Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Tobias Cole 
Canberra International Music Festival.

High Court of Australia.

Monday May 13th.

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

Joyful noise from the musicians and joyous smiles from the audience are the lingering impressions of this superbly curated concert, the first in the Amazing Space series in this year’s C.I.M.F.  Canberra music enthusiasts have long been aware of what an extraordinary setting the High Court building provides for the performance of music, but for this concert every item had been carefully selected to display or test these particular qualities.

 Architect Ross Feller provided the parameters with an outline of the special architectural features of the building, and explained exactly how its heroic scale affected the acoustic. He encouraged the audience to move around the building during the concert to experiences these affects. Many of the large audience did, choosing to watch from the various walkways and balconies surrounding the main performance area.

A selection of familiar and original works, played on unusual combinations of instruments produced quite magical moments, which were enhanced by imaginative presentation, as when the audience quietly moved back from their vantage points on the ceremonial walkways to make way for didgeridoo player, William Barton as he moved slowly among them in a dramatic and arresting opening to the concert.

The infectious enthusiasm of the Taikoz drummers brilliant on a variety of percussive instruments, the expressions on the faces of the four members of Synergy Percussion, seemingly as mesmerised as their audience by the beautiful sounds they were extracting from their various Xylophones during their breathtakingly beautiful performance of Handel’s Keyboard Suite in D Minor, stay in the mind.

There were items in which the audience hardly dared to breath for fear of breaking the spell, especially in the Taikoz presentation of “Resounding Bell” where the drummers provided a gentle accompaniment for Riley Lee’s  sublime shakuhachi flute solo, or during the final Bach Chorale in which the instruments included shimmering handbells, shakuhachi flute and didgeridoo, played from balconies and walkways above and surrounding the audience, or most especially during two Monteverdi arias in which the icy glitter of Tobias Cole’s superb counter tenor voice has never sounded so striking as when accompanied here by Synergy’s warm, mellow xylophones.

An extraordinarily auspicious commencement for a series of programs spotlighting Canberra’s Amazing Spaces, “Sounding the High Court” has set a high benchmark for the rest of the concerts in this series.
                 (An edited version of this review appears in the digital edition of CITY NEWS)