More Than A Melody

ACF23-More-Than-A-Melody-photo-by- Claudio-Raschella“Cabaret Icon Award Winner” Libby O’Donovan has years of performing in such notable vocal groups such as Flat On Your Bacharach. Her new show, with acclaimed vocalist Michelle Nicolle and the gifted pair of the Yankalilla Miracles (Catherine Mackenroth and Lauren Henderson) wants to celebrate “the unsung hero of our favourite songs” – harmonies.

People have been singing harmonies together for a long time. To illustrate this, gathered around one microphone, our four singers took on a selection of harmonic highlights of the last 500 years, in just under 6 ½ minutes.

O’Donovan expressed concerns about their abilities in foreign tongues. However, this bracket, with many changes of tune and style, showed how well-rehearsed the quartet were, and their control of their instruments.

The audience may have been surprised with a mash-up of several pop songs from the 1950s with “baby” in the lyrics. A sneaky doo-wop reinvention of My Heart Will Go On from the Titanic soundtrack gave the singers a chance to soar and showed the quality of the talent on offer.

Our assembled vocalists are all Jazz singers. Nicolle is a past winner of the Australian Jazz Award. One of the Miracles, Lauren Henderson (of the Elder Conservatorium of Music), won this award when it next cycled through to the vocal category.

Given that the show’s blurb made particular mention of the Pop genre, it was a pleasant surprise to find a good selection of Jazz tunes in the programme.

Sometimes a performer was a backing singer, sometimes an equal partner, and there were surprise special guests as the vocalists demonstrated different combinations. A high-quality programme effectively contrasted the voices, such as when O’Donovan’s lower notes were a suitable foil for Henderson’s contributions on Paul McCartney’s Blackbird.

We had a little insight into what some songs meant to the performers. Apparently, some voice students will get bored with Jazz standards, whereas Nicolle maintains her affections, as seen in her take on Autumn Leaves.

Even though the show is mostly about harmonies, there were moments when the competence of the band shone brightly. Pianist Mark Ferguson (also of The Elder Con) showed good control of volume, and some especially appealing staccato sequences. Bonnie Aue on bass first impressed with precise pizzicato, later showing herself at one with the groove of certain selections.

As part of her steering of proceedings, O’Donovan listed the various benefits of singing together. Clearly there are benefits for listeners too, as a full house enjoyed a light and bright evening of entertainment. Adelaide audiences have one last chance to hear More Than A Melody at 7.00pm – Saturday 17 June.

More Than A Melody
Banquet Room – Adelaide Festival Centre, King William Road, Adelaide
Performance: Friday 16 June 2023 – 7.00pm
Season continues to 17 June 2023
Information and Bookings:

Image: More Than A Melody – photo by  Claudio Raschella

Review: Jason Whyte