Space Theatre, Fri Sep 12
OzAsia brings so many delectable acts to our city, it is hard to decide what to go and see. So much can appear to be quite literally foreign, as we encounter truly unique shows and musicians when we have such an amazing opportunity to explore cultural boundaries we may not have otherwise met.
Being in the audience for this show I had the fortune of listening to and watching in great detail a style of music and instrumentation I am not as familiar with, which is often the best way to have yourself a truly amazing evening. We have all heard the passionate drumming and sounds that can emanate from traditional drumming and from other cultures. However, to be in the Space Theatre this night was eye – and ear – opening.
We started the evening with Synergy Percussion, a four-piece percussion ensemble led by Timothy Constable. The ensemble has enjoyed global success with a history of 40 years performing in every capacity. The smile on his face, whether it be from the obvious joy he received at performing or being in the presence of and performing with Noreum Machi, was just so engaging it was hard to not smile back at him, although naturally he wouldn’t have been able to see us in the darkened theatre.
Playing an eclectic array of Korean instruments as well as writing several original pieces capturing the often runaway rhythms of the Korean way, in tricky 5 and 7 beat patterns, one was lost with the array of instrumentation suddenly whipped out and indeed the reckless abandonment that came with it, while being captivated with the seriousness of the musicians expression. Exceptionally tight and musically sound, their set was nonetheless quite abstract and something you may not truly understand, should you think about it too hard.
Unusual instruments that appeared to be not dissimilar to enormous party favours and conch shells delighted our ears with the unfamiliar sounds and the amazing intricacies of their relationship often came together, illustrating just how tight the union of the group really was.
We were given earplugs as we entered the room by the lovely staff and it was at about this point that I was wondering what for, as Synergy was not overly loud. However, the second half of the show bought a change of pace as the Korean troupe, five musicians, took the stage after a beautiful vocal piece sung by artistic director of Synergy, Timothy Constable, who shared with us his haunting and ethereal vocal skills.
Noreum Machi dazzle us with beautiful traditional Korean instruments including a ‘T’aepyeongso’ which is similar to a horn, with a sound sometimes similar to a very subtle brassy clarinet, and a plethora of beautiful hand crafted drums and cymbals. To watch this music performed is astonishing, with the energy levels and strictness of time faultless, and the physical nature of the musicians is a feat in itself, with a rhythmic dance continuing for the length of the show with virtually no rest.
A spectacular entrance from the rear of the theatre for the second half means we get a very close view of the lovely traditional costume and the opportunity to be carried away with the wistful and plaintive sounding vocals.
The artistic director of the Korean ensemble has a gentle sense of humor as he explains in very simple language everyone’s roles, names and an interactive sing-along that occurs with the audience towards the end. To our delight Synergy are bought back onstage to collaborate an explosive finale that does, after all, almost require the earplugs that have been lost, forlorn in my handbag.
Mesmerising and visually captivating, this was a show, which surprised and educated all at once. Value for money indeed with the time of the show being nearly an hour over the printed concert length, this was one punter who was certainly not complaining!
by Siân Williams.