Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Presented by Canberra Youth Music and Canberra Dance Development Centre
Llewellyn Hall Saturday 23rd June 2012
Reviewed by Bill Stephens

Georgia Powley and Hayden Baum
The Canberra Youth Orchestra
(Photo:Greg Primmer) 

Canberra Youth Music and Canberra Dance Development Centre pooled their resources to present an impressive and satisfying Shakespearean themed concert in Llewellyn Hall.

The opening work was the lovely tone poem “The Bard” written in 1913 by Jean Sibelius. Although short, this piece makes considerable demands on the players because of its richly detailed colouring. After a rather tentative start, the young musicians of The Canberra Youth Orchestra, carefully guided by conductor Rowan Harvey-Martin, soon settled into the mystical atmosphere of the piece to produce a deeply satisfying performance.

No sign of hesitancy in the second piece, “Suite from Henry V”.   Muir Matheson’s stirring  arrangement of music  written  by Sir William Walton for Sir Laurence Olivier’s acclaimed film of Shakespeare’s “Henry V” convincingly  captures the period feel of the source material, and it was clear from their strong, confident playing,  that the young players were revelling in the dramatic possibilities inherent in the arrangement, as much as the audience.

This confidence flowed over to the third piece of the evening, “The Walk to Paradise Garden”, the gorgeous intermezzo written by Frederick Delius for his opera “A Village Romeo and Juliet”.  This beautiful emotive music was superbly played by the young orchestra and set the mood and tone perfectly for the major drawcard of the evening, a performance of Sergei Prokofiev’s evocative “Suite No. 2 from Romeo and Juliet” presented with full orchestra and dancers from the Canberra Dance Development Centre.

Usually, in this type of presentation the dancers perform in front of the orchestra, which often results in the dancer’s movements being blurred by the movement of the orchestra players behind them.

On this occasion however, the vast stage of the Llewellyn Hall was divided into two separate areas, with the orchestra on one side, and the dance area, covered by a dance tarkett, on the other. It worked beautifully.

Jackie Hallahan had choreographed the seven short movements which make up the suite into a one-act ballet depicting the major incidents of the familiar Romeo and Juliet story. Commencing with the dramatic meeting of the Montague and Capulet families and progressing through to the final death scene in the family crypt, the choreography was clear, expressive and in complete harmony with the music. Most importantly it was confidently and beautifully executed by the young dancers.

 Highlights included the dramatic opening sequence with the dancers costumed in lovely flowing red and black costumes, and the lovely pas de deux superbly danced by Georgia Powley and Hayden Baum.

As seems de rigueur at concerts in the Llewellyn Hall, Rowan Harvey-Martin made an impassioned statement during the concert drawing attention to the impact of the current situation involving the Canberra School of Music, and the truth of her comments was compellingly demonstrated by this remarkable concert by two of Canberra’s leading youth organisations.

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