Posts Tagged ‘country music

16
Jul
15

Country Song

 

Country Song

Queensland Theatre Company

QPAC Cremorne

July 4 – August 8 2015

 

Reviewed by Chanel Lucas

 

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QTC’s musical play Country Song juxtaposes the career of Australian singer Jimmy Little against key events in our political and human rights history to create an interesting and entertaining story.

 

Jimmy Little can be described as one of Australia’s first and greatest country music stars. He toured around Australia during the 60s and 70s but his career extended to acting and in the late 90s and 2000s he recorded and released songs by contemporary artists such as Paul Kelly, Bernard Fanning, Nick Cave and Dave Graney.

 

As Jimmy Little, Michael Tuahine spent most of the show under a single spotlight, in front of a microphone, with his guitar, as the tumultuous events of Australian Aboriginal history occurred around him. We were invited into his world backstage and as an audience for his live shows with a simple stage design and spotlights on the main action. Events such as the 1965 Freedom Ride and race riot in Moree; or the rise of boxer Lionel Rose placed Jimmy Little’s life story into a larger context. The show seemed to be almost apologetic that this famous singer did not engage with the protests and social justice issues of his time and yet celebrated this gentle man who ‘just wanted to sing’.

 

The ensemble does a great job, each performer playing multiple characters with sensitivity and humour, and making up the competent on-stage band for the show. Megan Sarmardin and Elaine Crombie both bring strong singing voices, producing endearing characterisations of singer Auriel Andrew, and of Little’s mother Frances. Tuahine is very natural and has a similar vocal style to Jimmy Little. He is a confident guitarist, and leads the band through the songs with ease. The crowd around me were tapping and singing along the whole way through. Musical Director, Jamie Clarke, produces a capable on-stage live band from the actors involved.

 

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The music is a real highlight of the show, featuring songs such as the classic Little hits Royal Telephone, Oh Danny Boy, and I Want To Thank You, were presented alongside his more contemporary 1999 cover Under the Milky Way Tonight, which seemed to be an anthem for this gentle man constantly wondering, “I wish I knew what you were looking for”.

 

There are some truly beautiful moments during the show.

 

I think some in the audience came expecting a Jimmy Little tribute show in the vein of Elvis or Fleetwood Mac RSL shows. This show did not meet those expectations, although we did hear excellent versions of many of Little’s hits. The ‘live show’ scenes in the play really did lend themselves to a bit of ‘whoo-hooing’ and clapping along from the crowd.

 

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I felt that the show could have benefited from amplification in all of the scenes. There were some scenes ‘backstage’ or in Little’s family house that lost some momentum because they were so much quieter than the ‘on-stage’ scenes. This may have been a deliberate choice by the production team however, to make the ‘on-stage’ scenes have more impact on the audience.
The show runs at the Cremorne Theatre at QPAC until 8 August and then tours to regional venues. If you love country music – go see this. If you are interested in Australian history and music – go see this. If you enjoy musicals and local stories – go see this. Country Song is heartwarming and entertaining, and you’ll jump up for a dance at the end!

 

 

02
Jul
15

Country Song: a chat with singer/songwriter Megan Sarmardin

 

Queensland Theatre Co’s Country Song opens this weekend!

 

We asked Megan Sarmardin a heap of stuff because MT ISA CONNECTION.

It’s true. We knew Megan back in Bobcat Dancing days (Queensland Biennial Festival of Music 2003. She was sensational!)You may know Megan from her band, BullDust, or Little Birung or The Sapphires.

 

 

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Tell us about Country Song. A fictionalised celebration of the music and life of Jimmy Little.

I am very happy and grateful to be a part of this exciting production. Although a fictionalised story, it shines a light on many of Indigenous people that have contributed to music in Australia, particularly country music. The people mentioned in this play are some of these people who have influenced me too in terms of being a singer/artist.

 

This is your QTC debut! Congrats! How did you come to this show?

I have been working for a while now & the journey to QTC has been a long one. ‘Working’ is, by my definition, singing & gigging. Be it locally in Mount Isa or here in Brisbane (when needed). Acting has been a small part of it, but not as prominent as singing. That’s what I have been doing since I was about 7; singing & playing guitar. The skills developed from this, has obviously put me in good stead to be involved with professional productions, i.e. Queensland Music Festival and to work with talented musicians and artists. I developed my show Little Birung with John Rodgers & started performing that. My profile began to build in terms of stage work. I was then offered a role in The Sapphires & toured with that production, nationally & internationally. It was quiet for me for a couple of years, until earlier on this year when I was contacted by QTC about Country Song.

 

Tell us about growing up and finding music/performance opportunities. What can you advise aspiring singer/songwriters/actors do to get a foot in the door?

Singing and performing to me has never been about being famous. I have done it because I have enjoyed it, it made me happy and it made other people happy. I think it’s about making the most of everything you are given and being as actively involved as you can. I have been incredibly fortunate with the opportunities I have been given, whether it’s being in Mount Isa or being here in Brisbane. I have a band back at home called BullDust with three other talented Mount Isa musicians. Our motivation is just playing music and enjoying it. I will be performing for Australian Forces overseas later in the year.

