News location:

Canberra Today 13°/18° | Thursday, September 23, 2021 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Review / ‘Spellbinding’ Griffyns do it again

 

Director Michael Sollis
Griffyn director Michael Sollis… laid his mandolin aside to conduct.
WHAT is  it about those Griffyns?  They always seem to come up with quirky concert themes with generous smatterings of esoteric music that challenges comfort zones.  

And yet they seem to be able to turn all of that into highly entertaining concert events that make the unfamiliar memorable and even the strange normal.

“The Utopia Experiment” was no less an example of out-of-the-box thinking with a performance that thoroughly challenged, delighted and satisfied the spellbound, admiring audience.

In a thoughtful and diverse program that took us from Australia to South America and back again, via Dame Mary Gilmore, the Griffyn Ensemble showed not only how amazingly versatile they are, but also what fine musicians they are.

Soprano Susan Ellis, played the role of Dame Mary Gilmore, singing and narrating the story of her failed attempts, with William Lane, to establish a utopian colony in Paraguay in the late 19th century and of her return to Australia.

Chris Stone (violin) and Laura Tanata (harp) began the concert superbly, if softly and gently, with a wistful, quite ethereal piece by Nigel Westlake, “Beneath the Midnight Sun”.  Then the whole ensemble came together for the music suite, “Mary Gilmore Goes to Paraguay”, by George Dreyfus. With plenty of light and shade, the music was quintessentially Dreyfus, even with little hints of the theme from “Rush”.

The central piece was “The Paraguay Songs” from “The Plaint of Mary Gilmore” by another Australian composer, Vincent Plush, who was in the audience for the performance of this extraordinary work founded on letters from Dame Mary.  

Griffyn director Michael Sollis laid his mandolin aside to conduct the quite complex work, made more so by the fact that the letters, with no rhythm or meter of their own, were set to music. Susan Ellis was brilliant, singing the words from the letters on a free line of no real melody against a quite abstract instrumental line.

Another major piece in the concert was “The Freedom of Silence” by Argentine-Canadian composer, Alcides Lanza (b 1929), with words by Canadian artist and poet, Michael Robinson.  It had a strong environmental sentiment, which seemed strangely incongruous to the Gilmore theme, but nonetheless worked musically, again with a very ethereal structure.  The ensemble was superb, beautifully supported by Ellis’ insightful interpretation of the vocal line.

There were other pieces, too, all linked together by Ellis’ narration, as Dame Mary, who was not above giving a solid endorsement of the Griffyn Ensemble’s 2016, tenth birthday, season of concerts.

Utopia might have been a failed experiment for Dame Mary Gilmore, but for the Griffyns it made a successful finish to a fine year of music-making.

Who can be trusted?

In a world of spin and confusion, there’s never been a more important time to support independent journalism in Canberra.

If you trust our work online and want to enforce the power of independent voices, I invite you to make a small contribution.

Every dollar of support is invested back into our journalism to help keep citynews.com.au strong and free.

Become a supporter

Thank you,

Ian Meikle, editor

Share this

Leave a Reply

Related Posts

Music

Sheena announced as new string quartet chair

THE Australian String Quartet has today (September 23) announced NSW south coast arts identity and cultural advocate, Sheena Boughen, as the successor to chair Nicholas Callinan, who will retire from the role at the end of the year.

Art

Gallery celebrates anniversary with immersive sculpture

AN immersive, public sculpture described by the artists as “a dance between something that is solid and something that is just drifting off into stardust” has been commissioned for the National Gallery of Australia’s 40th anniversary. 

Follow us on Instagram @canberracitynews