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Sunday, July 14, 2024 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

The musical treat that just got better

Singer Dan Walker. Photo: Peter Hislop

Music / “Liquid Days”, The Song Company. At Wesley Music Centre, Forrest, March 25. Reviewed by JOSHUA DAFFERN

THE performance of Philip Glass’ celebrated song cycle “Songs from Liquid Days” is always a rare treat, and to have it delivered by one of contemporary Australian vocal music’s greatest voices is an even more notable treat. 

This Australian chamber vocal ensemble “The Song Company” brought Glass’ work to the intimate Wesley Music Centre, led by tenor Dan Walker alongside Antony and Raphael Pitts.

Across a cascading series of motivic developments set to lyrics by several of the ’80s most prolific songwriters, Walker and the Song Company brought the song cycle to life in a vivid and dynamic performance. 

The clarity of Walker’s voice allowed the lyrics to surge to the forefront of the music, guiding the audience through the dizzying narratives.

At the start of the concert, Walker explained that he had hoped to find his own voice in approaching the songs; in this, he certainly succeeded. On the song cycle’s opener, “Changing Opinion” Walker’s sharp diction animated the intense mystery of Paul Simon’s cryptic lyrics. In the following song, “Lightning”, set to words by Suzanne Vega, Walker’s voice took on a bitingly violent quality, propelling the chilling narrative forward.

Throughout the whole performance, a sense of haunting urgency prevailed. Even in the song cycle’s more elegant and delicate moments, most notably in “Freezing” (lyrics by Suzanne Vega), an undercurrent of vicious energy brought emotional depth and complexity to the delivery.

The concert was bookended by an additional set of songs written by the lyrical contributors to the song cycle, a unique contribution to the work by the Song Company. The evening opened with a rendition of Laurie Anderson’s “Thinking of You” and closed with an interpretation of Paul Simon’s “The Boy in the Bubble” inspired by Peter Gabriel’s cover of the song.

Although these additional songs were executed in a highly compelling and engaging manner, without the pulsing patterns that pervade Glass’ song cycle, they felt disjointed from the core of the performance.

Throughout the song cycle, Walker and the Pitts’ weaved a dynamic and layered narrative. The storytelling abilities on display by the performers gave Glass’ work a modern, personal and complex interpretation.

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