Collaboration and celebration

Women in Voice On Tour

Redland Performing Arts Centre

June 20

Women in Voice’s On Tour trip down by the bay to Redland Performing Arts Centre, may represent the phenomenon’s first regional tour, but still opens with a tribute to the home of its humble beginnings with an opening satirical number in which effervescent emcee Jenny Wynter Brisbanises a musical mashup with reappropriated lyrics in ode to the region’s suburbs. It’s an engaging start to a wonderful afternoon of performances. The show’s entertainment comes not just from comedy, however, but touching moments too, such is the versatility of its line-up of performers.

Women in Voice has always committed to providing performance and production mentorships to nurture future generations of female songstresses and this dedication remains at the forefront of the 2021 show, which, in Act One, sees Roz Pappalardo welcoming her mentee and fellow North Queensland songwriter, newcomer Bellani Smith. Together the ladies’ voices blend beautifully in Abba’s bittersweet and sentimental ‘Fernando’ and their ‘Jolene’ set closer is an absolute treat. As they share important songs from their lives, with introductory explanations, we are drawn into musical appreciation at a deeper level. In particular, Smith’s original love song ‘Piece of Me’, with piano self-accompaniment is simply stunning. Indeed, her perfect vocal tone, moving lyrics and swelling melody make this an unexpected early highlight.

The theme of family legacy is evident throughout the first act of the show. Leah Cotterell always showcases interesting song choices in her sets and from The Carpenters’ ‘Yesterday Once More’ to Peggy Lee’s ‘Is That All There Is?”, she delivers them all with a warm sophistication that encapsulates the pleasure of sad songs in trigger of memory and emotion. The honesty at the heart of the stories she shares is endearing and her evocative almost a cappella ‘Grey Funnel Line’ with Women in Voice founder Annie Peterson (who started the group to give an opportunity for female singers to share the music they did not have the chance to perform anywhere else) perhaps introduces the audience to a whole new folk song of longing.

Since its initial appearance at West End’s Sitting Duck Cafe in 1993, Women in Voice has become an annual arts scene highlight with its attraction of top talent as well as new stars. The spirit of collaboration is at the core of the group’s philosophy; the artists devise their own visions and serve as each other’s’ backing singers. Cleveland performer Hannah Johnstone, we are told was discovered at a local workshop. While her between-song stage presence in still developing, her take on songs by Rick Astley and The Jackson 5 showcases her formidable vocals and her passionate rip through Powderfinger’s rolling ‘On My Mind’, with guitar self-accompaniment, is a rocking highlight, along with Roz Pappalardo’s similarly gutsy ‘Bring Me Some Water’.

While not all of the “Women in Voice On Tour” setlist features numbers by female songstresses, there is a clear theme of celebrating women, from Johnstone’s ‘Edge of Seventeen’ and Hannah Grondin’s ‘Crazy in Love’, culminating in Grodin’s electrifying rendition of Aretha Franklin’s anthemic respect, with a strong and adamant voice that commands our attention. And the ladies’ voices all blend together magnificently in encore of the heartfelt classic country song ‘Delta Dawn’.

“Women in Voice On Tour” is a wonderful development to build upon the franchise’s history of sell-out performances. Backed by a talented band, the cast of fresh and favourite performers gives its audience covers and original songs in a nice balance and blend of styles and genres, meaning there is something for everything in its strong female line-up.