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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 02 November 2019
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 2 NOVEMBER 2019 15 MUSIC ough circus and opera Rebetiko Jam: Get your Greek on every Wednesday at the 300 Melbourne’s weekly sold-out event celebrating Rebetiko MARIA KAMPYLI - ADAPTATION NELLY SKOUFATOGLOU brainchild of Con Kalamaras and Wayne Simmons has evolved into a weekly event that is always booked solid. Lovers of the Greek blues, gather every Wednesday in Clifton Hill's 300 and jam from 7pm till 11pm. The repertoire includes Smirneika, dimotika and rebetika dating anywhere from the 1920s to the 1950s. "Wade and I wanted to A create a supportive space where people from all backgrounds - regardless of whether you are beginner or if you're an experienced musician - can get together and jam," Mr Kalamaras tells Neos Kosmos. "It's a space where people Yaron Lifschitz to combine the roles of Love and Eurydice. This creates a much more substantial female role that serves to balance Orpheus. The twin roles are sung by a highly assured Natalie Christie Peluso. Orpheus and Eurydice is not an opera traditionally associated with powerful physicality, so the decision to pair opera singers with circus performers is an interesting one. On the whole it is a successful partnership, but at times the novelty of the acrobatics threatens to draw attention away from the singing and the drama. It is hard to lament for the death of Eurydice when you also want to applaud the triple somersault you've just caught out of the corner of your eye. The vibrant athleticism of the circus performers also has a tendency to show up the chorus. As they roll, tumble, leapfrog, and pirouette on stage, the circus troupe makes the largely static chorus look decidedly flat-footed. Yet, as the opera progresses, the value of the collaboration begins to show itself. Watching Orpheus and Eurydice physically clamber up the bodies of the acrobats and stumble as they take each precarious step – balancing on shoulders, heads and outstretched arms – powerfully evokes the physical demands of descending into the underworld. The final act in which chorus, principals and circus performers combine to stage the twin triumph of love and death, is a remarkable piece of performance. Completely captivating and deeply moving. Lifschitz and his production team should be applauded for attempting to take this story seriously. In situating this opera between the opposing poles of love and death, they have produced a cerebral drama that invites us to reflect on what it means to be mortal. Orpheus and Eurydice plays at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, South Bank, Brisbane, through to 9 November. * This article first appeared in The Conversation. Alastair Blanshard is the Paul Eliadis Chair of Classics and Ancient History Deputy Head of School at The University of Queensland. can learn and exchange knowledge but also a place where people that might otherwise never get a chance to perform, can perform live. It's been nine months and since day one it's been non-stop busy. Every jam has been packed." Mr Kalamaras and Mr Simmons also encourage people who are not Greek to come and perform so that they can get to know the richness of Hellenic culture and Eastern influence through the live sessions. "We have created a centralised Dropbox account where we put all the music. People can study by themselves, and when we get together they know what we're gonna play," he explains. Aside from providing rebetiko aficionados with the space to perform those jam between friends of rebetiko which was born last April as the songs in public, the duo also offers knowledge. "People send us a message regarding what songs they would like to perform and we send them the song. Wayne writes up the sheet music and we try to create a list everybody can play. There are almost 60 songs in there now." The two don't see this weekly process as a timeconsuming task but more so as a cultural investment. "There's already a group of artists playing this music in Melbourne but we want it to be more accessible to everyone, so we find this to be a very good way to open up the demographic age-wise and genderwise. We want more “From little things big things grow” “ young people to become interested and more females to be part of it as well." The Rebetiko Jam organisers are trying to ensure a continuous interest in the genre and their plan seems to be working. Each Wednesday the 300 venue fills up with an average of 15 musicians and more or less 50 more people who come to see them perform. The most popular instrument is by far the six-string bouzouki, followed by the baglama and percussion instruments. "Aside from it being a standard night at a popular location, it is a very organic way of creating and maintaining interest," Mr Kalamaras says. "Even if people make a mistake, it's okay. No one is judging. They can still walk away feeling that they've learned something." "We have people from 19 to 70 years old. There's no restrictions and no rules; basically if you have an interest in this music bring your instrument and join us!" Meanwhile, Rebetiko Jam nights don't attract people of Greek background alone but a broad variety of punters interested in ethnic sounds. It being an acoustic event, a gathering that takes place around a table and not on a stage make it more personable and warm. "I would say it's about 50- 50.The non Greeks that turn up are really committed. Like, Wayne. He's not Greek but is one of the most passionate supporters of Greek music I know and has even been teaching for 20 years." "The interesting thing," he adds, "is that the some of the people who attend have actually become friends and now they've started jamming outside the gig, with other people." Can the Rebetiko Jam grow even more? "The future plan is to evolve the concept and involve the people that turn up. At the moment we are focused on developing the repertoire and along with the skills of the people that come in. We are really proud of it and love the fact that it is a free event," Mr Kalamaras enthuses. "To answer your question, though, one of our friends is based in Sydney and she started a Greek jam night as well." "From little things big things grow!" A bold retelling of the well-known myth. Rebetiko Jam, get your Greek on every Wednesday night.
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