Music / CIMF, Concert 9, “Of Fairies and Fools”. At Fitters’ Workshop, May 2. Reviewed by ROB KENNEDY.

RUSTIC folk tales and elf-like fantasy, Grimm’s fairy tales, Czech folk traditions and other folklore stories filled this child-like concert with playful and catchy creations.

The performers were, James Wannan, viola; Oliver Shermacher, clarinet; Susannah Lawergren, soprano; Anna Fraser, soprano; Roland Peelman, piano; Ronan Apcar, piano/keyboard; Theo Carbo, electric guitar; Fletcher Cox, trumpet; Jackson Bankovic, trombone; Aidan Gabriels, horn; Veronica Bailey, percussion; Alister Price, accordion; Jacques Emery, double bass; Luminescence Chamber Singers, and the Alma Moodie Quartet.

Beginning with Robert Schumann’s, “Märchenerzählungen”, op 132, for the trio of clarinet, viola and piano, this was one of his last works. The four pieces in this cycle sound as fresh today as the day they were written in 1853. Each movement has a distinct style. It’s storytelling music. Animated, lighthearted and, at times, rousing. 

Peelman at the piano in the “Of Fairies and Fools” concert. Photo: Peter Hislop.

The three players created a balanced sound. While each could be heard separately, they blended the distinctive timbre of their instruments to create a bright ambience.

The slow third movement just melted into the ears. The audio technicians at the Fitters’ Workshop have done an excellent job to create the best sound possible. I could hear every small articulation from the back.

The “Moravian Duets” (1876), by Antonín Dvořák, performed by sopranos Lawergren and Fraser with Peelman on piano is a dreamy work. The nine songs that make up these duets all complement one another. The two soprano’s voices counterpart each other perfectly. While their voices were distinctive, together they sounded like one.

Peelman’s accompaniment on piano sat in just the right place to allow the singers’ voices to be forefront and expressive. The songs were plaintive and playful. Each had a touch of the folk in a classical setting. Mellow tunes mirrored the gentle lyrics. These were songs to surrender to.

After the interval, Leoš Janáček’s, “Říkadla”, (Nursery Rhymes) (1926), was a fun-filled, crazy work. The 19 pieces in these nursery rhymes are a string of short miniatures across almost every crazy subject you can think of. Such as the mock-romantic nuptials of a beetroot to a cow

“Crazy” times at the “Of Fools and Fairies” concert. Photo: Peter Hislop

Musical craziness ensued across the five female singers and four male voices who made up the Luminescence Chamber Singers. Also performing was Wannan on viola and Apcar on piano.

The equally crazy lyrics must have been written by someone with one wild sense of humour. The audience was constantly giggling. The music and the entire performance was double plus good.

“Village Idiot” (2006), by Elena Kats-Chernin wound up the concert. Another dose of serious hilarity, but this time for a small band that comprised electric guitar, double bass, percussion, electric piano, accordion, brass and the Alma Moodie Quartet, directed by Peelman.

Full of motion, like a lot of Kats-Chernin’s music, this one had a gorgeous drive and eclecticism to it, which was clearly reflected by the choice of instruments. It could have been the soundtrack to a romantic/action movie, such was its dynamic.

This was a cracking performance and an excellent concert of some of the best music around.

Feature image: Roland Peelman conducts at the “Of Fairies and Fools” concert. Photo: Peter Hislop.

This review was originally written and published by ROB KENNEDY from CityNews on 02 May 2023.