Review / Stories from the night sky

Music / “One Sky, Many Stories”. Griffyn Ensemble, at Belconnen Arts Centre, August 18. Reviewed by GRAHAM McDONALD

THIS latest show takes Canberra’s unpredictable Griffyn Ensemble a long way from contemporary classical music and is not really classifiable as a concert as such.

It is contemporary music in its broadest sense with an added multimedia element (projected video) based around the similarities and differences of viewing the night sky from European and Aboriginal perspectives.

To this end, Griffyn director Michael Solis has brought in folk-singing astronomer Fred Watson and Arrernte songwriter and musician Warren H Williams.

Regular Griffyn members Solis and soprano Susan Ellis, were augmented by the return of an original Griffyn, percussionist Wayana O’Keefe as well as two other musicians flutist Alexandra Castle and guitarist Rachel Pelser.

Solis has conceived “One Sky, Many Stories” as a continuous, hour-long performance partially based on some of his earlier compositions inspired by astronomy and the night sky. That has been a recurring theme in the ensemble’s concerts over several years.

This show is a mix of instrumental pieces played on vibraphone, mandolin, flute and electric guitar, songs from Williams and Ellis and interspersed with snatches of video of a wide selection of people filmed around Tennant Creek talking about there responses to looking at the night sky. Watson added some narrative about some of the constellations the music was inspired by, and the whole performance hung together as a delightful whole.

The venue was the enclosed gallery space at the Belconnen Arts Centre, which was packed for the performance. The lack of a stage meant that sight lines were restricted and a small “set-and-forget” PA did not do the performance justice. The vocals were indistinct and the people speaking in the video were hard to hear. It would have been a delight to have heard and seen this concert with a good sound system and operator. This show is is too good an idea not to heard and seen more widely.

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