Sunday, 12 June 2011

Concert Life in Adelaide, South Australia

Try as I may, it is simply too difficult for me to avoid concerts of classical music even when I am on an overseas vacation with the family. In Adelaide. we attended two concerts - one with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra (ASO) at Adelaide Town Hall and a musical by a local theatre company at the Arts Theatre.

Adelaide Town Hall is a quaint venue, not unlike the larger Leeds Town Hall or Singapore's Victoria Concert Hall. Its neo-Palladian columns and imposing clock tower overlook King William Street, Adelaide's main thoroughfare. In the foyer is a statue of Queen Adelaide, the consort of the Duke of Clarence (who later became King William IV), after whom the ciity was named. The magnificent pipe organ and ceiling lamps added an aura of classic beauty to the venue.

The ASO concert on 3 June featured works which I had never heard performed "live" in Singapore or anywhere else. Angels was the apt title coupling J.S. Bach's cantata A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, the Magnificat in D major, and Arvo Pärt's Symphony No.4 "Los Angeles". The chorus was the very fine Adelaide Festival Singers (30 strong) and soloists were local - including well-known soprano Sara Macliver. Conducted by Arvo Volmer, the Pärt was an Australian premiere. Can't say I was too crazy about his much-vaunted tintinnabuli of Pärt, a minimalist play on triads and tinkling harmonics. There was a sense of deja vu, like I have heard it many times before (most likely in his Fratres, Tabula Rasa and other works). The Bach was enjoyable, taken at a light and lithe pace, with fine arias, duets and lovely orchestral solos.

Concert promoters in South Australia should be somewhat worried. Although the concert was sold out, it appeared that the medium age of its audience was 65 and above. We looked like the youngest people in attendance (my son at 9 was positively the youngest). There were no young people and we were the only non-Caucasians. Tickets were steep: A$54 for the cheapest category ($20 for children), despite the partially obstructed view (there were 2 sets of columns in front of the rear circle seats).

The other musical event we attended was a production of George and Ira Gershwin's Crazy for You by the Therry Dramatic Society, at The Arts Theatre on Angas Street. This is a 1992 adaptation of the 1930 musical Girl Crazy. Some of the popular songs from the original musical, such as I Got Rhythm, Embraceable You and Bidin' My Time, were retained while further songs - But Not For Me, Nice Work If You Can Get It, Someone To Watch Over Me amongst others - were added for a very enjoyable new story. The original 1930s setting of a Wild West ghost town during the Depression brought to life by an Eastern city-slicker was retained but the characters were new.

These were very well portrayed by local actors and singers, and even the American accents - so crucial for a story like this - were very credible. The choreography was stunning, and the tap dance routines (and almost every song item was an excuse for these) stole the show. This is something which we very much miss in Singapore, which is why we keep importing musical acts, while the Australians already have it down pat. Tickets were very reasonably priced (A$28 for adults and A$18 for children, so no complaints here. Again, we were the only Asian faces in the audience on Wednesday evening (8 June), but no worries, we were very much made to feel at home!

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