Now in its 14th year, cult concert event Homophonic returned to Carlton’s La Mama Courthouse last weekend, with a program featuring all living composers, and at least four world premieres. Committing to one world premiere is courageous for some classical institutions, let alone four, so does this courageous curation pay off on its mission to celebrate LGBTQ+ voices?
Opening on a high, Kym Dillon’s Robbie’s Daydream takes libretto from an interview with a former fighter pilot, telling a story of finally finding gender affirmation. Born of a Homophonic! commissioning project turning local senior LGBTQ+ stories into concert works, the piece was virtuosic, grippingly emotive and perfectly paced. The Consort of Melbourne handled the lyrics with skill and style, while the propulsive, intricate string parts woven through the piece were surmounted thrillingly by the Homophonic String Quintet. A triumph for all involved, this work deserves many more performances, and proves Dillon as a skilled composer to keep an eye on.
Soprano Judith Dodsworth was a transfixing dramatic figure while presenting excerpts from Kevin March’s ethereal The Unknown Swimmer, contrasting impressively with the playful Laurie Anderson-style character she transformed into later on when premiering Sophie Rose’s To Echoes and Lines. Combining cutting-edge live electronic processing with Dodsworth’s undeniable virtuosity, Rose’s work was one of the most distinctive and engaging on the program – though perhaps could be tautened by trimming the first minute or two.
Indeed, every single performer was on top of their game, playing with skill, connection and commitment. Due to an unforeseen last-minute program change, the program tended towards choir-heavy, but The Consort of Melbourne were up to the task. Even when a couple of pieces didn’t quite hit the mark compositionally, the Consort injected so much charisma it almost made up for it.
A great venue for the show, La Mama Courthouse was welcoming and informal, providing all the positives of a “DIY” community event, while also ensuring production and comfort levels were generally great. The whole event made a concerted effort to inclusively and intersectionally welcome and showcase a broad spectrum of the LGBTQ+ community, and did better than most queer spaces in Naarm/Melbourne in this regard. My only suggestion is to encourage greater visibility of queer first nations artists in future editions.
Some might think it doesn’t take much courage to celebrate LGBTQ+ voices like this, or to be openly “out”, in this day and age. Having been almost physically assaulted in broad daylight by queerphobes a couple of weeks ago, I beg to differ.
Homophonic! may not have hit every mark perfectly. But for me, it’s almost better that way. Being queer isn’t perfect. What Homophonic! did was share diverse stories with passion, charisma and courage, in a safe and welcoming space. Here’s to many, many more years of it doing the same.