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Review: Consort of the Moon - Melbourne Rising at Fitzroy Gardens

Review by Susanne Dahn


Consort of the Moon is a brilliant, evocative musical sacrament co-created by two of Melbourne’s beloved virtuoso musicians Genevieve Lacey and Erkki Veltheim. The work is produced by Freya Waterson.


This highly original work was inspired by the oldest known piece of ancient notated song - an ode to Nikkal, Goddess of Orchards and Consort of the Moon understood to have been performed accompanied by lyre.


A contemporary take on sacred ritual and ceremony, this immersive and participative performance commences with a sombre ushering-in by a hooded mass choir to a clearing in Melbourne’s gorgeous Fitzroy Gardens where the performance will take place under the moon and stars. The design of the performance space and seating by Bosco Shaw achieves simplicity, rusticity and elegance.


The choir both surrounds and occupies the audience,who can add their own voices to the performance if they wish, as well as play the rhythm-making stones handed out at check in.


As we take our seats in the dark there is a wicca feeling of spirits being beckoned. Silence precedes the slow beginning of sung chant. Two ethereal god/dess figures in white approach the central lyre. The unbreakable thread that connects us all is unspun and with an ancient baton, each god/dess coaxes forth pre-recorded lyre chords which begins the magical electro-acoustic work of sound designer Byron Scullin.


These mellow chords, the rising chorus of the choir and the night noises are then pierced by full-throttle keening lament that alternates, harmonises and dissonances between the two principal vocalists Deborah Kayser and Austin Haynes both of whose performances are nothing short of spectacular. Their vocal range, endurance, timing and stagecraft are quite extraordinary.


This work brings the eternal story of life and love, exhaustion and pain, relief and recovery, awe and wonder to a deeply palpable level as we sit or sway, sing or submit to the extraordinary power of the human voice as it traverses human history from ancient to modern times.

Consort of the Moon is at once spellbinding, hypnotic, primal, sacred, mysterious and strangely familiar. A coming home. An awakening of something deep within. The sweet comfort of making shared ritual - with each other, with the aircraft above, with the calls of the possums, cicadas and owls and with the rustle of the trees and the stones.


Rising, Lacey and Veltheim and all the cast and crew, have given Melbourne a precious, special glimpse into the transcendency of voice.

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