Music / “30th Anniversary Concert”, Canberra Qwire. At Llewellyn Hall, November 11. Reviewed by CASSIDY RICHENS.
IN the perfectly chosen Llewellyn Hall on a dimly lit stage washed with blue, 100 choristers performed with integrity, warmth, and beauty.
Generously performing songs spanning its 30-year repertoire, Canberra Qwire was joined by string performers – Brad Tham (violin), Anika Chan (violin), Pippa Newman (viola), James Monroe (cello) and Hayley Manning (double bass), and beloved accompanist of 10 years, Jessica Stewart on grand piano. It was Stewart’s final performance in the role.
The two-hour anniversary concert was exceptional, with beautifully arranged songs and first- hand accounts of love, healing, growth and identity. Much more than a large, organised group of people who sing together, Qwire epitomise community, and that’s what made the evening such a generous experience as well as an excellent concert for the appreciative house.
Was the choir technically good? Yes! They listened to each other closely, completely engaged in what they were doing, right there, right then, with each other. They were tight, united, powerfully entertaining, and all together moving. They sang pitch perfectly and in time, equally confident producing full rich celebratory sounds heard in “Hail! Smiling Morn” and gentle sorrowful sounds heard in “Deepening Twilight”, an original composition by Geoff Porter and an arrangement of Chad Vaccarino and Ian Axel’s “Fall on Me”.
Delightful arrangements of Kev Carmody and Paul Kelly’s “From Little Things Big Things Grow” also emphasising the vocal and arranging abilities of Qwire. Musical director Lachlan Snow was fabulous. A mind-boggling feat to conduct this mass community choir and diverse musical program.
Heralded Australian folk songwriter, Judy Small performed five songs and in the encore. Arguably one of our most highly regarded political singers, she performed alone with her acoustic guitar, with the string players, with the choir, and altogether.
She talked about her continued and cherished relationship with Qwire before offering her thoughts on the outcome of the recent referendum in her opening song “Sacred Ground”. Small also sang “Stand or Fall”, in which we all joined in, and “Let the Rainbow Shine”.
But the mood was not political – hopeful and powerful, perhaps more fitting descriptions. I particularly enjoyed the voice and strings working together in Small’s last song, “Everything Possible” by Fred Small, performed with the full cast and arranged by returning musical director Karen Wilden.
Founding musical director Chris Ashcroft introduced the 12-piece 93’ers, who sang “Be Who You Are”, with words by Tony Ladds, also one of Qwire’s original members, set to the tune of “Trust and Obey” hymn. An arrangement of Geoffrey Payne’s “It Does get Better” and Benji Pasek’s Golden Globe award-winning song “This Is Me”; also followed in the second half,
which concluded with Freddie Mercury’s “Don’t Stop Me Now”.
For me, the heartfelt stories told by members of the choir as they introduced each song was a highlight of the evening. Their words an uplifting reminder of the power of community and the need to keep looking forward and reinforced by Small as she led the all-in finale song “Never Turning Back” by Pat Humphries.
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