Reviewed by Regi Su
On the 28th and 29th of June, the Renaissance Players present the 36th Annual Runnymede Pop Festival in the Great Hall at the University of Sydney. This is a wonderful concert that takes you back to times as far back as the thirteenth century, in an accessible, humourous setting, with some modern twists.
I've previously seen The Renaissance Players perform, yet they never cease to amaze me. If you've ever considered listening to Medieval music, in fact even if you haven't, I recommend these players. They are so on point, so talented at what they do, in can't help but be impressed at their skills and finesse. Not only do they present a professional performance, but they also work in sync, so much so that I feel completely at ease in their hands. If you aren't accustomed to period pieces, it's interesting to know that most of the music is a little bit tedious and monotonous, and there little to no hummable beat or tune for the mind to latch onto for novices (like me). Yet what the Renaissance Players do is create an entertaining space with a dynamic atmosphere and personality, which in turn manages to keep your attention, if not impress you, (not to mention their incredible mastery of some period instruments I haven't come across before).
Winsome Evans is totally engaging with her harp and Jessica O'Donoghue is an intoxicatIng soprano. Her voice echoed through the Great Hall in an ethereal a capella performance of Sa sibilla, which was followed by mesmerising organ work in Beata viscera virginis. Special mentions of Unter der linden and [Rubin] Salterello showcased how such music can be both complex and tranquil, and so perfectly balanced. The atmosphere fluctuated between Lord of the Dance-esque, to Robin Hood soundtrack, and even dreamlike. We navigated our way through the middle ages with the help of God's Fool- a mime providing comic relief, as well as Geoff Sirmai's theatrical poetry readings, exploring Frederick May's linguistic emporium.
What an excellent night out. Rug up- the Great Hall can be a little chilly when sitting still for a lengthy period of time.