Melancholiac at Music Gallery

The best works of theatre or music function as advocacy for the creator. A good production of a play, a great performance of a song, should persuade you of the importance of the work & its author.

Adam singing melancoliac

Adam singing Melancholiac

Melancholiac: The Music of Scott Walker is a strong argument that Scott Walker is a genius who deserves our attention. For about two hours, we watched the collaborative efforts of Adam Paolozza & Greg Oh, plus a great many other singers, actors & musicians, offering us a multi-disciplinary exploration of Walker’s art.

Notwithstanding the title that might suggest sadness or ennui, the two hours flew by, one of those wild tumultuous shows I wish I had been somehow part of.

I glimpsed giggling performers who were clearly having the time of their lives with something brand new. Imagine the excitement if you were invited to premiere an undiscovered Shakespeare play or someone found a new Beethoven Sonata. This was a special project whether you were conducting (Greg Oh), part of the chorus, the small orchestra, or working in support, let alone getting to sing one of the exquisite solos, thinking not just of Adam, but also Patricia O’Callaghan, Alex Samaras, Matt Smith, John Millard, and probably a couple of other people too.  There were so many different voices, all so fascinating, so much to hear & see.  You can read more about this wonderful group on their website. 


Can you discern the big smile on Gregory Oh’s face? a not-so-melancholy Melancholiac

Yes it was fun.

There was the tiniest bit of Puccini, some Jacques Brel but mostly Walker.

The Music Gallery & Bad New Days teamed up for a project that will have concluded its third & final performance tonight (I saw the matinee aka the 2nd performance), by the time you read this.


Patricia O’Callaghan (photo: Dahlia Katz)

Music Gallery could have been the intersection of Bloor & Yonge for the crossover. And yet I wonder if that joke is dated, as I don’t think anyone even talks about “crossover” anymore. We may recall “fusion” from another century, but ‘interdisciplinary’ is no longer unorthodox. The boundary between media and/or forms is a wonderfully fertile place to find treasures. At times it was a concert vibe, the musicians & singers mostly static on a stage. Adam sang too but he also spoke as though he were Scott Walker. We had musical moments that were ostentatious theatre (cracking a belt as a whip in time to the music? A procession of percussionists?), messing with our expectations.

And yes, there were moments that were straddling discursive boundaries, lines that were painfully funny.  I wish more people had dared to laugh.  It’s liberating.

Perhaps the unsung hero or heroine was the one controlling the levels & mixing it all, making sure that we could hear the vocalist given a dynamic range that went from silence to maxed out.

I can’t be the only one thinking that we will see / hear more of Scott Walker, given the fertility of what we saw & heard.  Perhaps Adam & Greg will attempt another version of Melancholiac;  this is already its second incarnation.

The word I am thinking of is “beauty”, something we don’t always encounter in the realm of “new music.” The later modernists (thinking of Berg, Boulez, Ligeti, Kurtág and beyond) seem especially eloquent when signifying pain or conflict (and yes I know that’s arguably a projection). And they’ve been less interested in beauty, which can sometimes be dismissed in the same waste bin with kitsch. Yes I know this is entirely a subjective category. But I’m thrilled when someone can show me a new way to express beauty, particularly if it’s as fraught as modern life. Walker’s world is sophisticated & problematic, sometimes troubled & never simplistic.

Of course Greg Oh & company took us far deeper into the realm of modern, and it was a fascinating journey;  I have a new lens thanks to Greg, who likens Walker to Franz Liszt. That’s very resonant for me right now, as I begin to think of Liszt (and even Dvorak) in the same way as Walker.

I want more Scott Walker. He was under the radar for awhile. I’m sure we’ll hear and/or see more someday.

How about it Adam? Greg?

This entry was posted in Dance, theatre & musicals, Music and musicology, Reviews and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Melancholiac at Music Gallery

  1. jpkleiner says:

    Amen, especially on your observations regarding both the beauty and the humour present in Walker’s work!

    An amazing show (remount please!) illuminating the work of an artist whose work deserves a larger audience. Thank you to all who contributed to this excellent program.

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