Artists inspired by an island off the rugged Albany coast braved a stiff sou’westerly at Bathers Beach for Breaksea Singing Festival on Saturday.
WA Ballet’s Sarah Hepburn and soprano Pia Harris combined in Song to the Moon, from Dvorak’s opera Rusalka; the rich text and deep sense of longing cutting through blustery conditions, setting a robust standard for others to follow.
Albany soprano Bonnie Staude, a rising talent destined for WAAPA’s classical program next year, met the challenge in Laurie’s Song from Copland’s The Tender Land.
Staude didn’t miss a beat, gathering the spell and holding the audience with a clear, full tone.
For a singer yet to attend her first academy — in a calling that demands serious, long-term study — she showed the clarity and diction of an experienced swing jazz or musical theatre artist.
She also sings opera following her mentor, Harris, and the two in succession highlighted Breaksea’s development of regional talent, the charitable cause of the night.
Breaksea artistic director Matt Ward switched to festive fare with Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire, echoed by soprano Emma Pettermerides in Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.
Then another Albany mentee and WAAPA student, Jarrad Inman, presented his own composition, Your Lies — a searing out-of-love song, booming guitar chords and vocals to match, challenging and cool in equal measure.
His earlier rendition of Long and Winding Road seemed to put him firmly in the Lennon-McCartney camp, but Your Lies craved the country air.
Another Albany product, teacher and singer Rachael Colmer, followed with the Warumpi Band’s My Island Home, somehow channelling the joys of a tropical paradise in the cooling sea breeze.
Winding up the night, Breaksea musical director Jonathan Brain led the cast in Thunderstorm, his co-composition with Ward for By Other Eyes, a Remembrance project capturing the stories of Indigenous diggers in World War I. A striving solo and haunting chorus painted a bleak, tragic picture.
Then Staude stepped up for the finale, Horizon, another Brain-Ward collaboration which drew out a lush ballad voice — again to balletic highlights by Hepburn, and full-cast backing.
The refrain, “Sing your voice to the horizon”, reached out to embrace a guy in white jump suit who rode past on his fully blinged-up pushbike throughout the evening, and was now dancing on a plinth just beyond the audience on the lawn at Kidogo Arthouse.
His enthusiasm summed up a varied and infectious program, led by Walter McGuire’s musical welcome to country, and punctuated by bush band trio Will, Fred and Richard, a children’s musical storytime, and poetry readings by Denmark’s Tim Dunn and a very nervous music critic risking a taste of his own medicine.
In towns and cities across the globe, such spontaneity and gathering is impossible, and young talent is most affected.
In WA, there is much to treasure.