Listening to the Song Company in the Yellow House, Potts Point was for many in the audience a trip back in time. Revisiting works and composers that were played on a regular basis in Sydney in the seventies this cabaret style production references aspects of the life and musical times of the once avant-garde English composer, Cornelius Cardew, (1936-1981).
Short works by Karlheinz Stockhausen, La Monte Young, John Cage and William Walton were interspersed with snippets of Cardew’s music – mostly simple in approach and also, mostly political in content. His most known works are meant to be approachable by both performers and audience. This was Cardew’s way of confronting the intellectual excess of much of European music in the period 1960 to 1980 and was also his artistic protest against the hardline policies being put up by English politicians culminating in Margaret Thatcher.
Singing the ‘role’ of Cardew baritone Mark Donnelly was suitably sensitive and at times dramatic. He brought a gravitas to the character that led the audience into the world of this disturbed individual. So many artists question their role and that of art itself in society but most are able to come to terms with their inner demons and chart a path that gives maximum benefit to themselves and those who come across them. Cardew clearly could not tread that path. Maybe this is why his story, his character, is of greater interest to the general public than is the quality of his art.
All the singers gave finely tuned performances – crystal clear soprano lines from Anna Fraser and Susannah Lawergren were beautifully matched by the insightful singing of Richard Black and Andrew O’Connor. Artistic director Antony Pitts skilfully contributed from the electric keyboard – such a ‘60’s and ‘70’s instrument.
Although this is ‘a work in progress’ there is much to recommend it and the audience were engaged from beginning to end. More performances to come in NSW and Victoria. Check it out.
Song Company Accidental Plans | February 16, 2017 | Yellow House, Potts Point