Vanessa’s log: 14 May 2014. Location: Shaw Lido, Singapore
Stars of the upcoming movie X-Men: Days of Future Past were in town to grace the blue carpet for the Southeast Asia Premiere of the film and I decided to check it out. Oh! And why blue? Well, it appears only homo-sapiens grace red carpets. Also for those who remember scenes where Professor X uses Cerebro to trace mutants and non-mutants, the former were always depicted as blue entities, while the latter as red.
Arriving at a little past 2pm, after a curious look at the cinema area located on the 5th floor, it was evident that many prime spots around the blue carpet were taken up, mostly nearing the stage.
The blue carpet trailed from the beginning of Shaw towards Orchard Road, before turning the corner at Scotts Road and then continuing slightly further down that road.
Now, it has been ages since I have been to a red carpet event. Last one attended was seven years ago at London’s Odeon, and for that one I was lucky enough to walk the carpet. So, I was more or less unaware at the idiosyncrasies of what happens on the fan side of things.
Nevertheless, I finally decided on a spot nearing the beginning of the carpet, which also so happened to be opposite the jungle of media from the region and beyond.
And then, it was time to wait.
Fortunately, the weather was kind and the fans (the machine ones, not the human ones) situated at various intervals along the blue carpet, provide a respite from the humidity. I was rather surprised that the waiting did not take as long as I had previously anticipated. I entertained myself by people watching the media on the opposite side of the barricade and blue carpet as they took copious amounts of selfies, prepared their ‘speeches’ in front of their cameramen for interviews, and got the fans to scream and wave to their phones and cameras. At one point, I was rather tempted to ask the media to wave too as I took a panorama instagram video of everyone. Now, that would have been rather fun.
It was 7pm by the time the main celebrities, namely Hugh Jackman, Peter Dinklage and Fan Bingbing arrived. And blimey, did the crowd go wild! Phones of all types were held out, along with fan-shaped cards that had been previously given out to us by the crew, for requests of selfies and autographs.
The word of 2013 was ‘Selfie’, and I believe it was the word of that evening as well. I reckon there were more people wanting a photograph with the stars than an autograph. The ups and downs of the digital age and social networking? Possibly.
Still, the stars were absolutely brilliant and really down-to-earth people, as they fluttered like bees from flower to flower, between taking selfies and signing autographs with/for their fans on one side of the blue carpet, to heading to the media section on the opposite side for interviews, before heading back to the fans again.
Hugh Jackman posed for numerous amounts of selfies, and Peter Dinklage and Fan Bingbing even took some of these selfies for their fans.
By 8pm, the trio had moved towards the end of the carpet and the deluge of media had disappeared along with them.
For the fans that still remained, it was probably an ‘X-perience’ of a lifetime. Some were seen screaming at their mobiles excitedly to their friends at their success of obtaining a selfie or photo with one of the stars.
I was told that the event was also live-streamed on Youtube on the ‘X-Men Movies’ channel. Fantastic! That would explain the main media folks and camera crew hanging around on the blue carpet, sans barricade. I might have chosen an excellent vantage point after all.
And yes, I was one of the lucky ones that got myself that very important word of the evening!
More photos can be found on Vanessa’s Flickr
Highlights of the live-stream can be found at XmenMovies on Youtube,
It was a journey into something magical, something spiritual and something surreal. ‘Kagemi’ by the Sankai Juku butoh dance company was just that.
Upon entering the theatre, one is greeted by an intricate set on stage; giant lotus leaves. The chaos of the numerous leaves juxtaposed against the simple backdrop and otherwise minimalist stage, was a perfect contrast between night and day, darkness and light, the two sides of a mirror or the two levels from beneath a lotus leaf.
The performance began with a silent piece, with just one male dancer at the corner of stage right. In this piece, the theatre was so quiet for about ten minutes that I could practically hear practically myself breathing. Then, the lotus leaves were lifted by the fly bar, floating and rising delicately, to reveal six more dancers hidden beneath the leaves.
Watching these dancers perform, the intrinsic hand gestures and concentrated facial expressions, the classical form of the costumes and make-up, felt like a journey, an experience, like a privileged glimpse into a private ritual that was not to be viewed by many.
As I tried to establish what each piece meant, I was equally taken in by the music. Was it a metamorphosis of one man into six? Were they even men or were they souls or entities that lived beneath the lotus leaves, an idea, an image or a reflection that grew and then manifested? Was the repeated movement juxtaposition between two worlds; two sides of a mirror or two sides of a lotus leaf?
