Posts Tagged ‘queensland music festival

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.

 

 

01
Aug
13

The Lady of the House of Love

 

The Lady Of The House of Love

Presented by the Queensland Music Festival, Brisbane City Council and Metro Arts

Metro Arts Sue Benner Theatre

26 July – 3 August 2013

 

Reviewed by Guy Frawley

 

Let’s just cut straight to the chase here, I’m about to give you roughly 500 words on why I think you should pull out your credit card, log onto the metro arts website and book yourself (and hopefully your friends) tickets to go and see The Lady of The House of Love. If you’re not in a reading mood however, let me just lead with the sentence below.

 

This show is a one hour reduction of utter professionalism that showcases everything I love about the creative process.

 

Inspired? Please, do yourself a favour and book yourself a ticket or two. Intrigued? Read on.

 

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On Friday night I walked into Metro Arts with little to no idea of what I was about to witness, a basic level of Facebook stalking had educated me enough to know that the British author Angela Carter, in the form of her anthology The Bloody Chamber, had provided the source material for the evening. However, apart from this and the glam rock marketing photos, I was flying blind. Goth chic styling and a 70s horror literature pedigree alone isn’t something to sniff at, but Sandro Colarelli injects this performance with sufficient backbone to rib a second Victorian lace corset! (More on the corset later).

 

Walking into the theatre and taking my stage side seat, my curiosity was further piqued by the staging. At the same time monastic and lush, the simple down spotlight shining through the intricately carved wooden partition, and the dusting of rose petals across the naked stage began to set the scene. Set designer Josh McIntosh and Lighting designer Andrew Meadows really managed quite a lot with very little.

 

As the stage darkened and the first haunting musical notes began to sound, Colarelli emerged from behind the wooden screen and began to welcome us into his theatrical inner sanctum. The meaning of the partition itself seemed to warp throughout the show as many times as Colarelli, from altar, to boudoir screen to confessional partition. We were not met however by a priest offering benedictions, but by a siren of the gilded silver screen, wrapping her enchanted and undead talons around our very beings and dragging us into the magical realism of Angela Carter’s dark world.

 

A story told from two perspectives, that of a cunningly frail, un-dead nymphette and a naïve, young English soldier, Daniel Evans has done a really beautiful job adapting the script from Carter’s original prose. After seeing this show I tracked some sections of The Bloody Chamber and Evans has managed to translate the sumptuous usage of language and imagery that Carter seems to do so well.

 

Maybe it’s a product of his experience with the physical theatre company Zen Zen Zo, but Colarelli is a man who is in absolute control of every inch of his body for every second of his time on stage. A talent that makes his attempt to portray both of the previously mentioned characters a complete success. His vocal abilities were also an absolute delight to witness. The character and emotion he was able to convey, even whilst jumping from perspective to perspective in the blink of an eye, was truly enviable. That he was able to do all of this whilst constricted within a cinched corset made it all the more impressive.

 

I’ve always loved vampire fiction, my first real introduction being Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, and after the disappointing failure of the Elton John penned musical Lestat I think she should have a word or two with Jake Diefenbach, who served as both composer and musical director. I doubt the creative team would be overly thrilled with me using the phrase ‘vampire musical’ anywhere here, but from what I saw on Friday, Diefenbach  would have been a far better fit than Elton John. His score was absolutely fantastic and you’d be a fool to leave the theatre, as I did, without purchasing yourself a copy of the soundtrack that’s available. I’ll be swinging by Metro Arts when I’m back in Brisbane later this week, and will be grabbing myself a copy as I haven’t been able to get the music out of my head!

 

 

I read an interview Colarelli had given just before opening and he mentioned how blessed he felt to be working with such an amazing team. It’s no wonder, because from what I saw it would appear as if every single person involved in the development, production, staging and performance of this piece is as talented in their own field as Colarelli is as a performer.

Now go and see this show! I just might see you there during my second time around.

 

 

28
Jul
13

1001 Nights

1001 Nights

QTC & Queensland Music Festival

In Association With Zen Zen Zo

Bille Brown Studio

18 – 28 July 2013

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

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Aladdin. Ali Baba. The names are as well-known as the stories behind them. They resonate down through the ages and across vast oceans. They whisper the promise of adventure, exoticism and romance, from their ancient roots among the shifting sands to the bedside of every child.

