Enchanting performance from Boyd and his girl

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Music / Boyd Meets Girl. At the Wesley Music Centre, June 21. Reviewed by Clinton White

IT’S a cleverly contrived name – Boyd Meets Girl – made up of life partners, guitarist Rupert Boyd and cellist Laura Metcalf.  

Their programming is clever, too, featuring pieces from the relatively limited guitar/cello repertoire, augmented by arrangements, sometimes their own, of other works, even orchestral ones. This concert was no exception.

Rupert Boyd and Laura Metcalf.

It became even more exceptional by including the premiere of “A New York Minute”, written for Boyd and Metcalf, by Canberra composer Marián Budos, who was in the audience.

One might expect a freneticism, with lots of noise and honking horns in a piece of this title, but Budos’ take was charmingly tuneful and delightfully light but fleet-footed. It clearly was fun to play, too, and it was just as much fun for listening.

In the orchestral version of Fauré’s “Pavanne”, which opened the performance, it’s the flute that carries the floating, wistful melody. So, I was surprised – but shouldn’t have been – when Metcalf, to Boyd’s thoughtful guitar accompaniment, began to play the melody in the cello’s lower register.  After swapping the melody and accompaniment roles, Metcalf took over again, putting the melody into the upper register. The whole arrangement was as beautiful as the performance.

And it was this kind of innovative arranging that was the hallmark of this performance.

For Boyd Meets Girl, JS Bach’s two-part inventions for keyboard have become prime fodder for arranging, perhaps because the two parts are transcribed easily, with guitar and cello playing the right and left-hand notes respectively.  

Four inventions were featured in this concert, all played in high spirits and perfect timing precision, especially considering one person is not in control of both parts.  Especially so was No. 6, with the two parts syncopated by half a beat.

Another piece that was easy to transcribe was the fifth movement, “Praise for the Eternity of Jesus”, from Olivier Messiaen’s “Quartet for the End of Time”.  He wrote it for the rather unusual combination of piano, violin, cello and clarinet while interned in a World War II German POW camp. But the fifth movement is for piano and cello. The cello line is there, and the piano part is a series of chords, easily transferable to guitar.

It might sound easy, but the tempo marking is extremely slow, making it very difficult to play. This duo drew extraordinarily moving and solemn mournfulness from the piece, building, as it does, in volume, but not tempo, to a passionate sadness, only to die away again at the end.  

The heartfelt despair of the environment in which this work was written was well and truly on the sleeves of these two performers.

There were other surprises, too, such as an arrangement of Beyoncé’s song, “Pray You Catch Me”, which included vocalising from Metcalf, and four of de Falla’s “Seven Spanish Folksongs”, transcribed from the original piano and soprano versions.  

Two movements from “Reflexões No 6” by classical guitarist and composer, Jaimé Zenamon, which appear on their self-titled album, concluded the concert, but not before an encore. Boyd Meets Girl concluded their concert and enchanted their audience with a delightful arrangement of a sentimental cabaret song by Erik Satie, “Je te veux” (I Want You).

Boyd Meets Girl performs at the Bungendore Woodworks Gallery, Saturday June 22.

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