Review / Performers star in new concert concept

Music / Side-By-Side Chamber Orchestra, ANU. At Llewellyn Hall, May 30. Reviewed by ROB KENNEDY

The ANU Jazz and Contemporary Vocal Ensemble perform as part of the Side by Side concert. Photo by Rob Kennedy

CANBERRA Symphony Orchestra musicians joined the ANU School of Music students in Llewellyn Hall to create the “Side-By-Side Chamber Orchestra” in a new bi-annual concert venture.

The head of the ANU music school Ken Lampl opened the concert with a short talk about the history of the school and its future. Based on what is happening the future of the school looks bright and long term.

“Kirikikohtaus” by Sibelius, which is music written to express the beauty of Cranes, opened the concert; this short pastoral piece is full of deep, emotional content; it is a minor masterpiece and the players created an intimate and delicate experience.

The ensemble is made up of players from the Canberra Symphony Orchestra and ANU music students that also included Tor Fromyhr and David Pereira.

For Haydn’s “Symphony No 85” La Reine, the rest of the orchestra joined the string players. This bright and tantalising work with its ever-changing dynamics is one of Haydn’s most popular pieces and, with its clear and at times dramatic content, it can still sound fresh today. The orchestra played with subtlety and grace, and when needed, with fire. It was refreshing to hear the clarity they put into their performance.

After the interval, the School of Music Jazz Faculty took over and did this change the mood. They began with a piece titled “Purple” by Greg Stott, composer and guitarist. It started with a booming drum solo by Mark Sutton, played with timpani mallets, and then from behind the audience the sensuous sounds of John Mackey on saxophone, who later apologised for his dramatic entrance.

Mackey joined Stott on stage with Hugh Barrett on piano and Isaac Said on double bass for this blue and moving jazz song; what a powerful sound they made.

One of Australia’s leading jazz trumpeters and composer Miroslav Bukovsky joined the group for his eclectic work “Delicatessence”. This was a changing work with a cool smooth style. The sound of Bukovsky on trumpet is worth travelling far to hear, but when combined with the stylish playing of John Mackey, who has performed with BB King and Ray Charles, they created a vibrant sound that grew to a room-filling jazz song.

Local jazz and opera singer Rachael Thoms joined the group for a couple of numbers, but when she sang the standard “Orange Blossoms in Summertime”, time could have stopped. The sensual and soulful voice of Thoms seemed the perfect fit for this mellow, flowing tune. Music doesn’t get much cooler than this.

Then the ANU Jazz and Contemporary Vocal Ensemble, all 15 of them, climbed on to the stage to perform Pharrell Williams’ hit “Happy” and they made it happy and rocking. To finish off they sang “Africa” by the 1970s band Toto. Every singer put in and through the song they all began to grow and feel it.

Here’s looking forward to the next Side-By-Side Chamber Orchestra concert and to developments at the ANU School of Music.

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