 

Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre joins traditional Persian musicians Pezhvak, for an evening of riveting storytelling, dance and song based around the Middle-Eastern magic of 1001 Nights. Adapted by Michael Futcher and Helen Howard, resident directors of Zen Zen Zo, this production blends together a storytelling troupe that weaves words to charm and delight.

 

Backed by the authentic sounds of traditional instruments including the oud, the dohol and the kamanche, this energetic and enchanting show embraces Zen Zen Zo’s legendary physicality.

 

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A simply shared, ingeniously sumptuous production, told in the style of Vikram and the Vampire, and showcasing the talents of Dan Crestini, Gavin Edwards, Steven Rooke, Isabella Tannock and Tina Torabi on stage, as well as the Pezhvak Traditional Music Ensemble, 1001 Nights is a treat for the senses…sans fragrance of the sandalwood mentioned on more than one occasion (I’m sure the budget didn’t stretch that far. Burning sandalwood oil is expensive!).

 

Against a sparse setting of sand and the semblance of a structure to serve as multiple settings, and utilising rich fabrics – brocade of silver and gold – for everything from tablecloth to flowing cloak to tailored coat, and oil drums, some pots and the power of our imaginations, the famous tales of the Arabian nights are shared with passion and the type of physical theatre and vocal mastery that we’ve come to expect from Zen Zen Zo. (Designer Bill Haycock and Lighting Designer Ben Hughes).

 

From the very first strains of Persian traditional music, and as the lights dim, we are already enraptured – snared – and ready to take the journey, to be transported to another time, another place; an exotic land of impossible dreams and intolerable violence in retaliation for offences that would have our contemporary crims out of irons after a short stint of leisure activities including improvisation, or studies of Shakespearean text.

 

Adapted by Michael Futcher and Helen Howard, and directed by Futcher, 1001 Nights suffers only from Zen Zen Zo’s indulgence in too many stories. It’s too long, perhaps by two or three tales. We are restless. We are enthralled, and enraptured, and restless. The stories are intriguing, the performances are A1 and very often the characters featured are, in turn, funny and infuriating. I wonder about what could be omitted; such an incredible wealth of material has already been so cleverly condensed. At times, in between tales, it’s the music that holds up the pace, but it’s so beautiful, we are forgiving of these pauses, when the actors appear to have to wait for the musicians, who momentarily, and quite rightly, claim centre stage for the opening of Act 2. (Musical Direction Phil Slade).

 

It’s funny and confusing. My favourite is The Little Hunchback. I listened to the podcast so I knew the story. I knew he wasn’t really dead. It was funny when he danced! The music and the voices are beautiful proper storytelling music and voices. When can we see it again? Poppy Eponine

 

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We were warned that the Genie may be quite frightening, but Poppy wasn’t frightened. She likened the Genie to The Wizard of Oz, with his booming, reverberating voice and wicked face on a stick, held high above the ensemble by one of its members. “It’s a trick, a theatre trick.” When we talked about it she said, “Well, maybe it would have been frightening for a little kid.” Poppy is seven, so by “little” she means a child of three or four.

 

This is a strong, tight-knit ensemble, their collective vocal and physical talent is impressive, and with its stunning design and the addition of – truly magical – live traditional music, you would expect this production to enjoy a longer run. I just love what Artistic Director of the Queensland Music Festival, James Morrison, has to say in his notes about Futcher securing a run for this production during QMF. Morrison says there was no pitch, no story board; “he simply had Pezhvak play and said the words ‘1001 Nights’…I was instantly hooked and wanted to sit on a rug and hear the stories.”

 

Let’s hope 1001 Nights will be resurrected at some stage as a touring show. It would be a hit with secondary schools, if they ever had time to see it! Or perhaps it could be made available on the corporate circuit. I’m serious! This is the type of themed entertainment that we are being asked each year to create for major fundraising events! Teachers, parents and event managers, keep an ear to the ground, because if 1001 Nights comes around again you’d be foolish to miss it!

 

And if you’re very lucky, with no other plans this afternoon, you just might secure the last remaining tickets to the final performance today at 3pm.

 

AND just because I love it, and I couldn’t see any Pezhvak on YouTube, here’s an homage to the gorgeous (and hilarious) Bollywood moment!