This unique winter’s gig could not have been finer. The calibre so high, it may have been an unplugged recording in New York. As part of the final week of Glen Eira’s 9th annual Glen Eira Storytelling Festival, Glen Eira local, and acclaimed Australian songwriter, composer, and performer Lior, with Byron Bay support, Domini Forster, wrapped us up in fabled narratives from within their fairytale song collections. An intimate gathering inside Elsternwick’s National Trust of Australia(Victoria)’s Rippon Lea Estate mansion was treated to Australian musical excellence, with the mutual vibe warm and welcoming.
The setting was grand yet personal. Held in the 1868 Estate’s remodelled Art Deco Ballroom, a parquetry floor and floor-to-ceiling glass doors look out on its Hollywood-style inground pool, amping up the glamour factor. With woodcut putti and pagan symbols adorning the space above them, and a ceiling of cut-out stars and a half moon glittering down over the audience, the venue was a natural magical setting for modern era storytellers to cast their spells, and held special significance for our major star.
Stories bring communities together and this year’s Festival showcases captivating, provocative, and meaningful stories for all to share. To our delight, Lior roved luxuriously across his rich oeuvre, from his 2005 first release, Autumn Flow, through the crowd-funded Scattered Reflections(2014), to his 2018 latest release and 5th studio album, Between You And Me. He regaled us with touring snapshots, and information around song composition and recording, intimate views into the life of the person behind the icon. He talked of family life and intergenerational connection, and the relationship of artist to their audience. Mostly unaccompanied, he made employment of a variety of guitars in support of his vivid sonic literature. A WOMAD regular, Lior draws on many musical and cultural influences. Highlights included earthy Autumn Flow, Between You And Me, the moving My Grandfather, and aching Learn To Live, concluding with crowd favourite, romantic anthem This Old Love.
A genre crossover natural, he ranged across pop and folk, to R&B, jazz inflection, and a Blues cover with casual ease. His honeyed guitar playing conjures light and nature to fall between his strings and vibrant fingers, so evocative and inspiring is the musicianship he works upon his piece. As a vocalist, his goes deep into bass tones then high into falsetto, and is at the peak of his vocal quality in live performance, a delight for us so close.
So gifted is Lior, he calls to mind charmed songwriter-performers the world over. His melodic harmonies rival Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, the calmly laconic insights and melodies of Nick Drake, or our own Josh Pyke. His lyrical stories and pop singability are on par with Ed Sheeran, and his literary depth and complexity calls to mind poet/musician Leonard Cohen. As writer who creates stories about people and the journeys they travel through living – the great, the sad, the mundane, the transformative – he is on par with greats Chaucer and Shakespeare, who speak of the highest and lowest amongst us, and of everyday, personal magic.
Forster, whose works have a lyrically richness of Joni Mitchell with her piercing vocal facility, worked similar territory, with stories from everyday life, focusing on relationships, mental health, place and process. One very much to watch, her confidence belies her years. Her writing compels with the honesty and depth of her penetrating examinations of everyday actions often with forensic perception. She and Lior have commenced a side project co-writing songs and sampled a few for us, their album to be recorded this year.
Lior left everyone wanting more with the invitation, by his professional example, to explore richly the life lived.
What’s on offer the last week of the Festival includes Ron Elisha’s Unsolicited Male, showing Saturday 5 July at theTown Hall- Theatrette starring Neighbours’ Russell Fletcher and Kym Valentine. Inspired by the #MeToo movement, the play explores the dynamics of power in the workplace. Unmissable is Brett Leavy’s innovative Digital Storytelling with its cutting-edge digital cultural survival games about the Kulin nations and Wurundjeri people, alongside contemporary Indigenous art at Glen Eira City Council Gallery.
Check out the full 22 June- & July programme here which includes child-friendly school holiday events and workshops such as A Special Sensory Storytime; Evelyn Krape’s one-off Schmoozin’ In Carlton about Jewish Carlton; a tour of Classic Cinema; Professor Wayne Quilliam’s talk on indigenous storytelling and his creative practice; film screenings, short story workshops, and Friday’s Growing Up Girl young women’s(ages 8-12) storybook launch.
Step out into the cold -there’s so much to warm your insides.
– Sarah Wallace
is the Theatre Specialist for The Plus Ones, Melbourne. A performing arts and English literature graduate of VCA, UOM and Deakin, she has a flair for bold, non-traditional performance platforms. An active contributor to The Melbourne Shakespeare Society, on the street, or in the box seat, she is always looking for quality works that push the envelope.
Glen Eira Storytelling Festival runs 22 June- 7 July across a range of City Of Glen Eira venues. Buy tickets here.
Venues are accessible.
Disclosure: The Plus Ones were guests of Purple Media.
Images: City Of Glen Eira.