1874-1947). These pieces arranged to some of Verlaine’s poetry. The audience let out a sigh at the end of “L’heure exquise” (The exquisite hour).
The pair performed with a richness and warmth throughout the concert. They did an excellent job at handling Debussy’s dark and light songs of Verlaine’s poetry. The impressionist’s music, well-balanced in its playfulness and idiosyncrasies, is always a crowd-pleaser.
In Shelley’s poems, “Music when soft voices die” and “Love’s Philosophy”, set to music by English composer Roger Quilter (1877-1953), gave us what we thought was the final set of this beautiful and romantic combination of music and verse.
Then, out for an encore, Wilson and Hicks performed a short song of Byron’s poem, “So we’ll go no more a roving”, arranged from the 1964 Joan Baez version.
The Wesley Music Centre overflowed with people who warmly appreciated the talents of Wilson and Hicks. Many read along to every poem in the program.