Tally Ho! Dunedin Sound Songs and Singers, Dunedin Town Hall, Saturday 28 February 2015
A sellout audience unanimously leapt to its feet to acknowledge the putting of the limelight on the underground 1980s Dunedin Sound. Under the direction of Peter Adams, the Southern Sinfonia, amplified and recorded for broadcast by Strawberry Sound, devoted its energies to songs by local composers Shayne Carter, Peter Jefferies, Martin Phillipps, David and Hamish Kilgour, Robert Scott, Andrew Brough, Jay Clarkson, Dave Saunders and Graeme Downes.
The Sinfonia’s devotion to an already valued local genre produced a seminal achievement.
Graeme Downes’ orchestration produced an exceptional almost uniform embellishment of the songs’ various sentiments.
Phillipps’ fragile love song Submarine Bells, the tangled rush of Look Blue go Purple’s I Don’t Want You Anyway, the bluesy by-lines of Straitjacket Fits’ Down in Splendour, the Weill-like grunge of Clarkson’s Man With No Desire and the polyphonic layering of Brough’s interpretation of James K. Baxter’s Andy Dandy were spine-chilling.
The Kilgours’ instrumental work At the Bottom became staggeringly meaty, energetic and rhythmically and thematically intricate.
Only two songs failed somewhat. The lushness of the orchestral treatment suffocated the lyrics in Downes’ overly precious and grumpy Pets and those of the difficult Pink Frost mismatched Anna Leese’s dramatic depiction.
In most songs, the lyrics poetically mine human foibles which are wonderful material for emotionally charged performances. Molly Devine gave a strongly expansive exploration of Carter and Jefferies’ Randolph’s Going Home. Metitilani Alo’s sweet voice perfectly matched Leese’s mellow range in Downes’ beautiful Dirge. Lani’s solo performance of Saunders’ Outer Space was compelling.
Kylie Price does not yet have the power to swamp an orchestra but remains a valuable member of the line-up.
Leese’s wonderful understanding of the art song genre raised Clarkson’s Man With No Desire and Downes’ For the Love of Ash Grey into the stratosphere.
This significant event should resonate for many moons.
Reviewed by Marian Poole for the Otago Daily Times, Monday, 2 March 2015.