Bowerbird Ensemble: An Italian Abroad
The Promethean, Adelaide, 11-15 March 2015

I had looked forward to this concert, and I was not disappointed.

The seventeenth and eighteenth century was a time when Italian composers and musicians were the top of the pops all over Europe, much to the chagrin of the more sober, less flamboyant North European musicians. Bowerbird Ensemble has investigated the men who set musical (and possibly feminine) hearts aflutter, and present a number of their compositions in a wonderful evening of music. The Promethean is a well-chosen venue, with its starry background, plush red sofa, grouped tables rather than tiered seats and a bar at the ready. 

Simone Slattery and Brendan O’Donnell, both of whom work overseas, return to Adelaide from time to time to join with their musical colleagues in Adelaide to present baroque music in unusual settings and in a way that makes it very accessible to all. As with their previous concerts they have chosen a theme and have a narrator to inform the music. The text is a group effort, but, in this case, was polished and presented by Stephen Bills, as the Italian abroad. He was terrific, convincingly Italian without the fake ‘Joe the fruiterer’ accent so often adopted in these roles, very funny and totally in character. 

The music was delightful. All the musicians looked as though they were thoroughly enjoying themselves, and the audience gave every indication, through spontaneous shouts of approval and much clapping that they were having a ball as well. Bethany Hill sang two demanding cantatas by Domenico Scarlatti, with consummate ease. Brendan O’Donnell, playing various recorders, like the three bears – large medium and small – demonstrated his virtuosity. Simone Slattery showed her musicianship, in particular, in the Sonata XI- Scozzese by Veracini. This followed a selection of Old Scots Tunes, arranged by Barsanti, who spent most of his life in Scotland. There must have been some people from Scotland in the audience for this selection was greeted with great approbation. I must also mention Glenys March, whose harpsichord playing provides essential support to the Bowerbird Ensemble, as it does to so many Baroque groups. Last, but very much not least, Jackie Hansen played the bassoon with aplomb and enthusiasm.

Emily Sutherland, 5MBS, 12 March 2015