26 Mar 2019

Review: Red Priest The Baroque Bohemians

From Upbeat, 1:00 pm on 26 March 2019

Red Priest ended their concert last night with music by Vivaldi, a composer known as the “red priest” because of his red hair.

Last night’s programme, Baroque Bohemians, was one of two they are touring. The other is called Truly Madly Baroque, heading to Christchurch and Dunedin this week and this one to Invercargill.

Red Priest

Red Priest Photo: Red Priest

The programme concept is derived from the presence at Baroque courts of Bohemian gypsy bands and the supposition of some cross-over between the more traditional “art” musical ensembles at the courts with the folk style of those bands.

At least, that’s what Red Priest tell us.

To some extent they’re subverting Baroque style according to their own zany musical tastes and doing so brilliantly.

They bounced on to the stage in red outfits, more like a rock band than a chamber ensemble, and the energy from the stage was electric.

They’re a quartet: Baroque violinist Adam Summerhayes, cellist Angela East, David Wright on harpsichord and recorder player Piers Adams.

It was a concert of dazzling virtuosity, impeccable ensemble work and a seductive sense of fun.

The audience was completely won over by their musicianship and charisma and the witty spoken introductions.

Piers Adams is an extraordinary recorder player playing a range of instruments of every size and shape. He changes recorders speedily, often within one work, and several times played two simultaneously.

Summerhayes the violinist is, as well as an accomplished Baroque musician, a terrific gypsy fiddler and also played folk instruments including the guitar and ocarina.

All four musicians are both versatile and virtuosic.

Throughout their approach is improvisatory and unpredictable.

They sometimes played through the aisles or from the back of the hall, and even on stage they were on the move, the whole carefully choreographed but irreverent in style.

There were two brackets arranged by Summerhayes, folk songs from the Slovak town Uhrovska which gave its name to a collection of gypsy folk tunes.

Improvisatory in style, there are lots of little musical quotes and allusions - even the Pink Panther theme alongside snippets of Vivaldi and others.

Towards the end of the concert the high energy entertainment became a little exhausting, the tempo of the performance somewhat unrelenting.

But these outstanding musicians are highly enjoyable and strongly recommended - it’s unsurprising that many of their New Zealand concerts have sold out!