Saturday, December 7, 2013


Georgia Powley - Paul Knobloch
Photo: Greg Primmer
Canberra Youth Orchestra

Canberra Dance Development Centre Dancers

Conductor – Rowan Harvey-Martin

Llewellyn Hall, 30th November 2013.

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

An imaginative collaboration between the Canberra Youth Orchestra and the Canberra Dance Development Centre, teamed with the world premiere of a brand new symphony by Canberra composer, Marian Budos and a testing concerto by Nigel Westlake, provided a stimulating and engaging evening of symphonic music.

“My Canberra” (Symphony No. 2) was commissioned by the Canberra Youth Orchestra from composer Marian Budos as a Canberra Centenary project.  The resultant symphony with its edgy harmonies, constantly changing rhythms, lush accessible melodies and rich warm orchestrations, proved to be a great showcase for the orchestra. Though constantly challenged by the demands of the piece, the young musicians, in the presence of the composer, and guided by the firm, disciplined conducting of Rowan Harvey-Martin, responded with an excitingly accomplished performance which drew cheers from the large audiences. 

The excitement continued into Nigel Westlake’s demanding “Invocations”, a concerto for a chamber orchestra which showcased the skills of accomplished young bass clarinettist, Tom Azoury. With his engaging stage presence and assured command of his instrument, Azoury gave a dazzling performance of this complex, demanding composition.

Canberra Dance Development Centre Dancers with The Canberra Youth Orchestra
Photo: Greg Primmer
The addition of the dancers from the Canberra Dance Development Centre provided a charming and visually delightful element for the last piece on the program, the tuneful incidental music for Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”,  written by the youthful Felix Mendelssohn when he was just 17 years old.  

Drawing on incidents from Shakespeare’s play, choreographers Jackie Hallahan and Paul Knobloch, devised a series of exhilarating, cleverly conceived dances for the young dancers, which they performed with admirable confidence and panache on the huge Llewellyn Hall stage. 

Dancers from the Canberra Dance Development Centre
Photo: Greg Primmer
Pretty-in-pink fairies, led by Valerie Pelchat and Melissa Fawke, flittered in admirable unison forming spectacularly intricate patterns.  A cheeky Puck, delightfully performed by Jessica Haynes, darted around sprinkling flower juice into the eyes of the unsuspecting (and unexpectedly young) quarrelling lovers. The mechanicals romped, and Titania (Georgia Powley) fell in love with Bottom (Melissa Fawke) disguised in an impressive donkey head.    

Jessica Haynes (Puck) with dancers from the Canberra Dance Development Centre
Photo: Greg Primmer
The surprise appearance by international dancer Paul Knobloch, as an elegant and regal Oberon, replacing at short notice an indisposed Nick Jachno, added an additional frisson of excitement to the evening. Knobloch generously avoided out-dancing the younger dancers, preferring to rely on his considerable stage presence to create his character, and contributing his considerable partnering skills in the climatic grand pas de deux, to draw attention to the lovely dancing of Georgia Powley as his gorgeous Titania.

Again conductor Rowan Harvey-Martin kept a tight rein on her well-rehearsed orchestra, which accompanied the dancing with confidence and accuracy, allowing Mendelssohn’s lovely music to weave its magic to create a mesmerising visual and aural spectacle.

In this Centenary Year this performance was a re-assuring reminder of how fortunate we are in Canberra to have such organisations as the Canberra Youth Orchestra and the Canberra Dance Development Centre to nurture our young musicians and dancers, and provide them with such all- important opportunities, such as "Centenary Dreaming", to display their emerging skills.