Christopher Hale’s Sylvan Coda opens for Jorge Pardo “Huellas” at Melbourne Recital Centre, Saturday 31 May at 7.30pm
Here and Now opens for Larry Carlton Quartet at Melbourne Recital Centre, Wednesday 4 June at 7.30pm
In any international festival the established practice is for the visiting performers, as the main drawcards, to be on stage for much longer and to be preceded by support bands from Australia. This is a good way for our home-grown musicians to share in the festival limelight and potentially gain a following from the larger audiences who appear out of the woodwork.
I am always disappointed to notice how many seats that are vacant during the opening set and yet are filled when the main performers come on stage. It is a pity not only because it shows disrespect for Australian musicians, but also because the patrons who arrive late are likely to miss hearing some very talented and inventive artists.
The opening sets at MRC this year seem to be way too short. I have not heard any complaints from our “local” musicians — possibly they are glad to have even such limited exposure in such a large festival — but the balance does seem to have swung too much towards the main acts on the bill.
In the case of Christopher Hale’s Sylvan Coda, which opened for Jorge Pardo‘s flamenco jazz, what the audience heard and saw was a tiny taste or fragment of the original suite. I’m sure Johnny Tedesco‘s fantastic flamenco footwork was a highlight for many in the audience — I was struck by how his feet called to mind the fluttering of butterfly wings and the feather-light, incredibly rapid work by some drummers I’ve heard — but it would have been impossible to convey the way in which the original suite changed and developed.
Anyone who liked the snippet provided in this opener should watch for another performance of the full Sylvan Coda.
The other short opening set deserving special mention at MRC so far this year was the performance by Here and Now before the Larry Carlton Quartet.
I left a little early from Carlton’s set — to get to another festival gig and also because the music being played did not excite me. But a clear standout for me was the work of Andrea Keller on piano, Nilusha Dassenaike on vocals, Alex Pertout on percussion, Evripides Evripidou on bass and David Jones on drums.
I should confess that on this rainy evening I was tempted to arrive at 8.15pm to catch the main act, but decided I should respect the artists performing first. I am so glad I did.
Although this set was short, I felt that it took us to quite a special place. Each member of the ensemble contributed significantly, but Evripidou on bass was inventive and I found Keller’s solo, without needing to be loud, filling the auditorium as well as my being. I believed it would be one of the best piano solos of the festival. Her notes seemed to be drawing the audience into a state of total absorption. Dassenaike’s voice was integral to this meditative set.
I’d like to see opening acts given a fairer allocation of time in future festivals. But one thing is certain — it is never wise to come late and miss out on what comes first. It could well be what you appreciate most.