Music / Choir’s love shines through in anniversary concert

Music / “Taking Flight”. Canberra Gay and Lesbian Qwire. At Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre, November 17. Reviewed by TONY MAGEE

The Qwire. Photo by Peter Hislop

CELEBRATING its 25th anniversary, the Canberra Qwire presented a splendid and varied program of song in this joyous and uplifting concert. Opening with a wonderful and bright piece, “Try Everything”, the musical scene was confidently set with powerful and projected singing, tight harmonies and rich tone production.

Conductor Karen Wilden, who is also assistant musical director of the Qwire, was in full command as she swept the ensemble through a repertoire of songs of defiance, joy, celebration, justice, thanks and peace. It was a carefully chosen program, designed to reflect a journey over 25 years, starting in rather more difficult times.
In a prelude to the opening piece, footage was shown of members reflecting on why they sang with Qwire and what it meant for them. A place to feel welcome, safe, loved, understood and valued seemed common to all, as well as a unifying sense of accomplishment and purpose in their musical achievements.
Also central to the success of this very special evening, was the opening address by Ngunnawal Elder, Aunty Jude Barlow, whose welcome to country was passionate and heartfelt. Her eloquent speech was summed up so beautifully as she personified her late father’s spirit into all the wedge-tailed eagles flying over-head and watching over us all.
“Bird Set Free” revealed an excellent five piece band in the background – violin, cello, guitar, bass and drums – who played with sensitivity and style in many of the pieces. The arrangements were imaginative and musical, with many opportunities to showcase the strings in particular.
Stand-out in the accompaniment arena was pianist Jessica Stewart, whose playing was lyrical, supportive and beautifully arranged. This was accompanying of rare insight and beauty and a key element in the success of the performance. During the piece “You, Me and the Wide Open Sky”, her playing was featured in several solo sections, revealing her ability to extract a cantabile tone from the piano and was just superb.
L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N. revealed the first of three a cappella pieces, all of which demonstrated the Qwire’s ability to hold pitch and intonation extremely well. A true test of a choral group. The highlight was “Run to You” in the second half, in which the group demonstrated a huge range of dynamics, from gentle whispers though powerful crescendoes.
My only disappointment was the final piece of the first half, Concita Wurst’s “Rise Like A Phoenix”, which lacked the dynamics for the Phoenix to musically “rise” – (…from the fading light I fly…), with the result that there was no climax. I hope Quire can address this for a future performance. It is a fabulous piece.
During the concert, founding member Lynne O’Brien presented informative commentary, describing Qwire’s journey.
I’ll leave the final words to one of their patrons, Netherlands ambassador  Erica Schouten, who said: “Central to the Dutch human-rights policy is the heartfelt belief that no one should have to hide who they are and whom they love”.
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