I found that the music accentuated the dance succinctly. Against the floating lotus leaves, it was almost like looking at a precious art form on stage. My favourite parts in the music included the repeated drum-like percussion, the underwater sounds and the piano piece. The first two had reverberation and a brilliant echo to it, reminding me of music in the Hannibal series. Like a perfect art piece or dish. The latter, which started off slow on the left hand and which varied between several octaves, soon picking up tempo, reminded me of a familiar piece. One of which I cannot quite place.
Seven scenes in one act and the journey was over. As the dancers took to the stage for the curtain call, it was probably the most touching curtain call that I have ever seen. The simple hand gesture of the lead to the other dancers, the way he bowed, the way everyone bowed to thank the audience. Almost like Samurai warriors. It was beautiful. And above all, most humbling. I was honoured to have been part of the audience.
There have been many orchestral performances that I have attended; classical ones, ones in studios, rehearsals, school performances, themed ones with giant screens on each side of the hall that showed film or television clips of the music being played, and even ones where actors were dressed in monster-like costumes and invaded the hall.
But this was something new. Something different.
Upon entering the arena, one would notice first, luscious red curtains draped around the circumference of the venue, as though hiding each door and entrance into another world.
And so it was.
For, once you went beyond those red curtains, a scene of Dresden-like splendour fills your eyes, as you gaze upon the stage in wonderment.
André Rieu and his Johann Strauss Orchestra (JSO) took to the stage and it was like being transported to an 18th century ballroom.
Now, many of us are used to seeing orchestras play in dark colours. The classical ones, at least. Black, usually. Or sometimes, dark red or blue. An elegant long dress for the ladies, and a black and white suit for the gentlemen. Throw all that aside, and we get colours. Brilliant colours!
The female members, the violinists, the violists, the cellists, the clarinetist, the pianist (to name a few), of the JSO were dressed in exquisite ballroom gowns, grand and layered and utterly resplendent. The male members, (the percussion, basses and brass) were docked in fine suits. Together, and against the digital backdrop that showcased picturesque scenes around Europe, it was an opulent affair of vivid colours and music.
There were many pieces played that night that echoed Europe in the 18th to 20th century. A few were also interestingly crafted, almost like a theatrical orchestral production.
For instance, ‘La Chanson d’Olympia’ (Doll Song), from Act I of Les Contes d’Hoffman (The Tales of Hoffman), sung by soloist Carla Maffioletti from Brazil, had her act and sing as a wind-up doll. Having enjoyed watching ballets from when I was an arts student, I was instantly reminded of ‘Coppélia’. Funny moments in the song had her being wind-up several times before being declared by André that she was probably ‘made in China’.
Another fun moment was when André said that everyone in the audience were now ‘members of his choir’, instructing different portions of the arena to sing as sopranos, altos, basses and double basses. After a test round, apparently altos sounded the best, the audience were asked to sing along to the piece that the orchestra and him would be playing.
This piece turned out to be ‘Burung Kakak Tua’ (The Cockatoo), an old Malay folk tune which was sung and taught in primary schools. Well, that was a delightful surprise! Against the backdrop of Singapore’s modern skyline, the Marina Bay area to be exact (although I must say, the skyline of old Singapore would have been more apt), it was perhaps one of the most heartfelt moments of the show. It was simple; a good reminiscence of old and classic Singapore, warm and full of heart.
The night continued on. ‘Carmina Burana’, was perhaps my favourite piece of the show. The undulating tones of the vocals in Carmina are, to me, always a pleasure to hear. When accompanied by the JSO, against a fiery digital backdrop, the beat of the drums with each verse, it was certainly amazing, visually and aurally.
Soloist Mirusia Louwerse, from Brisbane, Australia was eloquent in her delivery for many pieces. I adored her rendition of Andrew Llyod Webber’s ‘Memories’ from ‘Cats’ which was sung against the beautiful digital skyline of (what I assumed was) New York. It was a powerful song; reminisce of musicals and show tunes and a nod to one of Broadway’s finest.
Perhaps one of the most memorable moments of the performance was when André and the JSO played ‘The Blue Danube’.
“Something magical happens to the audience when this song is played, whichever the country”, noted Rieu. And so it did.
