Government House Ballroom
reviewed by Neville Cohn
For more than three decades, I have attended all manner of performances at Government House Ballroom, mostly in connection with PIAF productions in earlier years and, more recently, Music on the Terrace presentations.
On Sunday, I encountered a unique offering at that celebrated venue: noted travel writer Stephen Scourfield reading extracts from his books in conjunction with both music and dance. It was one of the most absorbing offerings I’ve encountered at GHB.
Wright’s service to Perth music is like a golden thread across the years. Here, he was at his impressive best in negotiating some of the most ferociously taxing music in the repertoire. Cruelly exposed at every turn, this is no-man’s-land to any but the most profound and adept of musicians.
In both tonal and stylistic terms, the music unfolded in a way that would surely have impressed the composer himself if, due to some miracle of time travel, the venerable J.S. himself had been able to attend this event. I cannot recall hearing Wright to better advantage. It was the perfect accompaniment to Scourfield’s fascinating forays into foreign fields.
Because the stage is only very slightly raised, thus significantly limiting full view of on-stage action for those sitting further back than the first row, video screens on either side of the stage and also positioned strategically further back in the hall, enabled everyone to get an unobscured view of proceedings. This was especially welcome in the second half of the program in which Scourfield’s readings had a visual counterpoint in the remarkable Floeur Alder’s contribution.
Beneficiary of dance genes of high order – she is the daughter of the celebrated Lucette Aldous and Alan Alder – this young performer made magic visible. There was about her every gesture that quality of improvisation which, paradoxically, comes into being only after the most lengthy and focussed preparation. A faultless technique allied to a very real understanding of what works in choreographic responses to sound made this an experience to cherish.
Novel, intriguing and assured, this presentation had the stamp of distinction. I hope we see more of this remarkable artist; she clearly has much to offer.
An exquisitely subtle sonic background was provided by Ashley Smith (clarinet) and Louise Devenish (percussion) positioned in the side gallery of the venue, an excellent example of less being more. Words, movement, music: a delightful offering.
Rather unusually, in the second half of the performance, the drapes at the rear of the stage were drawn back enabling the audience to view part of Government House gardens through the rear windows, the outlook darkening as evening encroached.