Songs my mother taught me sees artists across generations and cultures share significant songs 

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Songs my mother taught me gave us linguistic diversity perhaps not otherwise seen in Adelaide except for WOMAD in March. Only then does Adelaide usually get to witness a variety of artists performing in multiple languages at the one event. We were treated to songs in some 6 languages in addition to English: Italian, Hebrew, French, Mandarin, Nbedele, and a Torres Strait Islander language (we were unable to identify which one despite our best efforts). 

Songs my mother taught me
Photo: Claudio Raschella

Songs my mother taught me was one of the headline acts of the 2022 Adelaide Cabaret Festival, with Tina Arena at the Artistic Director helm. It was the only opportunity to see her perform during the festival (unless you were at The Pina Colada Room on opening night). And there were some very enthusiastic fans in the audience shouting “we love you Tina” every time she would appear on stage!

 

After opening Songs my mother taught me with all 6 singers performing “Our house” (which unfortunately now immediately makes me think of Chemist Warehouse!), Tina Arena welcomes the audience to “our house, our living room, a place to gather and share”. The stage looks inviting with lanterns and lampshades of various shapes and colours strewn across it. Light bulb garlands complete the lighting arrangements. This colourful, eclectic lighting makes the audience feel that they were in a cozy backyard, rather than in a living room.

Songs My Mother Taught Me
Mark Ferguson and Tina Arena
Photo: Claudio Raschella

Tina Arena is far from the only star in the 6 singer line-up. Songs my mother taught me consists of a very diverse group featuring singers who have been around for decades in Tina Arena and Wendy Matthews to the younger generation of Thando, Jess Hitchcock, Sophie Koh and Lior. This diverse line-up was also mirrored in the audience that attended with everyone from people in their 20s to people into their 80s among the crowd. Throughout the show, these 6 singers perform songs that speak to who they are.

 

Tina Arena showcased her Italian heritage performing songs in Italian, opening with love ballad  Maledetta Primavera ‘Dammed Springtime’. (I’d hoped for one number in French given she has spent so long living in Paris and has become quite successful over there).

Songs My Mother Taught Me
Photo: Claudio Raschella

Jess Hitchcock performed Sorrento Moon in a duet with Tina Arena. Songs my mother taught me was not the first time that they had performed together. They performed the song as a duet in Frontier Touring’s Music From The Home Front in 2021. Hitchcock who has family origins from Saibai in the Torres Straits and Papua New Guinea performed a Torres Strait Islander lullaby Baba Waiyar, which translates to Father Send

 

Songs my mother taught me
Photo: Claudio Raschella

Wendy Matthews sang her French version of The Day you went away, her popular song from the early 90s, which still brings tears to my eyes. Matthews also gave a nod to her Scottish roots with an English language song that her grandfather used to play on the harmonica when she was a child. Matthews also had her own group of loud fans celebrating her every time she came on stage – one loudly shared her disappointment that The Day you went away was being performed in French – I think the audience were thankful because it meant this audience member wouldn’t sing along loudly!

 

Photo: Claudio Raschella

Lior, speaking of his upbringing in Tel Aviv, sang in Hebrew including his childhood favourite song Gan Sagur meaning ‘Kindergarten is closed’. The irony that he used to rush home from kindergarten or school and request that it be played was not lost on him. His performance of Hebrew prayer Avinu Malkeinu ‘Our Father Our King’ had his voice soaring and making us feel like we had been transported from the restored Her Majesty’s Theatre to a synagogue with lofty ceilings. 

 

ongs My Mother Taught Me
Photo: Claudio Raschella

The Voice finalist, Zimbabwean born, Thando performed in both Nbedele and English. She sang the traditional Zulu lullaby that she sings to her daughter every night before she goes on stage as she won’t see her until the next morning. Tula Tula ‘Hush now, hush now’ is what Thando’s own mother used to sing to her as a child.  An impressive, powerful voice, I was impressed to see Thando perform.

 

Sophie Koh
Photo by Claudio Raschella

Sophie Koh (who also performed her own  show Shànghai MiMi at this year’s Adelaide Cabaret Festival – read our review from the Sydney Festival 2019) performed in Mandarin including a song that she wrote herself. Called Yellow Rose, Sophie Koh said it is an ode to all the anonymous women in the Chinese Book of Songs.