People in the audience started to dance. Old folks were dancing in the square of the arena. Dancing the waltz. It was perhaps the most endearing thing that I have seen of audience participation in a performance.
As the evening came to a close, the merriment grew. There were flute glasses and the toasting and drinking of “champagne” by the orchestra, more dancing and cheering by members of the audience, and a huge pool of balloons dropped from the arena’s ceiling at the end of Strauss’ ‘Radetzky March’. I never knew that the popping of numerous balloons concurrently in an enclosed hall could actually sound like fireworks.
Different and strangely interesting, but above all, an enthralling evening for everyone.
Instagram video snippets:
If there was ever a bucket list of artistes that you should see in your lifetime, I would say that you should add Ólafur Arnalds to that list. There is something truly sublime about the way he composes, and this guy does not disappoint when he performs live.
Set in an intimate studio, with minimal visual and lightning distractions and where the stage is on the floor and the same level as the audience, the young Icelandic chap made his inaugural appearance in much-too-hot sunny Singapore.
Starting off with a tad of audience participation, Ólafur instructed the audience to sing a middle ‘C, of which apparently we did really well and thus were allowed to proceed to the next level, which was, according to the artiste, a rare occurrence. The next level, had the audience sing a ‘G’ note. ‘C’ and ‘G’; a tale of simple chords.
These ‘C’ and ‘G’ notes were recorded on his iPad, delayed and reverberated, and then added as a looping audio track to his first piece. Ingenious; the era of modern technology coupled with the creative of a Gen-Y kid.
The evening proceeded on with many wonderful compositions, ‘Poland’, ‘Hands Be Still’ and ‘For Now I am Winter’ to name a few.
The entire evening took me back to long train trips around England in winter which I enjoy; the exquisitely tranquil array of grey skies and scenery (chimney houses and children playing, trees and shrubbery, and life on the other side) that one passes, the mist on the windows, and effect of pressing one’s hand or cheek against these frosted windows, just to feel the cold and the beauty of it all. That melancholic ‘happiness’. That was, to me anyway, what most of Ólafur’s music evoked. The beauty beneath that cold frosted window. The cold incandescence.
An oxymoron, you may say. But that’s what makes it all the more special.
At times, I was torn between being mesmerized by the violin, the cello and the piano, perhaps my three utmost favourite instruments in an orchestra. But, as a violinist myself, I would say that the soft ‘piano’ playing of violinist Björk Óskarsdóttir was astounding. I was actually starting to wonder how many ‘p’s (pianos) there were in the score…
On the other spectrum, there were some forte movements in another piece, played so vividly, that a few strands of bow hairs came loose.
The cellist’s playing was wonderfully refined as well, sort of like a delicately exquisite French dinner you don’t dare to touch because it is really too perfect. Of course, another part of me was reminded of NBC’s Hannibal series and the episode ‘Fromage.’
The voice of soloist Arnór Dan Arnarson. With a beanie and dance-like sways and movements, looking as though he was rapping, it illustrates an interesting contrast when you actually hear his voice. Haunting, ethereal and an emotional chill reminiscence of Scotland. A voice perfect for Murray Gold’s ‘Vale Decem’? That thought did come to mind…
The pianist (and composer himself, Ólafur) was an interesting element’ to watch perform. For, it looked as if the artiste himself was cathartically ‘transported’ somewhere as well, while he played his pieces. And, in those instances, it felt almost like we were sitting in, in a private studio practice, watching him drift in and out of notes that danced off the ivory keys, that light bouncing off a mirror. This was most apparent in his encore piece, which he wrote for his grandmother. It was personal and very heartwarming.
Although nothing from the BBC series Broadchurch was performed, of which I was rather miffed about, because I utterly love the compositions from television series, much of Ólafur’s work had a very ‘Broadchurch’ feel to it. The layering of other audio tracks like thunder clap-like percussion and repeated beats to create suspense, reminded me of the Broadchurch’s main theme. Other quiet pieces reminded me of ‘Beth’s Theme’.
It was a lovely evening, where everyone was transported to places here and there, near and far, like films and television episodes only captured in reels, we became part of an experience that was beautifully sad and sad but beautiful. The beauty in the strings, the beauty in the chords like in ‘Only The Winds’, the beauty in the layers, the beauty in the vocals and the beauty in the delicateness of the instruments.
