Article Title:Review: Flawed and fabulous GALS concert
Category:Performance
Author or Credit:Jay Bennie
Published on:28th October 2012 - 08:58 am
Published by:GayNZ.com
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Story ID:12458
Text:It was always going to be a difficult job to bring together the various elements expected of a concert to mark 20 years of singing and singers, to acknowledge the serious and not so serious moments from the past, the supporters and accomplishments, and to party it up. In general GALS decided to play it safe and a touch sober and to just occasionally loosen their corsets. The result was somewhat heavy on reflective moments, appropriate gestures and less a celebration of the spirit and vitality which have long underscored GALS' work. Sung from off-stage E Te Matua, performed in memory of its composer, the late Mahinarangi Tocker was a dignified prelude but the following and rather insipid number Email Me Your Queer Love, Baby did not get the show proper off with the necessary bang. It felt a little dated and clunky. It's hard to go wrong with the songs that followed, including You'll Never Walk Alone, He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother and Reach Out, I'll Be There. They are staples of the GALS repertoire and were performed well. Then something wonderful occurred. Unaccompanied, working only with the sometimes remarkable sounds and tones the human voice box can produce, the choir stunned the audience with Past Life Melodies by Australian composer Sarah Hopkins. Conjuring up mental images of the Dreamtime and the soaring and spiritual qualities of the Australian Outback GALS bravely pushed right to the limit of their skills and gave us something wondrous and moving. Blending intonations and sounds normally eschewed in choral work they created an awesome performance. This was worth the price of admission all by itself. If I Loved You and Sylvie were sadly only so-so, but then Carmel Carroll was brought on and from her first knowing nod to the audience, her spirited rendition of Bizet's Habanera was both a grand performance and a bit of a romp. This was Bizet with streamers and a party hat which at one stage left conductor Margaret Robertson doubled over her lectern, corpsing with laughter. Carroll then stepped back into the body of the choir as it gave a creditable performance of David Hamilton's Me He Korokoro Tui, based on words provided by GALS and from traditional sources, with actual Tui song emerging as the song progressed, providing a charming, natural 'songs of the forest' end to the first half of the show. After interval Also Sprach Zarathustra, a shortened arrangement, was given the Close Encounters of the First Kind treatment with the choir wielding torches in the inky darkness. Then a salute to New Zealand music was somehow lacking in passion, with five songs and waiata failing to rouse the audience. Only Poi E seemed to stir the spirit and emotions a tad. It was a little strange, perhaps even disconcerting, to have the percussive backing and soloists for Shanti presented on a pre-recorded soundtrack while the choir performed live. It's a rhythmically and tonally complicated piece but how much better it would have been to see the percussionists on stage and, using microphones if necessary, give the four accomplished soloists their moment in the real, rather than the virtual, spotlight. GALS programme stalwart My Favourite Things predictably amused and a fun, powerful and at times irreverent Bohemian Rhapsody was a definite highlight on several levels. The world premiere of All this Singing, One Song by David Hamilton showed off the composer and choir's skills but somehow didn't quite engage us as much as previous Hamilton/GALS collaborations have done. It was workman-like but somehow we had heard it before. Vague echoes of the past rather than something new and wondrous. Then the evening kind of just glided to a halt with Can't Help Falling In Love, a nice enough piece with gentle harmonies and a sense of togetherness but not the big moment to give the audience its final impression of GALS. And, sadly, when it should surely have been anticipated that an encore would be called for by the uber-friendly audience, Can't Help Falling In Love was just summarily run through again. Oh, but that GALS had quietly prepared earlier a rousing or heart-warming natural audience participation 'plum,' a gay anthem such as Somewhere Over The Rainbow (already set up with the rainbow coloured backdrop and the singers' rainbow attire). It was not to be. Music Director Stephen Bowness, his team of accompanists, a slick back stage crew and presenters David Steemson and Marilyn Waring stitched this mixed selection of choral offerings together with style. Fighting against the rather energy-sapping acoustic and strange sight-lines of last night's seating layout at Q Theatre, they gave us a good time with fabulous moments. But this celebration of 20 years of GALS could so easily have been less flawed programme-wise, a little bit less earnest and a good bit more celebratory. - Jay Bennie Jay Bennie - 28th October 2012    
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