Meeting Points Series: Hand to Earth

AsiaTOPA Hand to Earth Daniel Wilfred and Sunny Kim - photo by Tobias TitzThe Meeting Points Series of occasional concerts is curated by the Artistic Director of the Australian Art Orchestra, Peter Knight. Previous outings were The Hearkening (2017) and Hand to Earth (2018). Despite sharing the previous edition’s name, the 2020 offering claimed “never-before-seen” works.

Also promised were diverse musical styles and performers “in a series of unexpected collaborations” … which presumes that we had enough information to form a clear idea of the show to begin with. It’s a vague description, and at times it did seem as though the programme hadn’t been worked out all that far in advance.

From the press release we expected three of the participants: Jazz vocalist Sunny Kim (Seoul/Melbourne), Daniel Wilfred (Ngukurr, Arnhem Land) on vocals and bilma (clap sticks), and Knight (Melbourne) on trumpet and electronics.

A definitely unexpected component arose with special guest appearances from David Wilfred (Ngukurr, Arnhem Land) playing yidaki (an Indigenous name for didgeridoo), and Aviva Endean (Melbourne) on clarinets.

It was unfortunate that some technical matters impeded our enjoyment of the performance. Sound issues muffled Kim’s introduction and her first vocal offerings. However, she has a pleasing sound, even if very little (if any) of her performance was in English as promised.

The programme would mix and match the performers across the hour of the performance. The musicianship seemed of a high standard, yet sometimes I did wonder if this was a bit like fusion cookery sometimes; elements from different sources that didn’t always enhance each other. It might just be that what was on offer was too subtle for me in places; the sparse bleeps or crackles from Knight’s laptop didn’t add much to my enjoyment of the performance.

Those songs with less variety turned out to be the most memorable. When a song was in the language of the Wilfreds, say on the meeting of salt and fresh water, some surtitles might have assisted our understanding. Yet, the vocals in traditional language, accompanied by the urgency of Daniel’s bilba and the impetus of David’s yidaki, provided some compelling moments.

I had hoped for a little more Jazz, but no matter. The Australian Art Orchestra aims to produce music “made of many influences, exploring meeting points between cultures and disciplines”. Certainly they produced sounds to stretch their audience in this pleasant early-evening show.

Meeting Points Series: Hand to Earth
The Pavilion – Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne
Performance: Sunday 23 February 2020 – 5.00pm

Image: Daniel Wilfred and Sunny Kim – photo by Tobias Titz

Review: Jason Whyte