Carol Middleton speaks to Rachel Gaudry, Musical Director of Joni: A Tribute to the Legendary Joni Mitchell.

Rachel GaudryWith several weeks to go before the Melbourne opening of Joni: A Tribute to the Legendary Joni Mitchell at Hamer Hall on 23 October, Musical Director Rachel Gaudry is ebullient. She will be one of the seven singers performing about thirty of Joni’s catalogue of songs that span her forty-year career. She talked to me as backing vocal rehearsals were underway, in preparation for full rehearsals with the eight-piece band and string quartet.

We are having lots of fun! I love the communal spirit involved in putting it all together. It’s very much a group collaboration, with the producers and musicians all having a say in how it comes together. It’s just a great line-up of friends and fellow musicians.

The seven singers - Katie Noonan, Wendy Matthews, Kristin Berardi, Tania Bowra, Louise Perryman, Virna Sanzone and Gaudry - each solo on four songs, with the others providing backing vocals. Gaudry asked each singer to nominate their favourite Joni songs, before drawing up a program that carefully reflected the different eras of Joni’s repertoire. Sticking closely to the original arrangements and singing mainly in the original keys, each soloist has the opportunity to give something of her own to the songs.

The concert, which tours later to Sydney (30 Oct) and Brisbane (4 Nov), is a chronological musical journey through Joni’s life. It is divided into two sets, the first covering the albums up to Court and Spark and the second picking up the story from the more jazzy era of Hejira and continuing to the present day. It will be an opportunity for those of us who haven’t followed every twist and turn of Joni’s career to get a taste of the parts we missed.

When the producers of this show were looking at staging an Australian tribute to Joni, they decided to base it on Gaudry’s original concept of 1999 when she presented the first of several Joni tributes at the Basement, Sydney. Several of the original singers and musicians are performing again in this bigger tribute show, ten years on. They have been chosen, not only because they are talented and versatile musicians, but are great fans of Joni’s work. All are Australian, although Wendy Mathews was brought up in Canada, like Joni, and inspired and influenced by her.
{xtypo_quote_right}Joni’s songs are deceptively simple, but when you come to sing them yourself, they are extremely challenging.{/xtypo_quote_right}
Although some of the singers work mainly in one genre – Virna Sanzone and Kristin Berardi are principally jazz singers - all are comfortable with the various styles of Joni’s songs. Not only did her style of composition change from the folk acoustic songs of the late 1960s through the jazz-inspired and rock middle period to the 2007 album Shine, but her voice changed, through years of smoking, from clear and high, to deep and husky. There are plenty of challenges here for the singers. As a composer and singer herself, Gaudry is aware of the complexity and originality of Joni’s work.

Joni’s songs are deceptively simple, but when you come to sing them yourself, they are extremely challenging.

The song arrangements will adhere mainly to the original instrumentation, ranging from solo guitar or piano and backing vocals on some of the earlier songs to full band arrangements for later work. The band, under the leadership of guitarist Rex Goh, comprises two guitarists, bassist, drummer, percussionist, two keyboard players and saxophonist. Gaudry, who also composes for film, is now writing parts for a string quartet that will play on several of the songs.

Although Joni is still composing and recording, she is not touring. This tribute show will be a chance to see her music, poetry and spirit come to life in Australia through a fine group of musicians. I asked Gaudry if she had ever met Joni.

Only in my dreams. They are just so real. I am blown away to find myself talking to Joni Mitchell. We talk about music.



JONI CastSpiritworks and Jeff Lewis in association with the Melbourne International Festival present
A Tribute to the Legendary Joni Mitchell

featuring Katie Noonan, Wendy Matthews, Kristin Berardi, Tania Bowra, Louise Perryman, Virna Sanzone and Rachel Gaudry

Friday October 23, Arts Centre Hamer Hall
Bookings: 1300 182183 or Ticketmaster 136 100

Friday October 30, Sydney Opera House Concert Hall
Bookings: 02 9250 7777 or Ticketmaster 136 100

Wednesday November, QPAC Concert Hall
Bookings: 136 246 or

Top Right - Rachel Gaudry
Bottom Right - the cast of JONI -
A Tribute to the Legendary Joni Mitchell

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