Salient. Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 26, No. 8. Monday, July 1, 1963
Not Contemporary.... — Contemporary Arts Gives Scrappy Concert
Contemporary Arts Gives Scrappy Concert
Doubtless Contemporary Arts mean well by their concerts, and some few amongst their audience may have felt they were in the presence of 'art'. But I am unable to see the difference between a local variety show, a grand competitions demonstration concert—dreadful affairs that they are—and the Group's Third Concert, recently presented at the University Theatre.
One hesitates to criticise the efforts of a club so deadly serious in its frivolity, but in its pursuit of the up-to-date in the artistic world, it came up with little that was genuinely contemporary, and less that was of any particular merit.
General presentation of the programme was slovenly, sadly lacked any unifying impetus, and was poorly lit and staged. Their performers would be well advised to learn a few simple techniques of public performance; it is not enough to try and be oneself, or wear one's hair long and cultivate a look of absent-minded disinterest. The latter is always betrayed by the nervous foot or the hand that cannot be controlled.
The Concert began well, with a random selection of witty, provoking American poetry read with evident enjoyment by three speakers. Martyn Sanderson, with a dry, effectively formal delivery, read some fine short poems with considerable force and gave hints of some intelligible intent in a reading of Whitmore's "Day in the Life of the Foreign Legion." On the whole, the poetry wasn't bad, including some work presented by Albert Wendt. His snorter pieces were lively, perhaps caustic, but a long-winded reminiscence of the South Sea Islands was tedious and padded with unoriginal tourist cliches.
The concert showed its paucity most noticeably in music. Hearing the Murphy/Johnson Jazz group ringing their old changes once again, on the usual tunes, can barely qualify as jazz and their rhythm is too insecure for dancing. Unimaginative grouping of solos gave us an opportunity to observe some innocuous piano playing, and occasional pleasant turns of melody from Bruce Johnstone.
The two ballad singers figuring in the second half had no business to be on the programme either. Val Murphy, displaying a curious lack of interest in what he was doing, reached new levels of banality. Singing maudlin songs about dying animals and prostitutes, Chris Wheeler dealt with the musical phraseology of mid-nineteenth century Romanticism and had the effrontery to call it contemporary. Contemporary with what? Though she sang a Mexican song with happy vitality, her voice proved to have a harsh, unpleasant quality.
Diedre Tarrant's creative dance, "Regeneration," was imaginative and—helped by a tolerably well-lit backdrop—eyecatching. Unfortunately her ambition is not yet sustained by a sufficiently assured technique, and she would do well to learn some artistic economy.
I would have thought we were past 'experiments' in jazz-poetry. To pit organised meanderings against a desultory musical waffling must inevitably result in the listener trying to concentrate on the spoken word, and being irritated by the background noises. The miserable attempts at extemporisation at this concert, as Williams' poem, "Tract," was being read, could be improved on by any average church organist. A pity, for jazz poetry may be a rewarding form of art—if done well and in equal partnership.
If the sponsors of this concert (admission charged) have any policy they would do well to reconsider it.