Pot-Pourri 25th Anniversary Concert

MELBOURNE TOWN HALL: Unabashed sentimental dagginess aside, this Melbourne icon's 25th anniversary concert was beautiful, joyous and inspiring.
Pot-Pourri 25th Anniversary Concert
Lots of decent country folk came to town to see this 25th anniversary gala concert and CD launch by Pot-Pourri, which, despite its unabashed sentimental dagginess, was beautiful and inspiring. As it is the most wholesome gig I’ve been to since seeing Kamahl at the Auckland Town Hall when I was 11, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this show as much as I did, despite being directed to wave my hands in the air during an audience sing-along of We are Australia.

Sublime musicality is what Pot-Pourri is all about: their voices, the evergreen songs they choose and their pianist all are world class. They put on a show which grandmas and corporate types the world over adore but anyone who relishes a lovely trained voice will thrill to their work. The group’s approach is operatic and formal; their repertoire is eclectic. Leonard Cohen’s much loved Hallelujah and Sting’s Fields of Gold feature, alongside Puccini’s Nessun Dorma. Tania de Jong leads the group of five – two sopranos (herself and Rebecca Bode), tenor Jon Bode and baritone Jonathan Morton – accompanied by acclaimed pianist Rebecca Chambers. On this occasion they also had composer/pianist’s Stefan Cassomenos’s contribution to the proceedings.

Pot-Pourri’s harmonies are spine-tinglingly glorious to hear. If you can stomach being made to stand up to sing along with You’ll Never Walk Alone, and not gag at being exhorted to ‘wave your hands in the air and pretend you’re drinking along’ to operatic drinking songs, then there is nothing not to love. These are, after all, some of the most enduringly popular tunes, ever. Pot-Pourri are superb vocalists and unpretentious performers and if the music world’s greatest arias and duets are made accessible then who’s complaining? They even get a little nasty with the Cowardesque Poisoning Pigeons in the Park. Highlights for me were an achingly poignant La Vie En Rose sung by Tania De Jong, the two women performing the duet from Lakmé and, of course, the group’s mighty delivery of Nessun Dorma from Turandot.

We all have our favourite version of Hallelujah; I wasn’t so sure about the arrangement of Pot-Pourri’s rendition – only because the lyrics themselves are colloquial and to me sit oddly in such a formal treatment. But that’s a quibble, mind. Pot-Pourri take an interesting approach to harmonies, here using the wide vocal range at their disposal, an element which could be said to define their work overall. The result is hymn-like, as though you’re hearing Halleujah sung in a cathedral.

Even if, like me, you can’t name the opera or musical they come from, theirs is a performance of songs you know and love. An operatic version of New York, New York? Pot-Pourri work it beautifully. Their show is a joyous thing to experience.

Rating: 4 stars

Silver: Pot Pourri‘s 25th Anniversary Concert
Melbourne Town Hall, Sunday November 27, 2011

Liza Dezfouli

Tuesday 6 December, 2011

About the author

Liza Dezfouli reviews film, live performance, books and occasionally music. She blogs about film and other things in a blog called Copy and Cake and writes another, somewhat less-measured blog about feminism and heteronormativity called WhenMrWrongfeelsSoRight. She can occasionally be seen in shows or in short films. For more: www.lizadezfouli.com.