 

 

Not only were the artists backgrounds and their languages varied, so too were the musical styles performed in Songs my mother taught me. There was everything from lullabies and hymns/prayer songs to pop, R&B and love ballads.

 

Accompanying the 6 singers on stage for Songs my mother taught me were an impressive cast of musicians – Mark Ferguson on piano (who also performs regularly with singer of French chanson, Louise Blackwell), and who also arranged the music performed in the show, and his own family members mother-daughter back-up singer duo, Jasmine and Ciara Ferguson – who were wonderful singers and we’d love to see them perform up front in their own show. 

 

To the right of the stage were 2 violinists, Emily Tulloch and Zsuzsa Leona; violist, Karen De Nardi, and a cellist, Hilary Kleinig. Behind Mark Ferguson on the piano (although he was not the only one to play the piano last night with some of the signers playing the piano while they sang) were Nick Sinclair on bass, Chris Neale on drums, and Cam Blokland on guitar.

 

While there was a digital programme available for Songs my mother taught me  (via QR code displayed at the doors to the theatre), which gives a little more information and translations of some of the songs, it would have been useful to the audience if the singers had let the audience know not just why the song speaks who they are (which they did) but also what the song is about when it was a non-English language song. Some achieved this through having a translated verse or a brief explanation beforehand but for others we were left in the dark as to what the song was about. 

 

Songs my mother taught me was an enchanting, moving evening of song showing the bridging together of cultures and generations. All 6 singers who made up those sharing their songs and stories in Songs my mother taught me are talented and their shows merit being seen in their own right. 

5 CROISSANTS

Matilda Marseillaise was a guest of Adelaide Cabaret Festival

 

There were only two performances of Songs my mother taught me in their world premiere season at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, which has now concluded. 

Songs my mother taught me
Wendy Matthews, Sophie Koh, Tina Arena, Lior, Thando & Jess Hitchock
Photo: Claudio Raschella

READ OUR ADELAIDE CABARET FESTIVAL COVERAGE

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For other events with links to France and the francophonie , take a look at our What’s on in June

 

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And then you go (The Vali Myers Project): a performance inspired by the life of Vali Myers

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Last night was the world premiere of Victoria Falconer’s Frank Ford Commissioning Award-winning show And then you go (The Vali Myers Project) at Adelaide Cabaret Festival. An Australian who lived in post-war Paris and counted Jean Genet, Jean-Paul Sartre, Jean Cocteau, Django Reinhardt. and Tennessee Williams as friends would surely be someone that everyone would have heard of, right? Strangely no and Victoria Falconer’s show aims to educate but also inspire audiences to explore Vali Myers and her story more.

And then you go (The Vali Myers Project)
Photo: Claudio Raschella

There’s plenty to look at before the show has even begun. Instruments in various places across the stage, and in front of the drum kit all sorts of bohemian paraphernalia. 5 women with red hair (Victoria Falconer, Erin Fowler, Jess Love, Parvyn Kaur Singh, and Ronnie Taheny), all representing Vali Myers, mingle with the crowd. A man with a tail (Will Spartalis), in the role of Vali’s beloved pet fox, jumps between empty chairs in the audience seating quite happy to have pats. A slender dog like a greyhound is getting cuddles from one of the Valis on stage.

 

And then you go (The Vali Myers Project) is an audio-visual feast. While stories are told or songs are performed, images of Vali Myer’s many paintings, drawings and diary entries are projected onto the back of the stage. At times the words in these diary entries parallel the lyrics of the song being performed. It’s difficult to define the style of Vali Myer’s works and perhaps that is so very characteristic of Vali Myers herself. There are animals in many of her works and perhaps even an Indian-like feel to the way the people and animals are painted.

 

There is audience participation but it is brief. Selected audience members are handed wigs, moustaches or glasses to take on the personas of Blondie, Dali and Andy Warhol. Their participation is brief and they are not required to do much at all – so there’s no near to fear sitting in the front row or the chairs on stage for And then you go (The Vali Myers Project). The wider audience is encouraged to dance in their seats by waving their hands in the air taking us into the world of Vali’s wild parties.

