[ADELAIDE PREMIERE ~ SWE ~ IF YOU LOVE… MUSIC THAT MOVES YOU]
The Famous Spiegeltent, Adelaide Festival Centre, Fri 14 Jun.
From the moment Gunhild Carling sets foot on stage in The Famous Spiegeltent everything about her is dazzling! The costume and hair suggest exaggerated cabaret chanteuse, her charm and good humour quickly fills the room. Her energy level is exhausting to watch, as she works frenetically to pack each moment of our brief time together with things to remember.
Amongst all the pizzazz and energy and determination to entertain, Gunhild is also out to prove her versatility as a multi-instrumentalist. If we expect her to belt out a song and let her talented band take all of the solos, we are quickly corrected as she picks up a trumpet and takes them herself. From her first notes you know she’s not putting it on – she can really play! She picks up a trombone and delivers a demonstration of the different playing styles of some of her favourite trombonists. She can play them all! Then a song featuring harmonica, another featuring recorder, and of course it’s not a show without an incredible version of Amazing Grace played on bagpipes!
Gunhild sits at the piano to deliver two original love songs. The first shows that she also has considerable talent as a songwriter. The second is similar until it reaches a trumpet solo which of course she takes herself, and she is back on centre stage, leaving the pianist to take over where she left off.
There are two costume changes tonight – not between songs, but mid-song! As part of her comedy schtick someone in the band is given a solo, while she drags the clarinet/sax player off to help her get changed. First time, she returns in a sparkly new dress, he returns looking bedraggled. Second time, she returns in another sparkly new dress, he returns looking very self-satisfied! Later she changes her shoes, without help, and in the next number we learn that tap-dancing is yet another of her talents.
A highlight for me is a ripping version of Just A Closer Walk With Thee, originally a gospel hymn that has become a favourite at New Orleans funerals. Gunhild’s version has more to do with waking up Satan for a dance than resting a soul to sleep. Elsewhere there is a delightful version of Dream A Little Dream Of Me, and the song Gunhild declares is her most requested, La Vie En Rose.
The entertainment factor is ramped to the max with a couple of party tricks guaranteed to make any audience gasp with astonishment – a brief stint of playing three trumpets at once, and the incredible feat of playing upright bass while playing a trumpet she is delicately balancing.
The program ends with a Dixieland flourish, Bourbon Street Parade followed by St James Infirmary, before Gunhild leads the band through the crowd to the back door with everyone playing When The Saints Go Marching In, leaving the upright bass player onstage to carry on alone. As the audience file out of the Spiegeltent, we find Gunhild and the band still playing outside. Non-stop entertainment!
Cover image by Sara Silverberg
Centre image by Per Jahnke