– by Ash Goldberg
“It gave me goosepimples,” says author Sara Dowse. We’d just witnessed the soulful rendition of Kurt Weill’s Speak Low by the exceptional Chanel Cole, accompanied by pianist Adam Cook. I think every audience member at Woven Words would agree that one would struggle to find a more fitting description of this latest artistic endeavour at New Acton.
The evening was a celebration of The Invisible Thread, an anthology featuring the work of 75 writers linked to Canberra over the past 100 years. Three acclaimed writers recited their works, with readings bookended by specially-selected music performed by an ensemble of Canberra-based musicians. This unique blend of artists came together for an absolute sensual indulgence within the intimate Nishi Gallery amidst a literal web woven by visual artist Victoria Lees.
Following Chanel and Adam’s initial performance, Sara Dowse regaled the audience with her story One Touch of Venus, describing how she came to know Ava Gardner and her disappointment upon seeing a movie star in the nude. Afterwards, Adam and Chanel united again with Old Devil Moon sung as it was by Sinatra to Gardner about a bewitching woman, just as Sara was bewitched by Ava and all that she was.
Alex Miller and an extract from his novel The Sitters was preceded by the dark and heavy tones of Larry Sitsky’s City of Carcosa, performed by Adam. This was followed by an achingly beautiful rendition of Samuel Barber’s Adagio by the Canberra Symphony Orchestra String Quartet. Both pieces intertwined with Alex’s story of the reverie of a portrait artist. Alex says he dreamt up The Sitters during the longest sleep he ever had, sick with pneumonia during the entire flight from the USA to Australia. “The book really has to write you,” he confided, “or it’s not worth doing”.
The CSO String Quartet then delighted with Percy Grainger’s light and jaunty Molly on the Shore, before former nuclear physics technician and agricultural labourer Alan Gould recited various poetic works including Roof Tilers and the extraordinary Flamenco Rehearsal. This led into a performance of bewildering technical brilliance by flamenco guitarist Campbell Diamond.
But why did this melding of words and music work so well? Why was the transition between art forms so seamless and effective? Perhaps it was because each author recited their words with incomparable heart and emotion, because they were their own. They understood the intricate nuances behind them, and the music chosen was so befitting. Combined with the extraordinary skill and talent of the selected musicians, the overall impact was almost overwhelming. I guarantee more tears were shed than just those of MC Genevieve Jacobs’ following Adagio. Anyone would be forgiven for having felt such emotion, perhaps even a tinge of insignificance, in the presence of such masters of art.
Ashley Goldberg is a mild-mannered public servant and lawyer by day. He has had work published by the University of Melbourne, RMIT and The Riot Act as part of You Are Here 2013’s Papercuts program