An international Baroque Christmas with the Marais Project

Lynne Lancaster

A striking Christmas program and a CD launch which saw the ensemble play joyously as one, demonstrating intense rapport.
An international Baroque Christmas with the Marais Project

An exciting and rather unusual concert by the wonderful Marais Project, this was the final Prelude in Tea concert at the Independent for 2017. The Marais Project – led by viola da gamba virtuoso Jenny Eriksson –  is a celebration of music focusing on the work of Marin Marais, the great French virtuoso viola da gamba performer and composer. Since its formation in 2000, the Marais Project has extended its repertoire beyond the French baroque to include medieval and Renaissance music, as well as commissioning and recording some 20 new Australian works.

At this performance the ensemble played joyously as one, with intense rapport.

The concert also featured the release of their sixth CD, Spinning Forth, featuring pieces by Louis de Caix D’Hervelois and Marin Marais as well as world premiere recordings of works by Australian composers Paul Cutlan, Llew and Mara Kiek, and Hjort Anders Olsson. Some of the music on the CD was included in the program. 

The concert began with a selection of fluidly elegant French Christmas songs, mostly bright and bouncy. Susie Bishop played the violin superbly and also revealed a charismatic, hypnotic mezzo soprano voice.

We then heard a striking, pulsating and captivating rendition of Monteverdi’s Chiome d’oro (Tresses of gold) a duet for Bishop and Emily-Rose Sarkova on piano accordion, with both singing.

Four short pieces by Marais followed that were edgy, rich and dynamic and which featured elegant ripples on the piano accordion.

To take us to interval we then heard a rather magical performance of Jennifer Eriksson’s The Garden Party (inspired by Feste Champetre from Marin Marais’ Suite d’un gout Etranger). It had a jaunty opening and  an almost jazz-like feel.   

After the official launch of the new CD when we returned, we heard a rich, multi-layered and flowing version of Hjort Anders Olsson’s Min levnads afton with Tommie Andersson, who arranged it on lute. This was followed by a bubbling Swedish Christmas selection with catchy circular rhythms.

Tarquino Merula’s Canzonetta Spirituale sopra alla nanna followed with Shaun Ng providing delicate yet insistent accompaniment to Bishop’s soaring voice on theorbo.

The concert concluded with a whirling infectious Latin American bracket – concluding with a vibrant, brisk staccato Die fiesta en fiesta by Carlos Carabajal and the Rios brothers that had tango-like rhythms and featured Flamenco palmas. Merry Christmas !

4 stars

A Christmas Adventure by The Marais Project
The Independent Theatre, North Sydney
Sunday 17 December 2017


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

Lynne Lancaster is a Sydney based arts writer who has previously worked for Ticketek, Tickemaster and the Sydney Theatre Company. She has an MA in Theatre from UNSW, and when living in the UK completed the dance criticism course at Sadlers Wells, linked in with Chichester University.