“Happy Birthday, Wanda June,” written by Kurt Vonnegut, directed by Cate Clelland, Canberra REP at Theatre, until August 4. Reviewed BY LEN POWER
The performers in Adhoc Baroque were Greta Claringbould, soprano, Maartje Sevenster, mezzo-soprano, Robyn Mellor, recorder, Olivia Gossip, recorder, Clara Teniswood, cello, Rachel Walker, viola da gamba and Peter Young on keyboard and direction.
Just over an hour outside Canberra sits the heritage-listed town of Braidwood, with its traditional charm it is the perfect setting for a baroque music concert, especially in the delightful St Andrew’s Church.
A recorder can mirror the human voice so closely that at times it is hard to distinguish one from the other, particularly when they are set up to have a conversation together. In this selection of songs from baroque composers, the performers showed how this mirroring worked so well. A singer or recorder player would initiate a statement and then the other would respond, which formed a convincing union.
Claringbould began with a lively song sung in English titled “When love’s soft passion” by Johann Christoph Pepusch. The sound of Mellor on recorder and Claringbould’s singing were a splendid match as the two voices went back and forth in conversation. Peter Young explained that even though a female was singing, at times it was ambiguous whose voice was represented. The recorder or the female singers could signify either male or female characters.
“I ask you” by Giovanni Bononcini sung by Sevenster who produced a lovely even and flowing work that told about the beauty and joy of being in nature, as Mellor and Gossip came in sounding their moving musical landscape throughout this extended piece.
Handel’s duet “No, I will not put my trust in you” had Claringbould and Sevenster at their best. They combined their voices to create a rich and full performance, which showed all the trademarks of an impressive G.F. Handel composition.
After the interval, the six songs that followed were turned into a mini-cantata. The songs revealed stories about the sweetest of kisses, how the heart sighs, a little butterfly and even about the joke of love. These enchanting old-world songs by Scarlatti, Cavalli, Strozzi, Lotti and Benedetto Marcello included some of the most tender poetry. Even though they speak from another age, they still have much to say about the nature of love today.
The group performed faultlessly while sounding clear and bright in this distinctive church. They did justice to the nature and quality of all these early songs.