BWW REVIEW: The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and Circa Deliver Another Brilliant Collaboration of Classical Music and Circus Arts in ENGLISH BAROQUE WITH CIRCA
Wednesday 8th May 2019, 7pm, City Recital Hall
The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra (ABO) and Circa Contemporary Circus (Circa) reunite for a third thrilling concert, ENGLISH BAROQUE WITH CIRCA. Following on from their 2015 Helpmann Award winning FRENCH BAROQUE WITH CIRCA and successful 2017 SPANISH BAROQUE: BRANDENGURG AND CIRCA, Paul Dyer (ABO Artistic Director) and Yaron Lifschitz (Circa Artistic Director) have created a captivating visual and auditory feast.
Drawing inspiration from the classic gardens of the old world English estates, the 13 piece orchestra occupy the astroturf spaces that flank the central performance piazza that is bordered by white plinths. While the orchestra have deviated from their traditional black for luxurious velvet jackets, Circa's seven performers are clad in marbled muted gold for a unified expression of the statues that often dominate the traditional gardens of Dyer and Lifschitz's vision. Featured soloist Jane Sheldon ties in with the contemporary take on the old world with a floral adorned gown complete with bustled train whilst additional vocals are provided by soprano Lauren Stephenson who adopts the velvet suiting of the orchestra.
While the musicians are normally the focus for ABO concerts, particularly Dyer's animated conducting style, the focus remains firmly on acrobats Alice Muntz, Scott Grove, Gerramy Marsden, Noah Nielsen, Jake Silvestro and last minute substitutions to cover sickness, Jessica Connell and Amanda Lee. Breathtaking acrobatics, tumbling, castell towers and contortion complement Dyer's selection of music which features works by Henry Purcell, George Frideric Handel, Alex Palmer, John Dowland, Arcangelo Corelli and Nicola Matteis along with traditional pieces. In addition to the floorwork which often incorporates the white boxes, the Circa performers take to the air with a trapeze bar and a Lyra aerial hoop, even sending soprano Sheldon swinging over the audience for The Gartan Mother's Lullaby. The matted stage makes way for the perpetual motion of the Cyr Wheel and more comical acts like the Rola Bola, Diabolo and Cigar Box Juggling add variety and in true circus style, the audience isn't completely passive for this concert.
Sheldon and Stephenson's vocals complement the program beautifully without drawing focus from the action. Sheldon has an incredibly pure tone that finds the centre of notes with unwavering precision to float with ease over the pieces whilst having a lightness to her lower register that ensures the vocals are never heavy. Stephenson adds a subtle depth to the pieces to fill the sound without overpowering the selection.
The orchestra delivers the right balance to the accompaniment, heightening the mood and capturing the shifts between the regal pieces presented to entertain the court, more intimate pieces in their garden "bedroom" and reverential for The Chapel scene. The Fairground pieces have a vibrancy of the fanfare and fun of traditional works along with incorporating more unusual instruments like the table mounted accordion like harmonium. There is a creativity in the sound with a particularly amusing English overture presented with the orchestra entering with a range of simple percussion instruments of struck blocks and sticks before they take up their usual instruments.
ENGLISH BAROQUE WITH CIRCA is a wonderful experience for all ages with something for all audiences. An easy introduction to Baroque music for newcomers, a treat of English Baroque for seasoned concert goers, and delight for circus and acrobatic enthusiasts with a refreshing take on contemporary circus that steers away from the plethora of burlesque and cabaret stylings on offer whilst delivering stand out performances in a unique collaboration.
Photos: Steven Godbee