Why go to the beach when you can go to a musical? On a hot day away from the sand, surf and ice-cream of Bondi’s iconic beach, the historic Pavillion was host to Cog in the Machine, Sally Whitwell’s musical for the VOX choir. The production was conducted by Music Director Elizabeth Scott with Christopher Harley as Director and had already been performed in Glebe Town Hall over the weekend.
VOX is the young adult ensemble of the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs. It lists “challenging contemporary music” as part of their repertoire, and this was certainly contemporary – freshly commissioned by the group for their Christmas show. Cog in the Machine was a fast and fantastical musical journey by this award-winning conductor, composer and educator. The large choir of 20 formed a backdrop to the soloists, both in terms of musical texture and action – changing from machines to tongue-in-cheek reflections on story.
Bold and thought-provoking storyline
Pianist Luke Byrne provided the precise and vibrant piano parts, while Sally herself played a myriad of other instruments – blowing on toys like a melodica, playing percussion and some lovely ukulele strumming.
This was certainly a concert to showcase the nine VOX soloists, who sang their hearts out with songs and spoken lines from microphones at the front. The music included bluesy and rap numbers and there was also a poke at Disneyesque hits, all within a soundscape that is distinctly Sally Whitwell. The soloists played their characters with incredible vocal confidence and stage presence, driving the show along.
The story of ‘Cog’ was bold and thought-provoking – about an evil corporate control-freak who wants to implant kids with microchips to make them buy products from L.I.E.S Incorporated. A nice touch was a swipe at gender stereotyping in the toy industry, with the little boy in a tutu and the young girl wielding a sword. On top of this was the never-ending parent’s challenge of getting their kids off their electronic devices during the school holidays.
Hit song ‘Sifting the Stars’
The musical came together beautifully when the soloists sang together – ranging from trios to the whole family in five parts. I think the show’s hit song is “Sifting the Stars”, and was excited to find a rehearsal version also released on YouTube.
We were finally treated to the whole choir in a rousing finale of “Santa Clause is Coming to Town”. Maybe the answer to getting kids off their devices is encouraging them to sing in choirs? ☺ VOX is certainly a busy member of the rich choral landscape in Sydney, and is to be applauded for presenting a new Australian musical for young adult voices in a funky venue like Bondi Pavillion.