Review: Boom! International Festival of Percussion by Percussion Australia at Town Hall

Review by Charlotte Leamon

With a title such as this, one expects an implacable evening full of sound and music. To say the least, this title was fitting as the onomatopoeic word ‘Boom’ simply defines the magic of Percussion Australia’s opening night concert for their percussion festival running from the 1st-8th of October.

Town Hall as a setting was beautiful and charming, with colourful red and blue lights lightening up the entrance as the audience was greeted by ‘Clocks and Clouds Microtonal Ensemble.’ An ensemble which designed instruments tuned to the microtonal scales from Anaphoria, performed by Kraig Grady and Terumi Narushima. This mellow and calming performance drew the audience in as these unfamiliar tonal relationships prepared us for an international endeavour of percussion.

The concert soon began with Michael Skill on lead gong, featuring Greta Kelly and other performers. Corrina Banshek’s piece Song to the Earth III was described by her as, “an instrumental love song to the planet…contemplating the ways that plant, animal, bird and elemental life move in spirals and waves, and experienced as aleatoric yet relaxing.” Kelly was placed centre stage underneath a Taiko drum as she played the Shah Kaman in the scales and modes of Persia alongside 6 gong players and skill. The sound design produced by Anna Whitaker was nature-based, full of cicadas and the sounds of summer. The gentle thrum of the gongs accompanied by Kelly was soothing and resonant as the players were placed throughout the town hall, in the stands, on stage and either side of the audience. This placement worked well acoustically with the resonance and vibrations of the gongs, however my favourite section of this piece was the use of cymbals as an eruption of metallic sounds ripped through the air as the players took turns performing a cymbal roll with alternating dynamics. The build of this section was on the cusp of becoming ear-piercingly loud, however as soon as you wanted to cover your ears it was brought back down again.

The next piece titled Meditation performed and written by Jess Ciampa and Timothy Constable was a lot more rhythmic and melodic in comparison to the previous. A beautiful song which sounded like a folk melody was sung by Constable’s undulating voice, interrupted by fanciful rhythms on frame drums. Followed by this, Reflections by Ross Edwards was performed by old and new members of Synergy for piano and 3 percussion. First performed and commissioned by Synergy in 1985, they performed it once more as the piano and percussion interplay with an array of textures and rhythms, using fluttering motifs to represent, “the intimated minutiae gleaned from the sound environment of Central Eastern Australia”, as stated by Edwards. It is clear this ensemble has worked together for years, as their communication and timing was precise and delicate.

The closing piece for the first interval was playful and thrilling to watch as the audience witnessed Rebecca Lagos, Mark Robinson and Constable combine forces. Last Shaman was influenced by shamanic rituals and rhythms of the Korean language, dedicated to Constable’s Korean mentor. The development of the piece is dramatic and powerful. Watching these three percussionists move and feel the music together was absolutely spectacular, as the talent and synchronisation took the audiences breath away.

In the second interval, Claire Edwardes opened with her performance of Rebonds by Xenakis which she aims to perform as much as she can this year for the occasion of the centenary of his birth. In Edwardes’ performance you can see the passion and admiration for Xenakis and this piece, in which she performs the B movement first, and then A. Followed by this, Jason Noble and Edwardes of Ensemble Offspring perform a melodious duet for bass clarinet and marimba titled Verve and composed by Nathan Daughtrey.

Home by Ian Cleworth, who unfortunately could not attend this concert due to a back injury, was a vivacious and bright concert of Taikoz. The synchronised movements and dance were fabulous to watch, as well as the physical strength of these performers, so much so that one mallet snapped! The concluding piece named Bright Earth, Dark Sky by Constable brought together all acts in a tumultuous finale, lasting roughly 20-minutes.

A space filled with musicians from Australia, known worldwide for their talent and loved and adored by many. As a musician, I was grateful for a concert to be solely based on percussion as I could understand and witness the large range of talent that percussionists have to offer through many, many instruments. Through melody, rhythm and a show of physical stature I was awed and ignited with passion by this concert.

Image Supplied