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Review: Homophonic! at La Mama Courthouse

Review by Susanne Dahn

Returning to La Mama Courthouse as part of Midsumma 23 is the hyper-wonderful ensemble of instrumentalists and vocalists known as Homophonic!

Under the sure hand of Producer, Artistic Director, MC (and double bass player) Miranda Hill, Homophonic! is a collaboration of the always sublime Consort of Melbourne led by Artistic Director Stephen Hodgson with the brilliant Homophonic! ensemble of players.

And once again Homophonic! have brought a program of astounding new music by talented queer composers to our delighted and grateful ears.

New works on the program include those from composers Sally Whitwell, Cameron Lam, Cheryl Durongpispitkul, James Rushford, Meta and Leona Cohen, Evan Lawson, Alex Temple and Andrew Aronowicz. And a number of the performances were firsts for Australia and the world.

In music, homophony is a texture in which a primary part is supported by one or more additional strands that flesh out the harmony. One melody dominates while the other parts play either single notes or an accompaniment. This contrasts with equal-voice polyphony (in which parts move with rhythmic and melodic independence to form an even texture) and monophony (in which the parts move in unison).

The program opens with Sally Whitwell’s hilarious though poignant Lockdown Alphabet which was written for this show in 2022 (which didn't end up happening) but did tour in regional Victoria to great acclaim. Performed with joy and purgatively happy to listen to. G was most definitely for grateful.

The program continues with a movement (Blood Red, Leaves Green) from Cameron Lam’s The Splendour of Lying Naked in the Sun. The audience was enchanted as the Consort’s voices soared and chased and braided manifestly showing just how united with nature’s beauty we humans can be.

Act 1 ends again in high splendour with the world premiere of In Full Splendour by saxophonist composer Cheryl Durongpispitkul. The piece takes us from chaos to understanding and acceptance with beautiful work on oboe and clarinet steadily framed by double bass.

Act 2 opens with another world premiere this time of James Rushford’s Pride Prize winning commissioned work for oboe and playback Invs Belmn. In this work Rushford creates a highly original sound world from the background of queer films. Imagine taking these adjacent, unnoticed, dismissed fragments and putting them centre stage. Ben Opie on oboe poured intimacy and fragility into this collaboration.

The program continued with the work Swerve

commissioned under the Homophonic! RESPECT project to Meta and Leona Cohen. Swerve is inspired by Jenni George a long term Goulburn Valley Pride volunteer and much loved community member who is “caterpillar no more” and despite life’s turning and turning, it’s round and round, stood before us as beautiful butterfly.

The penultimate works are the dual Australian premieres of Evan Lawson’s Echoes from the Labyrinth and Alex Temple’s playful and philosophical Blurry Line. The cello as lead sliced these pieces as smooth as butter, violin and viola were superb and the walk-up surprises of clarinet and flute completed the soundscape.

The final piece on the program by Andrew Aronowicz is true to its title Blown Away. This work too was commissioned under the Homophonic! RESPECT project and is inspired by Peter Harbinson opera singer, nurse and world traveller. What a jaunty, upbeat and exuberant way to end the evening all singing together with a camembert flying through the air.

A brief plug for RESPECT. The Homophonic! RESPECT project commissions new music by LGBTQ+ composers, inspired by the lives, loves, and adventures of senior members of the community. Queer cultural history isn't passed down around multi-generational dinner tables at holidays, so it's the responsibility of artists and story tellers to write the stories down in a way that can pass on through generations. What a worthwhile project!

What a treat this collaboration and performance was. The technical artistry in the room was stunning. The sheer joy and love and delight in the room was magic. Thank you to Miranda and the entire team for an unforgettable night.

Violins: Cameron Jamieson, Natasha Conrau. Viola: Phoebe Green. Cello: Campbell Banks. Double Bass: Miranda Hill. Oboe: Ben Opie. Clarinets: Karen Heath. Flutes: Kim Tan.

Consort of Melbourne: Steven Hodgson, Katherine Norman, Kristy Biber, Alex Ritter, Robin Parkin, Ben Owen.

Image Supplied


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