After a forced closure due to social distancing requirements, the Empire Theatre in Toowoomba has struck back at Covid 19 reopening to a series of small performances promoted as The Empire Strikes Back. As a Star Wars fan, I love the title. It’s very apt. But this post is not about Star Wars but the long awaited return to live theatre in Toowoomba.
Months ago, before lock down, restrictions and social distancing, we went to see Mamma Mia at the Empire Theatre. Every year there are a variety of community and school groups who put on musicals and dance performances at the Empire Theatre, and each year the Empire Theatre stages their own musical performance too. For 2020 it was Mamma Mia.
We have never seen Mamma Mia on the stage – only the two film versions, so it was a great opportunity to see it performed live. We still love listening to ABBA. Björn and Benny were great songwriters and their music is still great to dance to. Even Dan knows who ABBA is, although it has taken a little practice for him to learn to say their name correctly – ABBA not A B B A.
It was a fabulous, high energy show and many people in the audience just couldn’t resist singing along. It is hard to pick the best moments but the tog wearing, flipper cladded boys and the Lycra encore are definitely my top two favourites. We didn’t know at the time that it would be one of the last shows performed at the Empire Theatre before Covid 19 put an end to the performing season. We have always enjoyed going along to the occasional show at the Empire, so the Covid 19 closure dealt a blow to our community.
But you can never put a good venue down.
In June the Empire Theatre, with financial support from the Queensland Government, announced their return to live performances with The Empire Strikes Back series. It is a series of shows with a limited audience, to comply with social distancing rules, but with live streaming opportunities. Keen to support the Empire Theatre and the arts community in any way that we could, we immediately decided to attend at least one of the shows and bought tickets for the live stream of Camerata.
Camerata is a performance by the Queensland Chamber Orchestra. Last year we thoroughly enjoyed the performance by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra but we had never seen the Chamber Orchestra. Camerata is an Italian word that means chambered, which in turn comes from the French word “chambre”, meaning a small room. A Chamber Orchestra may only have up to 50 musicians so it is able to play in a room, whereas a full orchestra could have up to 100 musicians, thus requiring a large concert hall. There is an interesting article here that explains more about the different kinds of orchestras.
The Queensland Chamber Orchestra was founded in 1987 and regularly performs in Brisbane and Toowoomba and at various music festivals and other occasions. Interestingly, they perform without a conductor, which means they need to be very aware and paying great attention to their fellow musicians as they play. One of the main aims of the Queensland Chamber Orchestra is to “empower artists, inspire audiences, and enrich communities through music” by performing a variety of music styles including classical, new and contemporary music, as well as music composed by Australians. Apparently they have quite a reputation for innovation and and adventurous programming. You can find out more about the Queensland Chamber Orchestra here.
The program for the evening was as follows…
- Antonio Vivaldi – Sinfonia in D Minor for Strings
- Queensland Sounds
- Camerata Patrick – Impression of Erin, First Road
- Connor D’Netto – Air and Fantasy
- Isabella Gerometta – Beams and Waves
- Sensuality & Passion
- Joaquin Turina – “La Oración del Torero” (The Bullfighter’s Prayer)
- Johannes Brahms arr. M Patterson – Hungarian Dance No. 1
- Our Guests
- Sting arr. Mark Sholtez, Strings parts B. Joyce – Fields of Gold
- Phillip Glass (words: Alan Ginsberg) – Echorus
- The End
- Woitech Kilar – Orawa
- Encore – arrangement of “It’s a Wonderful World”
One of the surprises for the night was the appearance of one of Bec’s music lecturers from USQ as a special guest, performing the song Fields of Gold. The Queensland Chamber Orchestra quite often work with musicians from outside the traditional classical music world, but it is always a surprise when it is someone you know, or in Bec’s case, someone you see every week on campus. He had never said a word to the students, but then musicians are often involved in a lot of different projects.
Unfortunately due to a slight technical hitch we missed the first ten minutes, however it was a lovely performance and we are keen to see them live some time in the future. The arts community has been hit hard by Covid 19 but the option for live streaming opens shows up to a wider audience. The live stream tickets are quite affordable and further information about other shows is available here. We look forward to returning to the Empire Theatre and the experience of live music and theatre very soon.
Music gives a soul to the universe,
wings to the mind,
flight to the imagination,
and life to everything.