WASO Rocks on to a Winner

The West Australian
by Rosalind Wadley

WASO / WHITLAMS Concert
Kings Park
March 6th, 2004

WASO’s outdoor concerts at Kings Park have taken the orchestra to an audience more prepared for interaction and camaraderie than the typical concert hall crowd.

On Saturday night the WA Symphony Orchestra was joined onstage by The Whitlams, with a 4000-strong crowd picnicking at their feet.

When The Whitlams walked onstage in their retro suits and launched straight into No Aphrodisiac, the fat wave of sound they produced with the orchestral backing rolled out to a screaming, excited audience. It was going to be a good concert.

The orchestra is on to a winner in its summer collaboration concerts at Kings Park. It has repeated the huge success that began with rock group george last year with its Whitlams sell-out concerts.

The idea was pioneered by the Australian Chamber Orchestra, which toured nationally with Whitlams frontman Tim Freedman last year.

Prominent Australian composer Peter Sculthorpe had arranged some string parts for the Freedman songs and this time WASO took the idea a step further, commissioning arrangements from WA composers including James Ledger, Graeme Lyall and WASO’s own Bill Stewart.

The diversity of Freedman’s songs meant there was a lot for the composers to work with. Some highlights in the arrangements included the lullaby lilt to Daniel Denholm’s ‘Breathing You In’ and the orchestral colours in James Ledger’s ‘Buy Now Pay Later’ with the haunting oboe, the brass big-band accents, and even a gong.

The fun-loving ‘You Sound Like Louis Burdett’ was also a hit, complete with WASO brass wails and Jak Housden’s grunty guitar solos. The audience was getting so much into the music they were finding it hard to sit still.

Freedman’s distinctive voice rose easily over the orchestral backing. Add some awesome piano skills and a rapport with the audience and Freedman was an all-round polished performer.

The Whitlams’ blend of hope and melancholy was captured perfectly by WASO leader Daniel Kossov’s violin solo in ‘The Ease of the Midnight Visit’. WASO was also spotlighted in a rare performance of ‘The Curse Stops Here’.

The lights dimmed and twinkled on the pond around the stage as the brass and strings played a simple and poignant accompaniment to Freedman on the piano.

It was a beautiful musical reflection on the loss of Whitlams member Stevie Plunder and a chance to hear WASO without them having to compete against the volume of the full band.

It was moments like these, and in the string interludes in Sculthorpe’s arrangements, that the benefit of the full orchestra became apparent.

WASO’s depth of sound that has a gentle intensity next to the energy of a rock band and the contrast made an exciting and enriching musical experience.

Conductor Sean Boyle even joined in with a Dixieland jazz clarinet solo in the ever popular ‘Thank You’.

The night was a convincing reminder (if we needed it!) that The Whitlams have secured a place as Australian musical icons. Their musical maturity enables them to reach across style and genre and speak to audiences with their moody and versatile music.