Duo Brazil:
Donna Brown + Andrew Mah

Tuesday, 14 August 2012 at 5:30pm • Christ Church Cathedral

Performers Donna Brown, Soprano; Andrew Mah Guitar

Reviewer John Jane

It could be considered a musical collaboration made in heaven. Soprano Donna Brown and guitarist Andrew Mah are both based in Ottawa and each has a distinct, yet synergetic affinity to Brazilian music.

Donna Brown, who looks at least ten years younger than her actual age, has performed in many of the world's great opera houses. However, she has the flexibility and vocal range to step easily out of grand opera and onto the recital stage with a single accompanist to deliver a Brazilian samba.

Andrew Mah is a gifted classical musician, highly acclaimed for his virtuosity, who doesn’t shy away from exploring new musical channels. In this evening’s performance he provides delightful harmony to Ms Brown’s vocals as well as stellar accompaniment.

The pair opened with Pixinguinha’s Lamentos, sung in Portuguese, followed by Baden Powell’s haunting Samba em Prelúdio, which was recently recorded by jazz newcomer Esperanza Spalding. Ms Brown who performed standing with a hand-held cordless microphone, glancing only occasionally at her music sheets, was profoundly expressive with the forlorn lyrics of both these songs.

Next was Foi a Noite (It was the Night) the first of three songs by Antonio Carlos Jobim. Mah lends beautifully understated instrumental accompaniment on this song about a girl who blames the ambiance for the return of a former lover.

I found the laid-back interpretation of Manhã de Carnaval, a Bossa Nova tune by composers Luiz Bonfá and Antonio Maria particularly pleasing. The song is probably better known to North Americans as “A day in the life of a fool” adapted in a minor key and made popular by Frank Sinatra.

The duo continued with Carinhoso, Pixinguinha’s internationally popular love song and Água de Beber (water to drink), Jobim’s homage to Brazil’s famous hospitality.

At the audience’s insistence the duo returned to the stage for a generous encore which brought about a change in both tempo and language. Samba Saravah, sung in perfect French, was written by Baden Powell (original Portuguese lyrics by Vinicius de Moraes). The tune was made popular by Pierre Barouh who sang it in the 1966 film A Man and a Woman.

© 2012 John Jane