The Perth Symphony Orchestra is an orchestra that prides itself on rarely playing symphonies, performing in unique places and touching on a wide variety of music. From baroque to grunge, Aretha to Mozart, the PSO certainly demonstrates an eclectic and rich range. Hence, a single classical work in a more traditional environment like the Perth Town Hall, is a bit of a surprise. C.A.L.M (Come and Listen to Music) offers an opportunity for people on their way from work to skip the rush hour, and to just chillax. Hosted by yoga instructor Stephanie Johnson, C.A.L.M gives us a chance to experience the therapeutic powers of music.
There’s a solid concept here. A bite-sized concert after work could be an exceptional way to blow off the stress of a day in the office. Just let it all melt away through the strains of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Symphony No. 41 in C Major (the ‘Jupiter’ symphony), and enjoy a glass of wine, or a juice, and feel reinvigorated.
It’s all remarkably civilised.
However, the noble intention of its theme doesn’t entirely match the execution. The staging works in its separate components, but doesn’t meld harmoniously with the stated intent. Hence, we get an introduction asking us to listen to the piece in quiet, and to let it wash over and relax us; a brief and almost meditative introduction, but one that is slightly more difficult to execute. Those silences sat heavy on us, running contrary to the schemas that we have built up over the years. That lack of applause felt unnerving rather than relaxing, and I wished that I could bear it with the same grace that our host did. Sitting cross-legged on stage near the yoga mat area, Stephanie Johnson appeared serene and relaxed, proof of the restorative power of music.
The fault certainly lies with me. PSO’s performance was on point as they were able to play to their strengths. Despite their varied repertoire, this is the music they’re trained in — this is the music they’re familiar with. The light and bright strings, the brassy notes of the horns; this is not some sleepy idyll but rather a celebration. Dramatic but never overwhelming, Jupiter convinces us of its noble character and curative properties. It sweeps you along, giving you that hit of endorphins you require after a busy day. This may lack those large numbers, linking tales, and show-stopping moments that punctuate most of the PSO shows. Rather, it’s a more holistic approach to the audience’s musical therapy.
At the end C.A.L.M felt like an idea that has not quite achieved its potential, but one that is certainly reaching for something special.
Photos by Richard Jefferson