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Travelling Tales

Raphael Solarsh

An exquisite musical journey that takes you from sun down amongst natural beauty to first light after a sleepless city night.
Travelling Tales

Image: Adam Simmons in Melbourne premiere Travelling Tales at fortyfivedownstairs. Photo (c) Adam Simmons.

At a far-off juncture between Yann Tiersen and Vivaldi, Nils Okland and Pharoah Sanders lies an oasis of sound that is as inviting a vision to a music lover as the palmed variety to a desert wanderer. In his third installment of the Usefullness of Art concert series, Adam Simmons partners with Arcko Symphonic Ensemble to produce a program of strings and saxophone that is quite remarkable.

Against the background of rainy Melbourne night, Travelling Tales found itself beginning with a poignant ambience. Though totally unplanned (how could it be any other way when it comes to Melbourne weather), the opening silence was filled with the sounds of falling rain and overflowing gutters that paired inexplicably well with a solitary saxophonist in a column of pale light. The setting not-with-standing, the music was exquisite.

Simmons music is rich and evocative with the cinematic string arrangement given a grittier and more tactile edge by saxophony that spanned subtle breath all the way to unrestrained wail. The program was wonderfully balanced and paced with some early peaks to whisk you away from the rainy night only to offer a contemplative passage that cleverly mixed a sense of nostalgia with a cloying awareness of approaching adventure. Travelling Tales is injected with the many voices, the constant chatter of life on the road while still offering the beguiling anonymity of new places. It’s a loneliness surrounded by sound, the evocation of sitting alone in a packed bar or café where you know no-one and couldn’t be happier.

Ambling in and around the Arcko Ensemble as he plays, Simmons strikes the figure of a charismatic stranger determined to break down the barriers between excitable visitor and banal local. There is nothing banal though about the proverbial locals. Arcko, led by Timothy Phillips, are difficult to fault, capable of providing orchestral exactitude but not afraid to linger here or there for effect or stop suddenly on a dime. A casual comment by Simmons prior to the encore that they had had only three rehearsals makes this awe-inspiring collaboration that much more impressive.

It feels almost sacrilegious to say a little prayer for a weekend full of rain but for the unexpected layer of romance and gravitas that it lends to a beautifully presented performance, it feels entirely justified. Travelling Tales will fire your wanderlust and have you fighting the urge to remain seated. Thank goodness for the rain keeping us indoors.

5 out of 5 stars

Travelling Tales: Part three of The Usefullness of Art series
Arcko Symphonic Ensemble – conducted by Timothy Phillips
Adam Simmons – tenor/soprano saxophones, bass clarinet
Forty-five Downstairs
7–10 December   
What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Raphael Solarsh is writer from Melbourne whose work has appeared in The Guardian, on Writer’s Bloc and in a collection of short stories entitled Outliers: Stories of Searching. When not seeing shows, he writes fiction and blogs at raphaelsolarsh.com and tweets @RS_IndiLit.

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