Monday, 30 June 2014
On the 28th and 29th of June, the Renaissance Players present the 36th Annual Runnymede Pop Festival in the Great Hall at the University of Sydney. This is a wonderful concert that takes you back to times as far back as the thirteenth century, in an accessible, humourous setting, with some modern twists.
I've previously seen The Renaissance Players perform, yet they never cease to amaze me. If you've ever considered listening to Medieval music, in fact even if you haven't, I recommend these players. They are so on point, so talented at what they do, in can't help but be impressed at their skills and finesse. Not only do they present a professional performance, but they also work in sync, so much so that I feel completely at ease in their hands. If you aren't accustomed to period pieces, it's interesting to know that most of the music is a little bit tedious and monotonous, and there little to no hummable beat or tune for the mind to latch onto for novices (like me). Yet what the Renaissance Players do is create an entertaining space with a dynamic atmosphere and personality, which in turn manages to keep your attention, if not impress you, (not to mention their incredible mastery of some period instruments I haven't come across before).
Winsome Evans is totally engaging with her harp and Jessica O'Donoghue is an intoxicatIng soprano. Her voice echoed through the Great Hall in an ethereal a capella performance of Sa sibilla, which was followed by mesmerising organ work in Beata viscera virginis. Special mentions of Unter der linden and [Rubin] Salterello showcased how such music can be both complex and tranquil, and so perfectly balanced. The atmosphere fluctuated between Lord of the Dance-esque, to Robin Hood soundtrack, and even dreamlike. We navigated our way through the middle ages with the help of God's Fool- a mime providing comic relief, as well as Geoff Sirmai's theatrical poetry readings, exploring Frederick May's linguistic emporium.
What an excellent night out. Rug up- the Great Hall can be a little chilly when sitting still for a lengthy period of time.
Saturday, 29 March 2014
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.