Indeed, if there was one artiste to see in your lifetime, I daresay, Ólafur Arnalds better be on that list…
More photos can be found on Vanessa’s Flickr
And so here I was again. My ninth Doctor Who concert; the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular (DWSS) Brisbane with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. And, what was said to be the biggest one ever held. 8,500 in attendance numbers!
From its beginnings in Melbourne back in 2012, the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular was a version of the famous Doctor Who Proms in London for fans of Doctor Who, otherwise known as Whovians, in the Australasia region, who were unable to make that trip up. Indeed, it was a sublime idea by the BBC Worldwide team.
Now, back in the Southern Hemisphere, the DWSS team have brought with them a brand new programme, playing new pieces which were heard at last summer’s concert at the Royal Albert Hall; the Doctor Who Prom 2013. The leg of this 2014 tour included, a couple of concerts in Melbourne first, and then it was Brisbane, followed by Wellington at the very end.
Held at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre (BEC) in Boondall, the DWSS played their first Brisbane and also biggest ever concert on the evening of 8th February 2014. And, it was brilliant!
The Brisbane Entertainment Centre is massive. A few hundred seats on the ground, with another few hundred further back behind the sound console. Further up, the tiered section surrounded the ground area reaching far and wide like a giant pancake on a pan.
As no photo taken with any camera can do this picture justice, a 360 degrees shot of it can be view here: http://360.io/uyKBQj
For one night, the BEC had become a TARDIS! With 8.5k Whovians, it was truly bigger on the inside.
The house lights went down, the orchestra settled down, and conductor Ben Foster bounced on stage. A cascading applause, up, down, left, right and centre, reverberated throughout this TARDIS venue.
And into the time vortex, we went…
Starting off with ‘The Mad Man With A Box’, it was wonderful to see Antoinette Halloran back on stage again. And this time, joined by a new orchestra; the Queensland Symphony Orchestra.
Slow, warm and inviting, like a Who music flame, enticing all the Whovian moths in the room, it then exploded like a lightbulb with passionate strings and Halloran’s voice.
'I Am The Doctor' was up next, which noted the first appearance of the monsters. I reckon there were more excited Whovian adults than kids near me. It was great to hear this 7/8 score again. The Queensland Symphony Orchestra were simply wonderful. Execution was brilliant. And, yes. I counted along to the beat. Like there was a click track in my head.
The piece ended and Peter Davison came on stage. The audience went wild. It was possibly the loudest cheer and applause that I have seen and heard since the Doctor Who Prom. The good people of Queensland really do love their Fifth Doctor.
Joking with the audience and taking a photo or two of the DWSS record attendance arena, Davison was great and most probably my favourite DWSS host.
'The Companions', was then played, homage to four of the Doctor's longest and recent companions; Rose Tyler, Martha Jones, Donna Noble and Amy Pond. Perhaps a little more clapping and cheering than their Melbourne counterparts, Donna had the most cheers from Brisbane, and naturally so. After all, she leaned towards being everyone's favourite, on the spectrum of the Rose Tyler and Amy Pond/River Song fans.
With ‘The Companions’, my favourite bit, was the enthusiasm of Foster when he danced and bobbed along to ‘A Noble Girl About Town’, during Donna’s segment of the piece. A dancing, swishing, bouncing, bobbing conductor never fails to entertain me! Good old Swishy!
In addition, I adored the brass segment of that song. Great stuff that ensure lots of head bobbing and feet tapping. Well, there was much of that for me, anyway.
With ‘Cyber Shard’, my favourite tracks in that piece still remains ‘The Speeder’ and ‘Up The Shard’. The strings in the former, and the brass in the latter, create constant chills and regeneration opulence in my heart. Cybermen also entered the arena during ‘Cyber Shard’, walking along the aisles and on stage.
Alas, I was incompatible and was upgraded…
Help me, Doctor!
'Abigail's Song' saw the return of Halloran, who was just lovely to watch. Of course, knowing the lyrics to this, I sung along.
There was, however, less smoke from the smoke machine for this piece, which merely gathered at the edges of the stage.
For the Melbourne concerts, the smoke was abundant and luxuriously wonderful, gathering and floating lightly on stage, before floating down to the first two rows of the audience near the stage. It was brilliant, as part of me imagined that there were fish in the smoke. Which is pretty apt for a piece like ‘Abigail’s Song’.
