Saturday, May 30, 2009

Make believe – Tevye in a kilt!

- Renee Finn -

Chrisna Smit and Peter McEwan presented an evening of “Make Believe” at St John’s Church on the 16th of May. The programme included music from MacFadyn, Ketèlbey, Mendelssohn and a selection from the musicals Paint your Wagon, Show Boat and Fiddler on the Roof.

Peter, appropriately clad in the kilt, opened with I MacFadyn’s Scottish Soldier, bringing back memories of Andy Stewart, whose version of this evocative song was very popular during the 1960’s.

Chrisna followed with the first of four works from Felix Mendelssohn’s “Songs without Words”, a challenge to any pianist, since they demand neatness and agility. Chrisna more than met the challenge!

Ailsa Tudhope donned a headscarf to become Tevye’s long-suffering wife Golda as she and Peter gave a tender rendition of “Do you love me?” from Jerry Brock’s Fiddler on the Roof. Peter remained in character to sing “If I were a Rich Man”. We’d love to see you perform this in peasant costume with the Tevye-shake next time, Peter.

Albert Ketèlbey’s “In a Chinese Temple Garden” was sensitively played by Chrisna. This piece is rarely heard and embraces seven parts, including an incantation from Cantonese priests, a melody of two lovers, a wedding procession, a coolie disturbance and a lovers’ song. A wonderful piece of make-believe.

As a treat Ailsa told us a love story, based on a 19th century lover’s poem discovered in the de Wit’s family Bible in March 2004. Despite extensive research she had not been able to find out anything about the lovers, so used make-believe to create an unfinished story, based on the facts we have of the Prince Albert of 1849. The audience was left to work out their own ending to this gentle tale over a glass of wine during the interval.

Peter came back strongly after the interval with “Stand up and Fight” from the musical Carmen Jones, based on the Toreador’s Song from Verdi’s Carmen. Chrisna returned to Mendelssohn’s Songs without Words for No. 4, which revealed the composer’s quest for the picturesque, the rain adding its own applause at the end of the piece.

Romance blossomed as Peter and Chrisna sang “We Could Make Believe” from Jerome Kern’s Show Boat. Chrisna leaning towards Peter as he sang of “a phantom kiss”, lowering her eyes and suggesting there might be “two or three” more.

Another of Mendelssohn’s songs allowed Peter time to cool down a little but he returned with “I Talk to the Trees” from Lerner and Loewe’s Paint Your Wagon. In the last verse he sent the servants off to bed and “asked” Chrisna for a dance. Sighs from the audience and we in the front row heard a distinct “I wish” from Peter! He was so inspired that he immediately set off in a rousing rendition of “They Call the wind Maria.”

The evening ended with that lovely old fashioned cameo piece “The Keys of Heaven” in which Ailsa would only agree to Peter’s invitation to join him for a walk, once he had offered her the keys to his heart. He stood there with his knees shaking at the thought of marriage. Dame Clara Butt first sang this song with her husband in days gone by, but it could never have sounded as special as it did this cold winter’s night in the Karoo with the rain pelting down.

Ailsa hauled Peter down the aisle to the strains of the Wedding March but he returned for an encore, choosing “My Way” to end a most delightful evening.

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