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Canberra Today 16°/18° | Sunday, December 10, 2023 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Music amid the madding crowd

Music / “The Crowd & I”, Australian Chamber Orchestra. At Llewellyn Hall, August 6. Reviewed by LEN POWER.

IN “The Crowd & I”, creative director Richard Tognetti and the Australian Chamber Orchestra join forces with filmmaker and staging director Nigel Jamieson and cinematographer Jon Frank to produce a performance of almost overwhelming beauty and confronting intensity.

The world now has more than eight billion people, twice as many as 60 years ago. When people gather in large crowds, the result in cinematic terms can appear to be swarm-like. 

Jon Frank’s camera has captured extraordinary images from around the world of people coming together. Depicted are scenes of the Kumbh Mela festival on the banks of the River Ganges, the Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, the mosh pits of Coachella, California, sporting stadiums, massive refugee camps, huge city activity and so on.

Not everything shown is beautiful. There are confronting scenes of mob violence, such as the Cronulla race riots, uncomfortably close to home, the desperation of the boat people refugees and unsettling images of the vast impact of the covid epidemic.

Tognetti’s excellent choice of music to accompany these images includes works by Chopin, Beethoven, Shostakovich, Ives, Sibelius, Schubert and several of his own works amongst those of other modern-day composers.

Led by Tognetti, the large number of musicians and the Song Company singers on stage produce a remarkable sound – atmospheric, colourful and perfectly timed to the images unfolding on the large screen behind the performers.

Director Jamieson has created a superb and thoughtful film and music experience. A clever lighting design amongst and around the performers links them to the on-screen images, making this a complete stage and screen performance. Without this, the orchestra could have seemed to be just a soundtrack to a movie. The show has to be seen live for maximum effect.

One scene stands out strongly from the overwhelming huge number of images presented. A lone figure is walking in a vast Australian desert. In a long tracking shot, the camera follows his progress from behind and above. He eventually just disappears into and becomes part of the landscape. The crowd is the landscape itself and one person can be just an insignificant part of it.

The audience appeared to be mesmerised by this performance. Everyone was surprisingly still, totally focused on the power of the sounds and images before them. Just as in the crowd scenes depicted on the screen, it was a memorable experience to be part of the dynamic of this large crowd in the auditorium.

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Thank you,

Ian Meikle, editor

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