I quite enjoyed that particular smoke effect, despite its strange chemical plastic balloon smell, so I was rather disappointed at the cut down version of it in Brisbane.
'The 'Classic' Doctor Who Medley' followed, to the delight of many of the older Doctor Who fans. I enjoyed the radiophonic workshop-like sounds and reckon that there really should be more Classic Doctor Who era music played at Doctor Who concerts. It would really show the variety and versatility of the show, as the genre itself has a somewhat different essence to it.
Nevertheless, it was wonderful to see some pre-recorded videos of Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker making an appearance at the DWSS.
'The Rings of Akhaten' remains my favourite piece from Series 7, and new addition to a Doctor Who concert. Iain Henderson and the young soloist, Lauren Elvery, who both sung 'The Long Song', the main track featured in this piece, really made it their own. It was deeper and lower in pitch than what I have heard so far. And, to me, had feel of a glass of Merlot red wine. Really, really different from the Proms' version and the recent Melbourne one as well. I quite enjoyed it. And, I definitely sung along to it as well.
After the intermission, came the acting…
And by acting, I mean the hilarious Basil-Bean-like antics of conductor Ben Foster as he tries to exterminate a dalek before it exterminates him. Pushing, prodding, poking, sonicing with his sonic baton, feign falling, a selfie and bizarre pirate-y sounds, it was absolutely mad! Overacting maestro indeed!
Sadly, there was no sign of the cricket bat that was used to hit the dalek in the Melbourne concerts, so I assumed that a dalek had exterminated it. Still, give that man a BAFTA, please. Someone!
'First There Were Daleks' followed, and daleks roamed the arena. Again, I sang along. I know the whole non-English lyrics to this whole piece and once again, I blame and thank the Doctor Who Fan Orchestra, of which I am a member of, for this.
With ‘The Name Of The Doctor’, I was once again fixated on the violin solo; a Gaelic-like wonderful piece, like crystals on my feet making me want to go tappity tap tap tap.
And then, there was ‘Fifty’…
Joined on stage yet again by Antoinette Halloran and Iain Henderson, with added vocals by the magnificent Brisbane Chorale, this piece is a keeper. The lyrics are magically painful and iridescent, full of life and journeys told and untold, pulling at your heartstrings and creating a burst of feelings and musical emotions in them. My heartstrings felt like the strings of a violin and everything was in A and E.
Again, how could I not sing?
“From the jaws of disaster… From a planet besieged… By deadly ancient foes…”
The Brisbane chorale were brilliant. Really good. Probably my favourite choir, after the Crouch End Chorus.
'The Time Of The Doctor', a perfect end to a great night. From the solo of the woodwinds to the slow build up in fervour as Eleventh is given a new cycle of regenerations, the arena explodes into passionate music playing by the orchestra as a myriad of Gallifreyan-like symbols are cast upon the everyone.
More bantering between Foster and Davison, a cyberman head and the possibility of a fictional Earthshock, the Opera, for a future project, 2.5 hours long, of which starring Peter Davision himself, the night closed with a favourite; ‘Vale Decem’.
Of course, not before a photo opportunity by Foster. Seems, a selfie with a dalek was not enough.
In terms of lighting, there were more lights on the fly bars that I can count. The choice of gels/colours were interesting and enjoyable. For example; how the colours changed for each companion during ‘The Companions’.
The lights where the orchestra were seated, blinked and flickered along to the time signature and beat of the sections of certain pieces, much like a visual click track. I love it!
I was a tad disappointed that the Gallifreyan-like gobos (round metal discs cut into a pattern and placed in stage lights to create patterns and effects) did not show as well as they did in Melbourne.
There were empty wall sections in the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC), and it was good to see those gobos cast on them, so one may notice the details on the design. Such a shame that no opportunity presented itself in Brisbane.
My favourite bit in the lighting sequence was when ‘Words Win Wars’ was heard in ‘I Am The Doctor’. Footage from ‘The Pandorica Opens’ was shown, which showed the Doctor shouting at a sky full of aliens. That clip went splendidly with the fast moving lights on the fly bars of the BEC. As though, there were really aliens whizzing about above everyone in the arena.
Another favourite lighting element that I enjoyed, was the kaleidoscopic sequence on stage right, as seen in ‘The Final Chapter Of Amelia Pond’.
