11 November 2017
A performance by Blackbird Ensemble redefines the word captivating. The ensemble's creator, Claire Cowan, skilfully combines music, theatre and art, along with orchestral and pop styles, to create performances that draw you in and entrance from beginning to end.
Their tribute to Björk, titled All is Full of Love, typified the breathtaking vision of the Ensemble. The show was utterly absorbing, and required neither a knowledge nor an admiration of Björk to leave feeling as if one had been given a very precious moment to savour.
The performance was as stunning visually as it was musically, with each song truly mesmerising. Songs were performed by up to 14 musicians on the stage at any one time, with instruments including harpsichord, synths, harp, strings, saxophone, drums, percussion and electronica. The performers were dressed in white, bearing designs that each honoured Björk's sartorial uniqueness - from something resembling a giant squid (Callum on sax) to Princess Leia meets Kendo warrior (Anna on vocals).
All four vocalists - Sarah Belkner, Jessie Cassin, Anna Coddington and Teeks - brought their individual styles, and merged seamlessly with the show as a whole. Sarah with her theatrical expression, Jessie with her searing vocal range, Anna with her dynamic musicality, and Teeks with his soulful deep vocals that brought an R&B edge.
The performance was all the more impressive given their first full rehearsal as a group was only a week ago. The audience variously gasped and cheered at their performances, and the standing ovation at the end of the show was the least we could offer in return.
Blackbird Ensemble is a rare gem in New Zealand's music and art emporium. I hope that they get all the support they need to keep them on our shores in the years to come.