The monthly presentation of Chamber Jam at the Ellington Jazz Club in Northbridge is always a highlight and this month’s was no exception. The evening appeared at first to be jinxed – slated for a 7pm start, it didn’t actually get going until just before 8pm, due to the preview of another show running hopelessly over time. Many customers, understandably, were displeased, but Chamber Jam patrons are, by and large, a forgiving lot, and once the show got going the gripes were soon forgotten.
Performers in the opening act, however, were understandably a bit rattled. This was the Skittle Alley trio, comprising Deborah Lehmann (piano), Matthew Kidd (clarinet) and Bourby Webster (viola). The first number, a pleasing arrangement of the Celine Dion song ‘The Prayer’, settled the audience nicely with its soothing sostenuto opening, with the viola carrying the vocal line. In the middle section, we had some velvety teamwork as Pitt and Webster engaged in a seamless musical conversation, phrase by phrase.
The second item, Mozart’s Kegelstatt Trio (K. 498), also referred to as the Trio for Clarinet, Viola and Piano in E-flat, was also skilfully handled for the most part. This trio gave the group its name, for Kegelstatt translates as Skittle Alley (skittles was a hobby of Mozart’s!) and indeed with a bit of imagination it is not hard to hear rolling balls and falling ninepins in the opening Andante. The Menuetto fared less well. Tiredness, I think, was catching up with the players due to a long day in the recording studio followed by the delay in starting the show, and they were at times just a tiny bit unsure of the tempo and a tad out of sync with each other. But with the final Rondo, with its sometimes complex harmonies underlying a flowing melody line, the trio rallied and brought the set to a rousing close.
The second act for the evening was a classical guitar duo, composed of WAAPA lecturer Jonathan Paget, arguably one of this country’s most successful guitarists, and Craig Lake, who also teaches at WAAPA in between his performance engagements alongside some of this country’s leading concert artists. The duo is currently preparing a CD of Latin and Spanish items, and this preoccupation was reflected in their choice of program. They began with Albeniz’s much hackneyed but ever-popular ‘Granada’, to which they imparted considerable freshness and originality of arrangement. Their second item was a suite by Brazilian composer Marco Pereira, characterised by strong melody lines and strongly percussive sections. At times suggestive of a Flamenco/Jazz fusion, the work was frequently atonal, with complex rhythms which made considerable demands on the listeners as well as the performers. The more melodic segments were more to my admittedly conservative taste, but there is no denying the musicianship and great technical competence of this pair of fine players.
John Lennon’s ‘Fool on the Hill’ provided a lyrical change from the Latin flavour, with a fascinating counterpoint underlying the fluid melody, and Bellinati’s Jongo, another number characterised by difficult counterpoint passages, concluded the duo’s performance.
The final act for the evening was something really different – six cellists from the Perth Symphony Orchestra have formed a group, aptly called Spicks and Spikes! Like the first group, they were under the disadvantage of having spent all day at the ABC recording studios, laying down tracks for the PSO. Quite honestly, when they took to the stage my first thought was that they should have taken those dark circles home and put them to bed, but by the time they’d completed their first number – a lovely arrangement of Lennon’s ‘Yesterday’ – they looked a lot more cheerful and a lot less tired. They continued with the Prelude to Act I of La Traviata and Albeniz’s ‘Tango’, neither of which showed the group to best advantage, perhaps because the arrangements didn’t really come to grips with the difficulty of scoring original-sounding work for an ensemble of six of the same instrument.
The next item, the Metallica song, ‘Nothing Else Matters’, was arranged as a flowing melody over a pizzicato obligato. Good depth in the harmonic passages added interest. Then we had a medley of British folk songs – ‘Loch Lomond’, ‘Scarborough Fair’, ‘Cockles and Mussels’ and ‘The Ash Grove’ – which were likewise well-arranged and expressively performed.
The Rossini-Offenbach opus, ‘Pas de Six’, was, surprisingly, actually originally written for six cellos! This was, as we might expect from Offenbach, an original arrangement with lots of variety. Then finally Spicks and Spikes gave us the perennial Strauss item, ‘Pizzicato Polka’. Bourby Webster joined them on viola for this one, and it struck me how much more varied the group’s work could be with the addition of a viola or two and maybe a double bass. Six cellos all in a row are always going to have a bit of problem creating a sufficiently wide repertoire, I fear. But it’s early days for this group and no doubt they will reach out in many directions as they experiment with possibilities.
All-in-all, another fine presentation from Chamber Jam. I am already looking forward to August’s offering.
July Chamber Jam
Ellington Jazz Club, Northbridge
Skittle Alley Trio
Deborah Lehmann (piano), Matthew Kidd (clarinet), Bourby Webster (viola)
Skittle Alley Trio is thus named cryptically for a reason… with three players, it could be three strikes, or perhaps it is simply because the music they play will bowl the audience over? Either way, these three musicians, Deborah Lehmann, Matthew Kidd and Bourby Webster, have as much fun rehearsing as they would spending a night at the bowling alley! Bringing together the beauty of the piano with the vocal timbres of the clarinet and viola, the Skittle Alley Trio perform core works from the classical repertoire for piano, clarinet and viola. For this, their début appearance together, they will perform the famous Kegelstadt Trio in its entirety, along with a couple of numbers (One and Six) of the Bruch Trios – eight stunning short pieces full of lyrical beauty.
Jonathan Paget & Craig Lake
Leading Australian guitarists Jonathan Paget and Craig Lake showcase the passion, and adaptability of the Spanish guitar, with works from Spain, Latin America, and beyond. Paget runs the thriving classical guitar program at the WA Academy of Performing Arts. A seasoned musician, recording artist, and academic, his CD “Midsummer’s Night’ has received extensive radio play on ABC Classic FM and was described by Classical Guitar, UK as “up there with some of the best.” The winner of numerous international competitions, he has appeared at such festivals as the Shell Darwin International Guitar Festival, Perth International Arts Festival, and Port Fairy Spring Music Festival. Likewise, Craig Lake is a leading Perth guitar pedagogue, teaching extensively at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts. He was described by Slava Grigoryan as “a very mature and refined musician” having “great technique and tone,” and by Timothy Kain as having “an unusual degree of musicality and commitment.” He has performed with some of Australia’s leading baroque musicians such as Sara MacLiver, Fiona Campbell, Stewart Smith and Paul Wright.
PSO Cello section presents “Spicks and Spikes”
Sophie Curtis, Catherine Tabi, Anna Sarcich, Clare Tunney, Emma McCoy and Amber Day.
This talented group of ladies that make up the Perth Symphony Orchestra Cello section come together for one night only as they celebrate all things cello. Spicks and Spikes will perform cello-sextets and quartets, featuring works in the classical and popular styles. Prepare to be swept away with the lyrical romance of this beautiful instrument and stunned at its versatility.