Acoustic wise, it was surprisingly not as detrimentally painful to my classical-orchestras-should-never-perform-in-an-arena-purist heart than what I had initially feared. It was alright, given the scale of everything.
Indeed it was a magical night for all. 8,500 Whovians went home very happy and, having been to so many Doctor Who concerts, I must say, I have never seen that many before; it was really an amazing experience to be a part of.
Murray Gold tore my heart into pieces once again, with his wonderful almost catharsis-like compositions. That bad, bad man.
Ben Foster, or as I have nicknamed ‘Swishy’. Funny guy, that one! Absolute brilliant too! All that intensity and passion when conducting. That dancing! And, the overacting! Blimey!
Peter Davison, the best host so far. Don’t worry, Australia loves you. You can cancel that taxi to the airport. Perhaps, we’ll see you again in Earthshock, the Opera?
Antoinette Halloran, you goddess! You absolute goddess!
Iain Henderson and Lauren Elvery for such a wonderful rendition of ‘The Rings of Akhaten’!
The Queensland Symphony Orchestra and the Brisbane Chorale, what a wonderful performance. Exquisite to a T.
And finally to the team that made it all possible, above all, Paul Bullock, thank you!
It was great to be at one of these concerts again. In addition to meeting some really lovely Queenslanders; like Spencer (from ABC’s 612 Brisbane radio), Niki, Jack, Jen, Gary, James, Greg, Chris and Corrine.
It was also wonderful to meet Alex and his kids (who I had initially met at the DWSS 2012 Melbourne), again. Blimey they’ve grown!
Thank you once again to the DWSS team. Until the next time… xx
Sadly, I will not be attending the one in Wellington, despite having a ticket for it. May you chaps have an amazing, amazing three performances in New Zealand. xx
Train track works on the Shorncliffe line, meant a detour at Eagle Junction station where I boarded a bus to the city. This bus turned out to be a bus, literally full of Whovians, or as the guy who was seated behind me puts it.
The TARDIS bus!
Seated among the older fans at the front, some who were probably as old or older than the television series itself, many of them were lifelong Doctor Who fans. They spoke dearly of Peter Davison and the Classic Doctor Who Medley, and how far they had travelled for the show.
The guy across from me, had come in from Perth. While another chap behind me came down from Sydney.
Passing Albion station on the bus’ increasingly fun journey, we picked up more Whovians along the way; Doctors and TARDISes.
At one point, someone suggested singing a Doctor Who song on board.
It was probably the most endearing moment of all my DWSS experiences. A bigger on the inside TARDIS bus? Yes, it was! And, it was fantastic! Absolutely fantastic!
The Sherlock Fan Orchestra present their third piece, SHERlocked.
For this piece we received 142 submissions from 108 members, while our membership numbers have recently broken the 500 mark.
Thank you to everyone involved and to those who have supported us so far!
I did violin, choir alto and choir soprano for this!
When I attended my first and the inaugural Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular (DWSS) in Melbourne at the Plenary back in 2012, I never thought that I would be attending one again, much less one in the same venue and city. Two years on, I was back to watch my 6th, 7th and 8th Doctor Who concert…
Derived from a programme similar to the Doctor Who Prom 2013 in London, the DWSS 2014 promised something new and exciting, featuring pieces from the latest series and episodes that were not played in their 2012 concert.
Performing these pieces were the lovely folks of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, led by Doctor Who maestro and conductor, Ben Foster, and joined by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Chorus.
Three shows in total on 31 January and 1 February 2014.
I attended all of them.
Upon entering the Plenary, one is greeted by a lush green colour of seats, of this huge venue comprising of ground floor seats, a slightly raised and tiered upper level, and a second level above that, of which the latter two form two wide semi circles.
This view can also be seen at: http://360.io/zQh4Cd
Once seated, it was evident, going from the group of concert goers that had gathered near the stage before the show, and later during intermission, how thrilled everyone was to see the TARDIS, or as I like to affectionately call her now, ‘Sexy’, on stage.
Dear old Sexy had never been to a DWSS performance before and, it was really great to see her dazzling just behind the cellos and double basses on stage left.
And, so it began…
'The Madman With A Box', featuring soprano soloist Antoinette Halloran, started the evening/afternoon. I must admit that I have grown to adore Halloran's voice so much, having heard her perform in previous DWSSes in Melbourne and Sydney in 2012. It is rich and beautiful, and reminds me of one of those Christmas Muscat wines from country vineyards. Really enchanting. This allure is amplified when she sings 'Abigail's Song', later in show.
