On Wednesday the 26th of March, I entered the Great Hall at Sydney University with a critical eye, with my reviewer hat on. I walked out in awe, impressed at what I had seen, enthralled by what I had heard, with not a negative thought in my head. The concert was a performance by The Renaissance Players and directed by Winsome Evans. Each of the eleven performers had beautiful timing, wonderful expression and they held complex Renaissance music in their capable fingertips. Some musicians played multiple instruments and collectively, their sound was so very suited to the acoustics of the Great Hall.
Not only did we hear Renaissance music, but instrumental pieces from the 12th century, as well as tunes all the way up until the late 1970’s. The music was wonderfully adapted and transformed by the Snave Pluckpayers and had a wonderful edge of humour to it, where appropriate. They played tunes from the Beatles on the Great Hall organ, as well as performed Beatles tunes with traditional Renaissance instruments; at times it borderlined a parody, without any disrespect. The final song was the famous “Jerusalem” which rang though the hall with mighty spirit. I felt I had stepped into period drama, perhaps the Lord of The Rings or even straight back into history. The performance was excellent and mesmerising.
The program uses sentences describing some of their pieces as having a “continuous series of simultaneous, rhythmically syncopated and melodically elaborate variations”, and while much of this jargon went over my head, as a blank state-like audience member, I was awestruck. Jessica O’Donoghue and Susie Bishop were excellent sopranos, performing alongside magnificent baritone Mitchell Riley. Geoff Sirmai presented cleverly-chosen performance poetry; poetry that sported a dark satire, witty humour and excellent expression.
The Renaissance Players performing British Birds, Beasts and Bards, was a marvellous performance. It’s the kind of music that needs to be seen and experienced. The music would be wonderful to catch on LP or CD, however the players performed with full gusto, having the acoustics of the Great Hall behind them, clever costuming and an excellent arrangement by Winsome Evans. I would definitely see them again.