At one point in the show, Nick Begbie, the only original member of the prestigious The Idea of North asked the packed house at Her Majesty’s Theatre how many of them had been to at least the last five Christmas Proms in past years. There was a very satisfactory show of hands and no wonder because it had everything to put a pre-Christmas audience in the mood for the festive season.
On the top of the list was The Idea of North itself, multi Aria award winners and named by the ABC as “Australia’s favourite contemporary ensemble”, a title well-earned with their intricate, dazzling and brilliant harmonics with Nick, tenor, Naomi Crellin, alto and Musical Director, Emma Rule, soprano and Luke Thompson, bass.
We were taken on a global journey starting with a Hebrew song well sung by Naomi and to such varied cultures as those from Guinea, Spain, America and West Africa. On this occasion the group was augmented by Japanese vocal percussionist, Kaichiro Kaitamura. They took turns to introduce the music of several different genres and the two women were particularly articulate, clear and comfortable. We heard each sing solo occasionally and that was a pleasure in itself but when they treated us to a selection of Christmas favourites to start with, we were hearing arrangements and stunning vocal displays that were an absolute joy, particularly “I saw three ships”.
They were ably and amiably accompanied by an orchestra drawn together for the event and conducted by Benjamin Northey, who is Chief Conductor of the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra in New Zealand and Associate conductor of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra, of course, had its own drummer but The Idea of North had brought their own who was unencumbered by a kit because every sound came from his mouth and into the microphone to uncannily imitate bass, toms, cymbal and snare. With one hand holding the microphone, the other remarkably flexible and fast to beat time and his leg going faster than Elvis’s, he later brought a train, a bus with its laborious gear changes and an aeroplane, complete with Japanese stewardess, in and out of the theatre and finished by cleaning part of the stage with a mouth-powered vacuum cleaner before marching off to his own drum beat, all in spellbinding mimicry. We were told he’d been doing this since he was four and that he was “a really annoying kid” – one that grew up into a remarkable performer.
It’s no Christmas without children and On Stage, the Adelaide Festival Centre’s school holidays performing arts programme, provided a beaut choir of bright-faced, happy looking, eager kids to sing un-conducted and spot on, a joyful Christmas medley and then we were charmed by the Tutti Choir conducted by Laura Ellis and assisted by Brenton Shaw. It is open to disabled and non-disabled singers of any age and from the first note they were a joy to hear and of a very good standard. The interpreter and her student added to the beauty of the performance translating the words to the deaf with melting sincerity.
The Elf Stage Manager, Hew Parham, was a model of studied incompetence and fun. Alirio Zavarce made a buxom Santa with some heart-felt ho-ho-hos but his recitation of “Not quite the night before Christmas” was so very loud it couldn’t be heard by many members of the audience and his strong accent too difficult to understand at times.
All in all Christmas Proms gave much pleasure and joy to a most satisfied audience and those hands will keep going up for years to come.
Adelaide Festival Centre presents
Director Nick Begbie
Venue: Her Majesty's Theatre | Grote Street, Adelaide
Dates: 14 – 16 December 2017
Tickets: $54 – $30
Bookings: 131246 | bass.net.au