F-HEAL-good faith

Songs of Hope and Healing

QPAC, Concert Hall

March 27

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“Songs of Hope and Healing” is an event… not just because of the range of ages within audience, but its collaboration of more than 400 artists in presentation of a smorgasbord celebration of stories and songs in concert fundraiser for the HEAL Foundation, which promotes arts education for young refugees. The joy of the benefit concert is immediately infectious, both through loveable, charismatic emcee Sharon Orapaleng and the melodic opener ‘We are the Future’ and following ‘I Sing Because I am Happy’ from the QPAC Choir.

And so the tone is set for an Act One journey through tranquil numbers from Brisbane’s Voices of Birralee youth arts organisation to a bounce along with The Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University Brass Ensemble. Eclecticism features in Act Two as well, which opens to ‘Tribal Beat Sound System’ and a Bach/Zepplin mashup from contemporary percussion ensemble, Percussimo before progressing through an array of musical numbers.

As is noted in introduction to audience favourite a rousing Boxties-led celtic number ‘Mo Chile Mear’ (My Gallant Darling), to sing is a small act but almost a universal one and to share in the joy of artists united in celebration of our common humanity is not only a rich experience but a supremely moving one, cemented by the words of HEAL Chairperson Adele Rice AM, reminding of how much poorer we would without the richness of the contribution of refugees that have been welcomed to this country.

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Affable headliner Isaiah Firebrace of X-Factor and Eurovision fame does not disappoint, especially when he closes Act One with his original song ‘Don’t Come Easy’ which suits his rich and mature voice. Indeed, not only do his smooth vocals shine through the high-energy track, accompanied by backing vocalists from the Aboriginal Centre for The Performing Arts, but they build beautifully with the instrumentation of Queensland’s Chamber Orchestra Camerata.

Certainly, “Songs of Hope and Healing” is a logistically ambitious undertaking, but it is an ambition realised for an important purpose. From the sounds of one of country’s finest concert musicians, Vietnamese-born Australian pianist Hoang Pham, to the quirky and energetic African song sounds of Tichawona Mashawa and Tibetan Tenzin Choegyal’s ‘Snow Lion’ about living fearlessly in times of upheaval and awakening your inner strength to face the challenges of life to see its infinite possibilities (which is an absolute highlight), the one-night-only event really is ‘FHEAL-good’ entertainment, especially knowing that so many of the performers have their own refugee stories. Its billing as a special benefit concert is true on many levels given the faith it inspires around ideas of courage and hope.

Holiday hijinks

Happy Holidays (Percussimo)

Claver Theatre

December 3

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Contemporary percussion ensemble Percussimo’s final show of 2016, “Happy Holidays” is an entertaining and engaging show of personality and holiday hijinks of the musical kind. The program is full of numbers around the Christmas theme, as well as some extras befitting the show’s end of year timing and sensitivity, such as a gentle, touching ‘Pure Imagination’ tribute to Gene Wilder.

It starts with the jazzy ‘Glitzville’, which not only sets the celebratory scene, but showcases Alice Emor-Kan’s multi-instrumental talent. As always, the program also serves as an impressive display of the depth and multiple dimensions of the percussive arts and, accordingly, the signature song, Resident Composer and Arranger Steve Stiller’s ‘Sticks Lightning’ serves as a highlight, with glowing drum sticks adding to the excitement of its frenzied pace.

There is interaction too, as, supported by Creative Director Tina Liu’s instruction, select audience members join in with the playing their own triangles and finger cymbals in ‘Christmas Time is Here’, which adds to the excitement of many of the youngest audience members. However, nothing compares to their enthusiasm for ‘Barnyard Boogie’, a cute and cheeky vocal percussion piece which sees a puppet show share of a ‘Silent Night’ and Old Macdonald mashup.

The 10 show program (plus encore) never lags due to its diversity. From its ‘Holiday Favourites’ uptempo blend of 10 carols (showing that you don’t need lyrics to capture the spirit of the season) to Uncle Steve’s storytelling of ‘The Night Before Christmas’ with an Aussie twist, the show includes something for adults and children alike. And Claver Theatre is a great venue with its big, open stage perfectly catering for the group’s eight musicians and their instruments (even if bassist Nick Cao is, unfortunately, hidden from view from the first three numbers).

“Happy Holidays” is everything promised by its title. From a big and boisterous ‘Jingle Bells?’ to a feel-good clap-along ‘All I Want For Christmas is You’, the show is full of infectious happiness, holiday spirit and honest percussion talent. As such, it is an unforgettable experience for the whole family, which befits its theme of connection and share of the Christmas spirit.