'The Madman With A Box’, which has opened, so far, all the DWSS performances and the recent Doctor Who Prom, is such a brilliant piece to begin with. The music starts off slow and mellow with just the orchestra, as if enticing the audience to enter the Doctor’s world, or in other words, the start of a spectacular musical journey. Then, it builds up to a warm and bright glow as the soloist sings, before the incandescence of it all envelopes the piece to a strong end. My favourite part; the forte and somewhat slur bit of the violins, during the second part of the vocals, when the piece starts to glow and come to life almost like it’s regenerating.
At any of these Doctor Who concerts, it is always a joy, for me at least, to see the happiness of young wide-eyed Whovians who enjoy and love watching Doctor Who so much, get so excited when they see monsters walking around the hall and on stage, as they hear the wonderful music of Who. It is really a precious moment. ‘I Am The Doctor’, for instance, still continues to cause much excitement for the kids. Squeals and excited pointing filled the atmosphere as the seven beat composition played. A similar scene followed with ‘Cyber Shard’, ‘All The Strange, Strange Creatures’, ‘First There Were Daleks’ and ‘The Name Of The Doctor’.
At one point, it looked as if a Cyberman wanted to kill a Silent on sight.
For the older crowd, host and Fifth Doctor, Peter Davision proved a hit. In fact, I reckon he was the best host yet. There were jokes about the recent Ashes, a slight plug for The Five(ish) Doctors reboot and a mention of him liking the Tenth Doctor very much. But what sealed the deal, was the bantering fun between Davison and Foster, which got funnier with each performance.
Let’s just say that, by the Saturday evening show, there was a giant celery involved, as well as the musical score to Earthshock, the Opera, which was to be 4 hours long, and have Davison sing in it.
Tom Baker, also made an ‘appearance’, in a couple of pre-recorded videos, to the delight of many Fourth Doctor fans.
'Cyber Shard', has fast become my favourite new addition to a Doctor Who concert. I absolutely love listening to and watching the fast movements of the strings in beginning of 'The Speeder' (a track played in that suite), which fills the veins in my heart with so much liquid Gold, it tears at the heartstrings in a magical way. Much like 'Song Of Freedom'. The composition then explodes into brassy brilliance by the brass section! BOOM! And, I am free! The suite also includes 'Up the Shard', another brassy piece with a great beat that, before I know it, I am nodding my head to the rhythm. Indeed, hearing these particular sections in this piece just makes me want to hug all of the orchestra members of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra for what they are doing.
Apart from post-2005 music, music from the Classic Doctor Who era was also played. It was lovely to hear ‘Classic Doctor Who Medley’ performed against the backdrop of footage from the Classic Doctor Who episodes. It was certainly a favourite of many in the hall, judging from the number of smart phones, iPads and cameras, that were suddenly whipped out. For me, I loved the radiophonic-like sounds that was produced, and only wished that there was more Classic music at these Doctor Who concerts. One is clearly not enough.
Another popular favourite was ‘The Companions’; a suite paying tribute to Rose, Martha, Donna and Amy. A slight observation: it was nice that there was no loud clapping or cheering, each time a new companion was shown. The Australian audience had chosen, instead, not to mar the listening pleasure of each companion’s theme.
'The Final Chapter of Amelia Pond' saw the return of Halloran again, leaving some in tears, as footage of Amy Pond's farewell was shown. This piece was similar to the shorter Proms version, rather than the slightly longer DWSS Sydney version.
Greta Wilkinson, a young Australian girl, sang the part of the Queen of Years, in ‘The Rings of Akhaten’, and it was sung most beautifully. Really beautifully. She was even better than the girl who sang in the Proms’ version of the piece, carrying the emotion, meaning and surmounting power of the song very well, and complementing her tenor counterpart, Paul McMahon, who was very good as well. ‘The Long Song, as sing in ‘The Rings Of Akhaten’, is iridescent, painful and so full of heart; it speaks of life and of living. It is probably my favourite piece in series 7.
Hearing it, I could not help but sing along to it.
Of course, I was also singing along to ‘First There Were The Daleks’. I both blame and thank the Doctor Who Fan Orchestra for making me know all the lyrics to this piece.
