Prog-baroque quartet Croissants & Whiskey’s world premiere

by | Jun 4, 2024 | Ambassador thoughts, Composer, Harpsichord & Organ, Premiere, Quartets, Viola

Croissants & Whiskey

30 May, 2024, Kensington Town Hall, VIC

Brought to life by ‘prog-baroque’ quartet Croissants & Whiskey and the Continuo Commissioning Circle, the world premiere of Kym Dillon’s S.P.I.R.I.T.S was well worth braving the cold drizzle on a Thursday night in Melbourne/Narrm. The ensemble sparkled amongst the ornate surroundings of Kensington Town Hall, complementing the space with an array of historical instruments and an intricately painted harpsichord. A halo of bright lights surrounded the musicians, adding a modern feel to what appeared to be a seemingly traditional chamber music affair. 

A beautifully eery violone solo, played by Miranda Hill, was the opening to Dillon’s nine movement work. Conjuring familiar sounds of the Baroque period, nostalgia continued to intensify as swelling melodies rose from the remaining instruments, masterfully played by Katie Yap (viola), Joy Lee (harpsichord) and Ryan Williams (recorders & ocarina). A slow yet surprising shift in tonality suggested that traditional chamber music was not all Dillon had on offer tonight. This was soon confirmed as Yap and Williams turned to the audience in a theatrical manner, breaking into joyous song. 

As with the first (“Sinfonia – The Spirits Awake”), the subsequent movements were introduced by alternating members of the ensemble. This was a welcome change to what is often a silent transition. Movement two (“Minuet – The Spirit of the Academy”) saw a reduced version of the ensemble (Yap and Williams) playing a folk-like melody to the ticking of a metronome. This playful tune was followed by solo Harpsichord (“Toccata – The Spirit of Industry”), aptly accompanied by the quote “The more you work, the more your life will accrue meaning,” as work is what Lee did. They effortlessly moved between the demands of rapid melodic and scalic passages that were intertwined with an ominous siren-like motive. 

Other particularly memorable moments included the ensembles humorous mimicking of the computer ‘dial up’ sound (“Divertimento – The Spirits discover the World Wide Web”) and Williams’ display of the many traditional and modern techniques available to the ocarina, as a quirky version of Amazing Grace unfolded in the form of a Theme and Variations (“Air – The Spirit of Spiritual Institution”).  The entire ensemble reunited for the final movement (“Rondeau – The Spirit of Us”), with lilting and energetic melodies that signified the closing of what was a captivating, vast and eclectic experience. Dillon received a warm and well-deserved congratulations from the Continuo Commissioning Circle, signifying the end of what is hopefully the first of many performances of S.P.I.R.I.T.S.

The final offerings were two works written and arranged by the ensemble themselves. The first, Eadie’s Lullaby by Yap, filled the room with a warm and peaceful sound world inspired by bird song. Warbling tremolos, glistening harmonics and delicate hums added gentle bursts of texture and an improvised-feel to the second half of the piece. After promises of croissants and the invitation to join them at the bar for a whiskey post-concert, the musicians took off into the final work, Williams’ Whiskey in Walhalla. This toe-tapping folk tune was the perfect finish to a night of virtuosic, thoughtful, and humorous music-making.

Guest reviewer: Molly Jenkins


molly jenkins headshotMolly Jenkins is a flautist, educator and arts administrator whose overarching passion lies in the ever-increasing use of music as a tool for both maintaining and healing mental health and wellbeing. Molly grew up on Latje Latje Country in Mildura where she was the three-time winner of the La Trobe University and Arts Mildura Woodwind Scholarship. She is now based on Wurundjeri Land in Melbourne’s North, where she completed her Bachelor of Music (with Honours) at the University of Melbourne under Derek Jones, Thomas Pinschof and Josh Batty. A passionate chamber musician and advocate for new music, Molly’s collaborations have found her performing at venues across Melbourne and regional Victoria. Since June 2023, Molly has held the role of Victorian Education Coordinator at Musica Viva and has recently expanded her work with the organisation as a Teaching Artist for their Music Education Residency Program.


 

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