My posts have been infrequent since February began- mainly because I have been busy with all things around my current production- Stories from the 428- and barely have I had time for seeing shows- let alone reflecting on line about them. In my busy schedule, which often involves seeing up to 5 theatre productions a week- and when in production as I am right now- I spend days on end computer in lap, coffee in hand, managing spreadsheets, budgets, creative imput, publicity, dramaturgy, casting the shows I am directing, reading scripts and all things related to the creation of a brand new show (or in this case a collection of shows)… rarely do I give myself permission to stop. To rest. To be filled up and nourished. And that is why, in truth, I have a Sydney Symphony subscription. This subscription is vital in my mental, spiritual growth, my understanding of the arts, my development as an artist- but above all else permission to turn off my phone, get away from my computer and surrender to the perfection of someone else’s craft- music.Tonight’s welcome surrender came in the guise of the masculine swaggering, sutlry voiced Nigel Kennedy with his virtuousic talent as the worlds most loved and respected violinist.
As a child, the floorboards of my parents humble house would hum with the sounds of music- the instruments each of us were encouraged to learn, the occasional guitar strums of my parents, the CD or record collection which defined and highlighted the contrast in my parents taste. My father with his Brandenburg Concerto’s (or Bach’s Brandenburgs I should say) and my mother with her tradtional jazz and big band standards. My brother dedicated his clarinet playing to Bach , whilst I ran away to play Ellington, Holliday and Miller with my saxophones. Music – an essential part of my life- and in the listening it fills in the corners of my life – it soothes, invigorates, seduces, inspires, enrages, consoles.

In a rare and surprising and inspired juxtaposition Nigel Kennedy brought the cultural divide in my life together in a robust and zesty collison. Daring to break with tradition- to create a set which spoke of black and white, of a history of low culture versus an history of high culture, repositioning the audience in the no-mans’s land of concert etiquette (rude to clap between movements/ and rude NOT to clap after the solos of individual musicians), Kennedy offered me tonight permission to reconcile within myself- the contrasts of my life.

Peering down from my “30 and under subscription” seats to the sea of shiny pink heads below- the glow of the lights flickered turquoise and purple, or rusty red and amber- the glare had been taken out of the light which usually bleach the stage- this isn’t any concert- this is an artist. Kennedy with casual banter re-sets the lights- at the mercy of the front row audience dazzled by light. A few jokes- a curly story or two, a few machine gun scattered expletives, some context, gentle flirtation with the orchestra’s key female players, a kicked (soccar) football kicked into the crowd- an audible gasp from the concert hall, a playful dig at the genteel folk who got their concert times wrong and arrived late, swinging from Bach to Ellington, acknowledging all in his army. Kennedy is striking, magnificent and unrelenting. His charm is that of seeing someone completely and utterly themself enjoying the act of playing music. Someone revelling in this Argus-like monster audience- and their expectation and their predictability.
Banter inbetween is subservient and unpolished- sometimes funny, often crass, repeatedly charming and always astute Kennedy’s intermittent speils contrasts the hightened excellence of his playing. The leap from the lower class tone of his voice to the elevated tone of his classical instrument is thrilling. Kennedy’s daring to be himself musically, to be himself- utterly without pretence- generous, charming, kind, playful and cheeky. He is robust and intelligent and joyful… And this is obvious I know- I really shouldn’t write things other people have already said in more eloquent ways… but what I want to point out is how normal this is.

Kennedy is unique- talent undeniable yes- but what is more unique is this honesty in the portrayal that both aspects “low” and “high” art can exist in the same person at the same time- thus drawing our attention to the affectation or the performativity of the higher class affectation. He gives us permission to indulge our lustful need for seduction (for truly music seduces us) whilst creating sound which elevates and relieves.

How lovely it is to be surprised- to be caught up in the sound from an age old instrument – to feel transported and transposed from here to another time- through the multitude of instruments represneting a composers voice. What an honour it is to hear faithful and passionate interpretations of music which has informed our culture and creatives- sounds that directly or indirectly ressonate and resound throughout our lives.

Tonight Nigel Kennedy, played the music of my childhood- and tonight I felt at peace and whole in the experience of having both simultaneously inhabiting who I am. I felt this- as the two halves of my heart-what a remarkable gift to be given. Permission to love it, to live it all with a cheeky grin and a “f**ken great” exclamation. This is just what I needed to be filled up, shaken up, inspired and reassured that whatever I am doing right now- I should do it because its who I am- there arent rules to creating (there is etiquette) but its more exciting to embrace the possibilities.

Thank you Nigel Kennedy- I hope you had fun at the Basement… catch you next time you are in Sydney.