New kids on the block , The Friends of Gravity, presented their first show last night at St. Bartholomew’s Anglican Church on Dundas East. It was a silent film themed take on Weill’s Die Sieben Todsünden. Stephanie Conn sang both Anna I and Anna II in front of a film screen showing black and white film clips shot by Scott Gabriel for the show, replacing the ballet of the original. The Family, who pop up mostly to criticize the Annas were sung by Charles Fowler, Christopher Wattam, Bryan Martin and William Lewans. Scott Gabriel conducted his own arrangement of the score for a six piece band including accordion and ukulele.
It’s a short show coming in at about 45 minutes but it’s visually and musically rewarding. The singing is idiomatic and the “orchestral” arrangement has just the right cabaret feel. So much better than just a piano for this kind of music. It’s sung in German with surtitles which works well enough, there’s not really all that much text, but I do wonder, given that there are good English translations of pretty much all the Brecht/Weill collaborations, whether using English might have resulted in greater immediacy.
I was left asking myself why this music isn’t done more often. Not just this piece but the run of Brecht/Weill and Brecht/Eisler collaborations. This libretto, for instance, explores themes of greed, corruption, self-deception, abuse of power and moral flexibility. That feels like music for our time and I’m not hearing anything of the same immediacy coming from contemporary composers. It’s music that can also, as we see here, be performed effectively by modest forces.
There’s one more chance to catch the show; tonight at 8pm, same venue. Tickets are $25 at the door.