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Moon
Published on Tuesday, 21 August 2012
4

4 stars

theSpace @ Symposium Hall (venue website)
Music
3-12, 14-19, 21-25 Aug, 7:00pm-7:55pm
Reviewed by Lee Zhao

 Family-friendly. Suitable for all ages.
 Free and unticketed. No pre-booking required.

Choral music has long been associated with liturgical texts and traditional themes. In recent times, however, a new life has been breathed into the genre with pieces that take a more contemporary, secular angle. Moon, commissioned by The Australian Voices, is set to a text by Australian novelist Venero Armanno – which at its heart, is a version of the classical Venus and Adonis myth: goddess meets boy and falls in love.

Moon is semi-staged, but does not lose its choral roots. The conductor, Gordon Hamilton (who also composed the music) stands at front of the stage, directing the singers. Note that this will restrict the view of the stage if, like I did, you sit too far forward. Also, unlike an oratorio or opera, there are no soloists; the characters are assigned to sections rather than individuals. The sopranos and altos, dressed like Greek priestess, play Diana, goddess of the moon; whilst the sickly bed-ridden young man, Sam, is played by the tenors and basses, dressed in pink hoodies.

Musically, The Australian Voices are in a different league compared to other close harmony offerings on the Fringe. Intonation was spot-on and though the surtitles were very welcome – I have long moaned about the tendency of choral or operatic shows on the Fringe to not provide text or translations – I found them superfluous for the most part, such was the clarity of the voices. And yet despite the dry, lecture theatre acoustic, the singers could still fill the space with ethereal shimmers or booming menace when required. Hamilton kept very tight rein over the sound, and the sections sung crisply as one character with astonishing vocal control through the myriad of effects: glissandos, percussive noises, and climaxing orgasms.
 
Yes, that's right. At one point, the choir orgasm in perfect unison. So do note this is not a wholly family friendly show. There is also a short section describing the activities Sam gets up to at night on his laptop, which goes a long way to explain why the female outfits are so low-cut.

This is one of many issues I had with the text. Just like When Harry Met Sally is chiefly remembered for that scene in the diner, the rather awkward love scene dominates my lasting impression of Moon. Such a shame, giving the brilliance of the vocals that included an astounding instance of overtone singing. The story too, also fails to address one very important question: of all the bedrooms, in all the cities, in all the word, why does Diana come into Sam's? The abruptness of their courtship means the commonplace descriptions of Sam's modern life, which include lines on emails, Facebook and Google, never truly harmonises with the timeless grandiosity of Diana and the text of her movements.

Though Moon did not win me over as a piece of storytelling theatre, if you simply take it as a showcase of contemporary choral music sung by world-class talent, it truly excels. In my opinion this is a must-see for anyone who can appreciate singers rolling their R’s.

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