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Lunchtime Concert Review

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  Lunchtime Concert Review  Jennifer Trease In the Octagon Theatre at the University of Western Australia on the 14 th  of March 2013, soprano vocalist Fiona McAndrew, and pianist David Wickham delivered a captivating programme of Rossini and Poulenc. The performers were able to capture the essence of France and Italy through their gestures and expression, and complementing each other’s musicality well.  There was a quiet hum of chatter from the audience, quickly silenced by the introduction of the performers, who were greeted with warm applause. The anticipation by the audience for that first note was almost tangible in the air, especially because of the lack of enough programmes, and when it was delivered, it was unexpected. The note rang out in the auditorium, loud enough in the superb acoustics of the Octagon Theatre, and people shifted in their seats. A glance was exchanged between two concertgoers as if to express their discomfort or confusion at this type of music, not expecting it. An operatic noise, filling the theatre, the audience was polarised; some sat, riveted, eyes constantly watching the duo on stage, a look of wonderment on their faces, while others fidgeted with their programmes, restless in their seats. That first note, and every other note sung by Fiona McAndrew, conveyed something  –  the story of the piece, emotion, technicality  –  but mainly confusion. There was an overuse of very wide vibrato, which blurred the clarity of the pitch, as well as the words, despite her excellent articulation and diction. This made it increasingly difficult to understand not only the story and where exactly in the piece she was, but also to figure out the melodic line, which seemed almost undecipherable. This confusion was only heightened by the cultural barrier, caused mainly by the different languages. As the audience looked to be predominantly English- speaking, the translation pages, which also ran out, and the vocalist’s gestures were helpful to understand the story of the pieces, however as the saying goes, “lost in translation” seemed apparent on many of the blank faces around the auditorium.  The dynamics between the two performers was outstanding. The pianist accompanied the vocalist as closely as humanly possible, matching her actions, dynamics, tone, and even the impromptu little flourishes in her performance; yet despite this close accompaniment, the virtuosic piano passages shone brilliantly, cutting the monotony and simplicity of the vocal line with a varied timbre, the vocalist retaining her character and emotion during these times. This showed great respect between the two performers, and amazing nonverbal communication. The vocalist left the stage, and David Wickham rose from the piano. He began to speak of the history of the next piece and its storyline. This set the atmosphere for his performance, which was the highlight of the programme. The emotion conveyed in ‘Une caresse à ma femme’ was beautiful and raw. This piano interlude broke the programme and when Fiona McAndrew returned, her  performance seemed more emotional and expressive. Both the pianist and vocalist moved to suit the emotion or mood of the piece in the perfect times and often utilising the dynamics. Their facial expressions reflected the intent of the mood and showed them in varying intensities. They both seemed moved by their works and engaged in their performances, not only executing but interpreting the music in a sophisticated manner, showing their musicality and their understanding of the music that was being performed. The audience left the theatre with mixed reviews. The technical shortcomings such as the overuse of such wide vibrato prevented the audience from fully engaging with the musicians, creating a distance between audience and performer and led to a less satisfying performance experience. The overall concert was pleasant however, if this could be overlooked. The Lunchtime Concert Series held at the Octagon Theatre at the University of Western Australia at 1:10pm on Thursdays is an enjoyable experience and is a great way to celebrate different musical groups and hear some fantastic music.
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