As the lights dimmed (slightly) in the auspicious St George's Cathedral the audience were silenced by the solemn ringing out of the organ pipes (Bach’s Toccata in D minor) played by Organist Stewart Smith. It was an impressive opening to the Cathedral Candlelight Cabaret, a one off event as part of the Perth Fringe. The evening was in turns impressive, slightly embarrassing, jaw dropping, dull, and uplifting – In short a mixed bag of performers and entertainment.

Shrove Tuesday is traditionally marked by music and feasting before Lent begins, and as a venue, St Georges Cathedral works wonderfully for cabaret. The pews had been removed and replaced with tables and chairs, mountains of flowers and candles in gothic candelabras. Unfortunately, the extreme heat made the venue unbearable, and had I not been reviewing, I would have left (like another reviewer did) – it would have been at least 33 / 34 degrees inside. 

Max Kay was the MC for the event, unprepared and fumbling with his papers. Acts varied between classical opera, circus, magic, Spanish dancers, a Capella group and the bagpipes. 

Tenor Richard Symons was one of the 2012 WA Opera emerging artists. In November last year he was awarded the Sir Robert Askin Operatic Travelling Scholarship which will see him train in New York, Canada and Europe. His smooth full bodied voice regaled us with beautiful renditions of “As Time Goes By”, “All the Things You Are” and “In the Still of the Night” amongst others. 

Irish duo Ken and Tina make up Tumble Circus, who with “no fanfare or sequins” thoroughly entertained the audience with their juggling, hula hoops and acrobatics, made all the more impressive in a tight narrow space. 

It was a change of pace when the eight person St George's Cabaret Camarata came on and sang madrigals from the late Renaissance. Whilst generally enjoyable, it was hard not to zone out of the performance due to the heat, and compare the young group to the sharpness of the regular singers in the Cathedral – the Consort (currently performing in Tenebrae Et Lux).

A short break enabled people to cool down outside, before DivasLatinas sashayed and wiggled around the church. I wished I had stayed outside for this part. Whilst I’m sure they were enjoying themselves, the fake smiling, repetitive butt wiggling, and lack of difference in their dancing (they were just shimmying up and down the isle) was too much to watch.

Thank goodness then for singers Courtney Pitman (Mezzo Soprano) and Jennifer Barrington (Soprano), both regulars with the WA Opera. Opening with the perennial favourite “Flower” Duet from the opera Lakmé, they followed it with a few cabaret pieces and some delightfully catty dialogue about the differences between Sopranos and Altos. Pitman received resounding applause for the hilarious tune “Alto’s Lament” before the duo finished with the “Belle Nuit” duet from Tales of Hoffman.

Stuart Lightbody’s magic tricks, table by table, would have been better suited to the interval or pre show, as quite a few audience members chose this time to leave. I can’t comment on his magic as Lightbody didn’t get close to my table before we were wowed by the impressive vocals of a Capella group The Exchange. The five young men from the US met on a television show and have been touring since August 2012. Their tone was smooth, the diction sharp, beat boxing incredible, and we were treated to interpretations of new music and old classics including “Waving Flag”, “Lonely Boy” and “Georgia”.

The night was rounded off by David Murray on the bagpipes. Yes, bagpipes! We didn’t have our ears blown off as Murray performed on the ‘small pipes’ – enough of a bagpipe sound to put you in the right mind frame, but not the huge overbearing honk that everyone associates with pipes. The evening ended with Smith and Murray (on the full pipes) playing a classic highland pipe piece.

A mixed bag indeed and not what I was expecting. Would I come again to a concert at St George's Cathedral? Yes, if it was cooler and I knew who the performers where. Would I have come to this cabaret if I’d known about the variety of performances? Probably not.

Cathedral Candlelight Cabaret

Venue: St George's Cathedral, 38 St George's Terrace, Perth, Perth
Date: Tue 12 Feb, 7:00pm     
Tickets: $25.00

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