Review: NOCTURNAL + MIJF, Melbourne Museum

Tahney Fosdike

A night of jazz brought intimacy and excitement to the museum space.
Review: NOCTURNAL + MIJF, Melbourne Museum

Melbourne Museum was transformed for the Nocturnal + MIJF event. Photo: Katey Shearer.

There is something alluring about walking a dimly lit museum corridor, with jazz beats in the background and mulled wine in hand: it makes staring at a ringed snake (tropidonotus matrix) skeleton more tantalising and reading wall text about gut health more intriguing. Such was the experience last Friday night as the Melbourne International Jazz Festival collaborated with Nocturnal, Melbourne Museum’s evening soiree, with both intimacy and excitement.

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For four hours, guests orbited around three musical acts on the main stage – Jazz Party, Horns of Leroy ft Thando, and Tanya George – and surprise performances within the exhibition spaces. Whether dancing in the mosh pit by the main stage, overseen by an ominous whale skeleton and a giant disco ball, or slowly absorbing exhibitions accompanied by scattered performances throughout the building, NOCTURNAL + MIJF was a celebratory intervention on the winter blues.

The event provided many possibilities: an initiation to jazz music, a relaxed viewing of the museum, and an alternative nightlife experience. There was a heightened sense of fun and liberty not usually present in a museum space. The transformation caused by the presence of night, tunes, bars and low lighting presented new ways of interacting with Melbourne Museum’s architecture.

At the end of a long week, this transcendent space was a welcome alternative form of entertainment, away from the crowded pub or the couch on a chilly winter evening. The main stage, in the sparse museum foyer, captured the explosive excitement of the night. Friends danced together; bar lines extended far. Concurrently, hundreds of visitors wandered the exhibitions, making the stoic spaces festive – talking loudly to one another about the information and artefacts on display, excitedly jumping into interactive games usually hogged by children. It was a rare moment of engaging with the tangible exhibition whilst stepping away from its studious connotations – a revised setting giving the curatorial renewed force.

Of course, this transformation of space owed to the depth of talent of the main acts who performed with zest, gifting the beloved music genre to several thousand attendees. Tanya George opened the evening and her solo performance, with a combination of styles and a five-octave range, seized the space. Then the Horns of Leroy, a seven-piece brass band, entered via the escalators and roistered the evening to another level, with crowd-pleasing jazz renditions of pop songs, including their ‘favourite Canadian,’ Justin Bieber. They were accompanied by force of nature, Australian singer, songwriter and actor, Thando, with vocals powerful enough to bring tears. Concluding the evening was Jazz Party – their name true to the revelry they incited – led by Darcy McNulty and Loretta Miller with their famed soul rhythms.

The willingness of MIJF and the Melbourne Museum to let their respective museology and musical expertise meet halfway purposed the evening to become an immersive and engaged space of leisure, with the richness of crafted musical performance, museum architecture and exhibition spaces filling the air.

4.5 stars out of 5 ★★★★☆

Nocturnal + MIJF
presented as part of Melbourne International Jazz Festival
Performances by Jazz Party, Horns of Leroy ft Thando, and Tanya George
7 June 2019
Melbourne Museum
Tickets $32-$37

About the author

Tahney Fosdike is a curator, writer and rare bookseller from rural South Australia, currently based in Melbourne. She reads, thinks and writes about intersections between the arts and cultural anthropology, and is currently working with the Melbourne Rare Book Fair and the Environmental Film Festival Australia.
Instagram: @tahnsuperdry