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SYDNEY ARTS GUIDE June 2022 "The Song Company 'Entangled': another quality concert"

Having The Song Company as part of our offering in Sydney has always been a great privilege. Their standards have always been exceptionally high, showcasing a collaboration of top artists mixed with young up-and-coming artists being mentored up the ladder into the Arts industry. The current Artistic Director Antony Pitts keeps those high standards maintained and draws in new ideas fluently and consistently. This makes for a fascinating series of programs each year with a mix of old and new composition using big and small ensembles. You can always depend on The Song Company to bring you a quality performance. Entangled last Friday and Saturday night... was no exception.

The Song Company have been running their Close-Up series for several years now. It’s an opportunity to showcase some of their established Artists so the audience can get to know them better. In this format, the artist can spread their wings, tell their story and share their musical journey winding through the various genres. Jessica O’Donoghue’s journey surely winds through many hills and dales. The show title perfectly encapsulates that journey... Her performance began with some laid-back Jazz, beautifully executed, then jumped to an early 11th-century a cappella song, then over to 19th-century opera aria. It was an astounding start making the audience sit up in their seats.

This is no ordinary performer... Her stories set up vivid images for the audience throughout the performance, relaying opportunities that popped up which would change her pathway, challenging jobs and vivacious personalities she’d worked with. Her perspective on the aging world of Opera got people talking afterwards... The other marvellous surprise of the evening was her talent as a composer. With six albums already under her belt (recording with The Renaissance Players, CODA and Kinderjazz and one of her own) she is very well familiar with what is required. This time she is recording a second album of her own compositions. Highlighting a few of her works, she began with the single Rise Up... The rhythms are tribal and based on the traditional Greek Dance of Zalongo which, in sharing the small performance space with the performers, was completely thrilling. At the opposite end of the scale was a heartbreaking lyrical piece for which O’Donoghue accompanied herself on piano...

The other works sometimes seemed extremely simple with very little melody but the structure would grow and change in ways much other contemporary music fails to do. Her works are eclectic, covering many moods, curious chords and great passion. On stage in support of O’Donoghue was Artistic Director Antony Pitts at the piano. He has some hidden talents up his sleeve as well, moving from simple chords for the a cappella, through to covering the opera, jazz, and contemporary music. Her brother Ben O’Donoghue featured on bass creating a strong foundation for the music, often adding percussion. For the latter part of the performance, backing vocals were added by Jayden Selvakumaraswamy, Elizabeth Player, and Lucinda Edwards. These young women were superb singers with accurate pitch, styling, and empathy to fully support O’Donoghue as she wove her journey for us. The audience expressed their pleasure at the close with enthusiastic applause and much comment at the impressiveness of the performance. O’Donoghue proved herself to be an incredibly unique, versatile and ambitious artist/composer. We can look forward to much more of her work in the future. (Annabelle Drumm)

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The Song Company Studio at Wharf 4/5 at Dawes Point was quickly filling up with an enthusiastic crowd coming to see Entangled, a Close-Up performance by Jessica O’Donoghue. It was a sell-out, and more chairs had to be brought in. Artistic Director, Antony Pitts played the piano, improvising on a melody by Jessica O’Donoghue with wistful arpeggios. The lights dimmed (unfortunately for my sketching!) and Jessica O’Donoghue came onto the stage in an off-the-shoulder blue dress. She introduced tonight’s concert with its concept of ‘Entangled’. She told us about herself and her musical journey, with its entanglement in training as an opera singer and diverging into other genres. Her grandparents were opera stars and her father was a jazz musician.

To demonstrate this, she opened the concert with a jazz number, You don’t know what Love is by Don Raye and Gene de Paul. She was accompanied by her brother, Ben O’Donoghue, on electric 6-string bass guitar and Antony Pitts on piano. Jessica then reminisced about her time singing with the Renaissance Players and turned back to the thirteenth century to sing Beata viscera by Magister Perotinus with words by Chancellor Philippe. Her strong, clear voice held the haunting melody, while the electric bass provided the drone by “drumming” on an open string. Showcasing her previous entanglement with opera, she sang Va! Laisse couler mes larmes from Werther by Massenet... She explained her enthusiasm for new music, where frequently women are empowered, although this was not the case in the next piece she sang, Chiara’s aria from Biographica by Mary Finsterer... tonight’s performance was compelling in its tragedy.

Two more modern pieces followed... Huw Belling’s Canon and Katharsis from his opera Fumeblind Oracle. The second was Postlude: Dawn from Commute by Peggy Polias, where she sang the lead role of Odyssea. Her singing portrayed the magic of the dawn in glorious pure notes. We were then treated to Jessica O’Donoghue’s own compositions... joined by three young singers: Jayden Selvakumaraswamy, Elizabeth Player and Lucinda Edwards. Hand claps and percussion contributed to the rhythmic character of Rise Up... Good Grief was Jessica’s next offering. The backing chorus sang in close harmonies, while Jessica sang with compelling urgency... Jessica then moved to the piano to accompany herself in the moving Lullay my Heart... a kind of lullaby inspired by her father’s death a few years ago... She sang it with feeling through to a wonderful wistful ending. Let it Flow completed the evening in a song that built up into positive joy.

We all applauded this wonderfully ‘Entangled’ evening of eclectic music and lively storytelling from Jessica O’Donoghue. This was yet another educational and innovative concert from The Song Company!" (Heidi Hereth)

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