 

There have been three things on my ‘to-do list’ for the last 12 years. One: to be in The Sapphires. Two: to play in the black arm band. Three: to work with Wesley Enoch. I have achieved all three.

 

I think the best advice that I can give to someone, whether they be a singer, songwriter, actress, actor, painter etc, anyone in the creative arts industry is to just do, try & pursue your passion. There have been times where I have had self-doubt and had thought about giving up, but at the end of the day, it’s you. You have to do it.

 

Tell us about your music.

Little Birung is the music I have made so far. There are a lot of different styles within Little Birung; blues, gospel, country, rock n roll. I have listened to and have been influenced by many different styles of music. I’d love to continue writing more material. The goal down the track is to work on an album of originals. That’s slowly getting momentum.

 

Little Birung is about my family history and the stories of the women in my family, particularly the relationship I have my Great-Grandmother, Flora Hooolihan. I sing songs about my Great-Grandmother, My grandmother, Margaret Gertz and my mother, Dixie Sarmardin. It focuses on Aboriginal Australia in North Queensland, going back to the turn of the century until present day, using my family stories set to song.

 

 

My Great-Grandmother, Flora will be 100 this year in October and has seen the show twice so far.

 

 

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Tell us about Women In Voice.

Women In Voice is the ultimate. I got to share the stage with Brisbane’s best female vocalists and I am very fortunate to call them friends. It’s a great gig being mentored by these fine and talented ladies, in the setting that is Women In Voice. This is a chance for female singers to do what they want. Sing what they want. To tell their stories how they want.

 

How important is music to you in terms of telling stories and making political statements?

Through the medium of music, you can convey a story, a message, a personal connection and emotions. It is a much more powerful medium. Music is universal. They don’t call it tugging on heart-strings for nothing.

 

What has it been like to work with Michael Tuahine, Reg Cribb and Wesley Enoch?

Michael has been a great mentor with this production. I met Reg briefly during the first week of rehearsals. It is a lot of fun to be surrounded by these creative people. They bring a wealth of experience and have been great mentors.

 

I have always wanted to work with Wesley. When I first came to Brisbane and heard about acting, singing, cabaret – all the things I was interested in, Wesley’s name was mentioned all the time. I had heard about the Sunshine Club, but had never realised the impact that Indigenous theatre and stories have had until later years.

 

I was out of school for a couple of years and went to visit my Mum at her work on my lunch break. I remember going into her office one day and seeing Deadly Vibe magazine article about the stage production, The Sapphires.

 

 

I said to myself, ‘I could do that. I’m going be in that one day’. I walked away and thought nothing more of it until 2011.

 

 

What will audiences get from Country Song? 

I think you will get a trip down memory lane, revisiting some of the country music classics. I think audiences will also get an insight into Aboriginal Australia during the 1960s and how it was a difficult journey to take, but through the support of his family, Jimmy did it.

 

What’s important about telling Jimmy’s story?

What’s important about Jimmy’s story is that he was famous in a time when Aboriginal people weren’t considered citizens in their own country. But that did not discourage him. He paved the way for many other Indigenous artists to follow; Bobby McLeod, Lionel Rose, Auriel Andrew.

 

What can you tell us about the Jimmy Little Foundation?

I believe that the Jimmy Little Foundation works with remote Indigenous communities to ensure healthy futures for Indigenous Australians. This is achieved through community engagement & a ‘whole-of-community approach’. Chronic illness in Aboriginal Australia is concerning & I believe that the Jimmy Little Foundation assists in improving the health and wellbeing of Indigenous families and children in remote areas.

 

To what/whom do you never tire of listening?

I was totally born in the wrong decade & have a fascination for country music as well as music from the 70s & 80s. Kiss, The Sweet, T-Rex, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Eagles, AC/DC (I have been to their concerts) – all of those of bands. I just love them. My Mum & Dad listened to a lot of that, so that’s what I grew up with. Dolly Parton is in the playlist as well. I used to work in a community Indigenous radio station back in the Isa, so country music is in my soul really.

 

What have you been watching?

Netflix is slowly taking over my life at the moment. I am pretty hooked on the TV show Californication. I don’t mind a bit of Hank Moody & his crazy life. The soundtrack to that show is great too.

 

Where do you go to escape?

I don’t physically go anywhere to escape at the moment I just get my guitar & play music. I find that family is a good place to escape as well. Grandma’s place in Townsville is great, especially when she cooks her famous rissoles.

 

Favourite meal to prepare at home?

Spaghetti Bolognaise. It’s good stuff. Especially when I make it. J

 

Favourite eats & drinks in Brisbane?

I recently discovered the Cobbler Bar in West End. Eats: there is too many to choose from. Anything is fine!

 

What’s next?

There is the mini-tour after the season in Brisbane, then a nice long extended holiday before the national tour in 2016. I have few gigs back at home, with a couple projects that I need to complete. Definitely looking forward to a bit of rest and relaxation time.