And then, there was ‘Song For Fifty’, of which I never fail to sing along to, ever since hearing the world premiere of it on 13th July 2013, and which lyrics and melody still pull at my heartstrings, with even note, chord and word uttered or played. The singers, Halloran and McMahon, were stunningly brilliant, and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Chorus, were equally charming. The lyrics are so powerful, and the melody, perfect. More liquid Gold there..
“From the jaws of disaster…From a planet besieged by deadly ancient foes…”
“Fumbling and bumbling while all around is crumbling and stumbling through time like you’re a mad man still it’s humbling to watch you reconcile divergent creeds without succumbing to the lure of weapons, force or greed you only use intelligence and jokes and charm…”
'Fifty' is such a keeper, and a gorgeous, warm tribute to the 50th. Footage of the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary episode, 'The Day Of The Doctor' was shown towards the end of 'Fifty'; the gallery scene with Matt Smith and Tom Baker, and it was such a beautiful moment when coupled with the orchestra. The piano chords in it, just broke my heart into pieces. Pieces… Pieces that scattered into all of space and time of the Plenary hall.
'Time of the Doctor' followed next, and this was one piece that had never been heard before at any Doctor Who concert. The blend of piano and forte throughout the piece, showed the strength of dynamics and the skill of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. At one point of time, 'Time Lord' gobos were used for lighting and it threw the hall into a kaleidoscope of Gallifreyan-like symbols. For a moment, we were transported to Gallifrey.
There were a couple of solo instrumental moments during the whole programme and most were executed beautifully. However, my favourite was the violin soloist who played a Gaellic-like piece in ‘The Name Of The Doctor’. That was simply exquisite…
Ben Foster, has always been a joy to watch conducting. ‘Swish, swish, accompanied by sort of dance-like conducting movements, coupled with such passion, dedication and intensity. It is most endearing and fascinating to watch.
In addition, how many conductors do you know that can fight off daleks with a sonic baton? Wonderfully hilarious with loads of overacting too. In fact, it became funnier with each performance, with more dramatisation each time. There was a mix of Basil and Bean-like acting, a cricket bat, and a selfie with a dalek! A selfie!! A bloody selfie! Live on stage, in front of everyone! I almost died…
BAFTA award for the ‘Best Slow Death With A Dalek? YES!
Exterminate the slave conductor!
Lighting has improved so much since the last DWSS concert at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC), back in 2012. The gels used and the combination of how they were used, depending on the pieces played, blended rather well. For example; in ‘The Companions’, where different colours were to reflect each companion.
One of my favourite moments was when a footage of ‘Vincent And The Doctor’ was shown; the Starry Night scene. The lighting changed to blue and yellow. The contrast between these colours, the orchestra and the backdrop of that clip, was very enthralling and clever.
Gallifreyan symbol-like gobos exploded across the hall for ‘The Time Of The Doctor’, casting magical Gallifreyan symbols across the whole hall.
Even some parts of the orchestra was lit up, on stage, the lights blinking in various colours, somewhat synchronising with the tempo of the music. That was amazing.
It was great lighting, reminiscence of the DWSS Sydney performances
Acoustic wise, while my favourite place to watch a Doctor Who concert remains the Sydney Opera House, followed by the Royal Albert Hall, the sound has much improved for the Plenary. There was little or no sound leak, delay or feedback, with the exception of a minor feedback from the microphone/speaker during the end of ‘The Companions’ for their Saturday evening performance. Having said that however, for a big venue, and one of which, classical concerts are not its forte, the Plenary did well. Much better than their 2012 show.
All in all, it was great to be back in Melbourne again for the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular. Listening to the genius of Murray Gold bring depth and philosophy to a character and television series, so that, musically, it exist in all of time and space.
Classical type concerts are always nice. But the DWSS is just a little bigger on the inside…
Thank you to the soloists, to the wonderful Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Chorus, to the fantastic musical duo, composer Murray Gold and conductor Ben Foster, to giant celery owner, cricket fan and host Peter Davison, and finally to producer Paul Bullock, in fact the whole DWSS, for making these concerts possible. Their talents and dedication to the DWSS prohect were definitely bigger on the inside. Even surpassing the expectations of a long time Doctor Who concert aficionado.
For this trilogy of DWSS Melbourne concerts, I met Georgia (from New Zealand) again, and sort of ‘bumped’ into Ben during the end of the afternoon concert.
Until the next time…The Wandering Nessie. xx