Freshwater Trio
Two members of Borealis String Quartet


Idea of the North
Saturday, 14 August 2010 at 8:00pm • Christ Church Cathedral

Performers Sally Cameron, soprano; Naomi Crellin, alto; Nick Begbie, tenor; Andrew Piper, bass

Reviewer John Jane

It may have been the comfortable mid-August weather that brought a ‘sold-out’ crowd out to Christ Church Cathedral for the final weekend concert of 2010 Musicfest Vancouver, but more likely it was the natural ‘word-of-mouth’ promotion that drew folks to see Australia’s favourite a cappella group with the quintessentially Canadian name.

Since being established in the mid-nineties, the quartet's reputation has grown enormously. However, describing the foursome as a jazz a cappella group is a bit of a stretch. They certainly set the (jazz) tone with a scat version of the opening song, Armando’s Rumba, but thereafter reverted to a more eclectic repertoire that covered pretty much everything from crowd-pleasing, straight-out pop ballads like I Think it’s Gonna Rain Today featuring the very likable alto Naomi Crellin (the brunette) to the preposterous, over-the-top parody of Blue Bayou about an errant toupee that was re-titled “Blew by you,” underscoring tenor Nick Begbie’s typical Aussie madcap humour.

After a cheerful “G’day” from Naomi Crellin, who alongside Begbie, handle most of the song intros, the easy-going quartet launched into a string of quasi jazz standards such as “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that Swing” that featured soprano Sally Cameron (the blonde), the newest member who took over the daunting task of replacing Trish Delaney-Brown three years ago.

The band concluded their first set with a bluesy spiritual, “I was once weak, but now I'm strong” – one of just a few songs sung in straight four-part harmony. After a roughly twenty minute break, when most patrons preferred to go outside to take in the balmy evening air, the four returned to the ‘stage’ with Madeleine Peyroux’s Don’t Wait too Long, once again spotlighting Crellin’s vocals. This multi talented artist from Adelaide has by far the best tone of the four and would be the most probable to succeed as a solo act. I was a little disappointed that The Idea of North (TION) didn’t perform any of the songs she has contributed to the group’s recorded material.

The foursome left Waltzing Matilda out of the song list (perhaps thankfully), nonetheless performance highlights included a marvelous jazz-infused rendition of Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now and the unusual Sinéad O'Connor song In This Heart, which they saved for the encore.

The two women and two men of TION come from essentially similar musical backgrounds, Crellin and Cameron graduating from the Elder Conservatorium in Adelaide, while both the guys (Begbie and Andrew Piper) attended the Australian National University in Canberra. Yet, each member brings a unique quality to the synergy of the group.

The Idea of North affirmed that Canada and Australia have more in common than language and a history of immigration. The quartet demonstrate the highest standards of musical interpretation and balance, making this performance of both conventional and unorthodox treatment of popular tunes a concert to remember and gave open-minded festival concert-goers a pleasurable experience.

© 2010 John Jane