Australian Chamber Orchestra
Richard Tognetti, Creative Director
Nigel Jamieson, Film & Staging Director
Jon Frank, Cinematography
The Song Company
Llewellyn Hall, 6 August
Reviewed by Len Power
In “The Crowd & I”, Richard Tognetti and the Australian Chamber Orchestra join forces with film maker and staging director, Nigel Jamieson, and cinematographer, Jon Frank, to produce a performance of almost overwhelming beauty and confronting intensity.
The world now has over 8 million people, twice as many as 60 years ago. When people gather in large crowds, the result in cinematic terms can appear to be swarm-like. Jon Sharp’s camera has captured extraordinary images from around the world of people coming together. Depicted are scenes of the Kumbh Mela festival on the banks of the River Ganges, the Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, the mosh pits of Coachella, California, sporting stadiums, massive refugee camps, huge city activity and so on.
Not everything shown is beautiful. There are confronting scenes of mob violence, such as the Cronulla Race Riots, uncomfortably close to home, the desperation of the Boat People refugees and unsettling images of the vast impact of the Covid epidemic.
Richard Tognetti’s excellent choice of music to accompany these images includes works by Chopin, Beethoven, Shostakovitch, Ives, Sibelius, Schubert and several of his own works amongst the works of other modern day composers.
Led by Tognetti, the large number of musicians and the Song Company singers onstage, produce a remarkable sound – atmospheric, colourful and perfectly timed to the images unfolding on the large screen behind the performers.
Director, Nigel Jamieson, has created a superb and thoughtful film and music experience. A clever lighting design amongst and around the performers links them to the on-screen images, making this a complete stage and screen performance. Without this, the orchestra could have seemed to be just a soundtrack to a movie. The show has to be seen live for maximum effect.
One scene stands out strongly from the overwhelming huge number of images presented. A lone figure is walking in a vast Australian desert. In a long tracking shot, the camera follows his progress from behind and above. He eventually just disappears into and becomes part of the landscape. The crowd is the landcape itself and one person can be just an insignificant part of it.
The audience appeared to be quite mesmerised by this performance. Everyone was surprisingly still, totally focussed on the power of the sounds and images before them. Just as in the crowd scenes depicted on the screen, it was a memorable experience to be part of the dynamic of this large crowd in the auditorium.
This review was first published in the Canberra CityNews digital edition of 7 August 2022.
Len Power's reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 in the ‘Arts Cafe’ and ‘Arts About’ programs and published in his blog 'Just Power Writing' at https://justpowerwriting.blogspot.com/.