Review by Lucinda Naughton
Homophonic! seeks to represent LGBTQ+ classical musicians and composers, both past and present. 2021 sees Homophonic! celebrate ten years of queer classical music with its cult following. This year brings an incredible performance; the concert features the winner of the Homophonic! Pride Prize, Shoeb Ahmad’s piece for double belled bass trombone and electronics performed by Ben Anderson; a new work by Wally Gunn, Maria Zajkowski and the Consort of Melbourne; and a quartet for baroque instruments by Louisa Trewartha.
It is an incredible performance. The musicians gather snugly around the small stage; La Mama is such a great, intimate space for the concert. So close to the action the audience becomes a part of the experience, we can see (and listen to) everyone’s professional talent, but also watch their utter passion and deep meditation as they play. They share truly beautiful and moving music.
Miranda Hill is the natural, charismatic MC of the night; Hill also produced and performs in the concert, playing the double bass and G violone. Hill is witty and clever and connects with her audience easily. She introduces each piece, providing context and information for each, her depth of knowledge, humour, love and passion of the the music shining through along with her queer pride.
The musicians are dressed in stage blacks with an added bonus: everyone displays the pride colours in creative ways – ties, scarves, earrings, belts, braces – highlighting the LGBTQ+ representation. The performers happily gather together on stage or sit off to the side when they’re not performing. Millie Levakis’ lighting design often includes audience lights, matching this casual and relaxed atmosphere of the concert.
The show opens with Baroque Quartet (2020) by the Melbourne-based Louisa Trewartha, which was written during and inspired by Melbourne’s lockdown last year. There are two pieces in this work and the first captures the sense of anxiety and fear of the unknown we experienced at the beginning of lockdown. The music wonderfully articulates this sense of panic and uncertainty that was really easy to connect to. The second piece builds on the first and settles down, reflecting how we became accustomed to this new lifestyle while still holding onto that fear. For me, it really spoke of the lockdown experience, encompassing the wide range of feelings and experiences we endured.
Following this piece is Six Scenes (2016) by Bree van Reyk and it is utterly wonderful. I am who I am (2021) by Caerwen Martin and inspired by Yvonee Sillett follows, with incredible vocals from The Consort of Melbourne, which are directed by Steven Hodgson. Next performed is excerpts from Moonlite (2019), music by Wally Gunn and libretto by Maria Zajkowski: Scene 02: The future by the past; Scene 05: Even in that dark time; and scene 09: Every tie which could bind. These pieces are incredible powerhouses; the music is so rich with so many layers. Utterly beautiful and moving.
After a brief interval came Depth Disintegration (2021) by Shoeb Ahmad, performed by Ben Anderson, and winner of Homophonic! Pride Prize. It’s a very powerful piece, performed in the dark, which was an interesting choice and certainly makes you utterly listen. The double belled bass trombone (which is apparently the only one in existence!) is powerful and matches the dominant electronics.
To lighten things, Dancing with Somebody (2013) by Joe Twist follows. The work is a sort of tribute to Whitney Houston, inspired by some of her songs. It was an awesome performance, fun, engaging and beautiful. Shimmer (2021) by Louisa Trewartha is a sonic journey remembering and celebrating the three most important people in Max Primmer’s life – Primmer is a Daylesford local known for his highly anticipated outfits in his alter ego Miss Di for the ChillOut parade. This was an awesome piece, rich and passionate. The final performance piece is Hyr (2019/2021) by Ellie Lamb, a hymn (but not a religious one, as Hill jokes). Most of the musicians, if not all of them, performed in this piece, creating a very rich, wonderful atmosphere. This was the perfect place to end the concert – on such a high.
Homophonic! is an incredible classical concert; passionate, moving and full of energy. A highly enjoyable experience.