Review of “Kaleidoscope” at the Riverside

One of the Collin’s English Dictionary’s definitions of “kaleidoscope” is “any complex pattern of frequently changing shapes and colours” – had the compilers been at Dalriada’s “Kaleidoscope” concerts at the Riverside Theatre on Wednesday 9th and Thursday 10th February 2011, they might well have felt compelled to add “sounds” to this explanation. Audiences on both evenings were treated to an astounding, shifting pattern of visual and auditory delights, woven together by droll compere, Christy Gregg, with his posse of adoring fans and would-be dancers.

The impetus for these performances came from the students themselves; with no musical production at school this year they were keen to display some of the other skills nurtured in the Music Department and the seemingly tireless Mrs Montgomery was, as always, there to support them.

With twenty one items on the programme it would be impossible to comment in detail on every performance and with at least a hundred participants, each playing their essential part in the enjoyable overall experience, it seems unfair to single out any individual for special praise, so this review will have to be another kaleidoscope, this time of impressions and memories.

To make a kaleidoscope, I am told, you have to place attractive items in a container in the base. First must come the instrumentalists; what a range of talents! At a school musical evening it was perhaps not a surprise to be treated to Hannah Huey’s fluent playing of Debussy’s Docteur Gradus ad Parnassum  and regular Dariada concert goers must have been looking forward to the lively contributions of the ever popular and still growing Traditional Group, but it was also a pleasure to see and hear some less well known ensembles seizing their chance to take centre stage. Both the Dixie and Big Bands had audiences’ feet tapping – perhaps it was just as well full houses left no room for dancing in the aisles! –and the GCSE Guitar group gave us their own, contemporary and clever take on Pachelbel’s Canon. In complete contrast, but no less enjoyable, was Nadia Workman, James McBean and Charis McClean’s skilful playing of part of a Haydn Trio.

Sometimes the instrumentalists accompanied singers; they go in next. Christopher Nevin, surely a talent to watch in the future, sang Sinatra-style with the Big Band; a group of acoustic guitarists supported the haunting vocals of Yasmin Walker and Joanna Gillespie and Tabitha Graham’s complex but subtle version of “Under the Bridge” was enhanced by the playing of Alistair Glasgow, James O’Neil and Art Crawford. Good accompaniment is essential but unobtrusive. We heard these skills in the work of Nadia Workman and Graham Cooper and in the playing of younger pianists as they accompanied choral items – Caroline Goodliffe assisting the lovely harmonies of the GCSE vocal group, Claire Cooper supporting the boys for Mr Cellophane and Leah Park in romantic collaboration with Sarah Swanson and Daniel McKenna.

Sometimes the musicians and singers accompanied dancers, another element in this eclectic mix. Hannah Hamilton led a smouldering performance of “All that Jazz” which showcased her considerable vocal talents and the expertise and flexibility of the dancers. Their whole routine was choreographed by pupils as was the small of troupe of highly disciplined Irish dancers who gave exhilarating performances to the music of the Traditional Group, culminating in their own Riverdance. On the subject of dancers, Jonah Myer demonstrated just how diverse are the talents nurtured at Dalriada with his faultless and confident performances of Michael Jackson dance routines and Ben Goudy and Richard Lee made everyone laugh as they burst into the Chamber Choir’s posh party singing Did you Evah!

Some choral numbers had also been carefully choreographed and were a pleasure to watch as well as listen to. The Chamber Choir boys singing Mr Cellophane were a big hit with everyone, not least because they were clearly having such a good time, and the full Chamber Choir, beautifully attired and complete with masks, gave a clever, elegant and well timed performance of Masquerade from Phantom of the Opera.

Pupils give their interpretation of Masquerade from Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera

The modern day violin dates from about the sixteenth century, the bodhran and trumpet probably pre-date Christianity; contemporary technology found its place alongside them as James McBean used synthesised sounds (in the absence of a full symphony orchestra) and computer generated images in his topical, thought-provoking A2 composition, The Recession.

The technology of Moving Image Art was also featured on Thursday night in a series of clever short films on the theme of bullying created by pupils from Dalriada and Our Lady of Lourdes working in collaboration. On Wednesday evening, pupils from these schools worked together in an emotive modern dance routine. Both these performances were the result of weeks of preparation and both groups were presented with certificates to mark their participation in the Shared Education project which was initiated at Dalriada this year.

It takes a range of skills to construct an operational kaleidoscope; the music, song and dance were enhanced by Susan Montgomery’s simple yet appropriate set and programme design, Zak McClelland’s slick stage management and Siobhan Brown’s organisation.  Behind them all were teams of technicians, caretakers, costume makers and music teachers led by Heather Montgomery (the only person to get two mentions in this review – because she’s worth it!)

One more element and the kaleidoscope is complete. How exciting for the Prep Choir to perform alongside their fellow pupils from “the big school”! Under the direction of Mrs Lesley Owens, their young voices, lovely melodies and witty choreography made the audience smile. Like both “Kaleidoscope” concerts, they proved the truth of the words of their final song: music can indeed “share a joy”.


February 2011