 

And then you go (The Vali Myers Project) and her cast of Valis, all with their own musical instruments, allow us to get to know a little more about this woman so few know about. Each takes it in turns telling us about a snippet of Vali’s life or about Vali herself – one for example tells us about dancing being a compulsion. Another tells us about migrating from café to café in Paris, whiling the hours away purely because they “didn’t have anywhere else to go”.

Parvyn Kaur Singh is one of the 5 Valis in the show
Photo: Claudio Raschella

Quotes from Vali are immortalised in songs written by the extremely talented Victoria Falconer, whose baby And then you go (The Vali Myers Project) is. The performance is heavily tilted towards a musical one with a dazzling array of instruments, both the usual keyboard, double bass, and various guitars but also percussion ones not often seen.  Of course, a show partially set in Paris needs an accordion as well which was also present. I don’t think Victoria Falconer’s famed musical saw made an appearance this time though!

 

The music styles differ throughout the show from island rumba/salsa sorts of beats to middle Eastern sounding music that would be perfectly at home at WOMAD festival in Adelaide in March. The Valis perform a song together with their various instruments and voices in perfect harmony. In addition to the 5 Valis who each play an instrument in the show, there are Dylan Marshall on various guitars and Flik Freeman on bass and percussion at the back of the stage, and Jarrad Payne on drums rounding it out.

 

The use of props was quite ingenious. A red rope held at each end by different Valis is transformed into a ballet pole against which other Valis would do their ballet movements. That same red rope was used in a V formation to create the appearance of a boat on which the Valis swayed from side to side. The rope was used a third time, this time for the aerial performance by Jess Love, who climbed the rope by her feet while hanging upside down.

 

The aerial performance was not the usual graceful, peaceful one but rather one in which a frenzied woman struggled to climb higher and higher when the rope was being lowered. Instead of the aerial performances to which we might be accustomed, this one featured a breathless, topless woman, climbing and climbing until she eventually collapses in exhaustion. We’re not sure whether this is meant to be representative or inspired by Vali’s compulsion to dance. It was the only solo performance involving a circus skill. There’s no doubting the skill of Jess Love but It seemed slightly out of place in a show which was far more of the singing, story-telling, instrumental realm.

 

We are sent on our way from And then you go (The Vali Myers Project) with the words of Vali Myers who said that was very interested in what she didn’t know and who said her thing was not knowing. Perhaps this is an encouragement for many in the audience to discover what they don’t know about this Australian woman who merits being more well-known.

4.5 CROISSANTS

Matilda Marseillaise was a guest of Adelaide Cabaret Festival

And then you go (The Vali Myers Project)
Victoria Falconer
Photo: Claudio Raschella

KEY INFO FOR AND THEN YOU GO (THE VALI MYERS PROJECT)

WHAT: And then you go (The Vali Myers Project)

WHEN: Only one show remains, tonight, Saturday 25 June at 9pm

WHERE: Space Theatre, Adelaide

HOW:  Purchase your tickets via this link: https://www.adelaidecabaretfestival.com.au/events/the-vali-myers-project/

HOW MUCH: Ticket prices (exclusive of booking fee) are as follows:

  • Premium Adult $59
  • A Reserve Adult $49
  • A Reserve Under 30 $30

 

Read our interview with Victoria Falconer about the show, cabaret and more here

 

MORE ADELAIDE CABARET FESTIVAL CONTENT

10 shows with French links at Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2022

Have you never heard of Vali Myers? Victoria Falconer wants to change that

Meow Meow’s Pandemonium with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra is orchestrated chaos of the best kind

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Louise Blackwell presents a show about the life and songs of Juliette Greco ‘Love on the Left Bank’

Bad Guy: Hayden Tee examines the bad guy musical role and what it means to be bad

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Enter the world of Meow Meow’s Pandemonium this weekend

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Don Juan at Adelaide Cabaret Festival: don’t miss out on this party celebrating the legend

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Play French for a night with Don Juan at Adelaide Cabaret Festival

 

 

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