Broken Hearts & Madmen:
Gryphon Trio with Patricia O'Callaghan

Thursday, 16 August 2012 at 8pm • Orpheum Annex

Performers Patricia O'Callaghan, vocals; Annalee Patipatanakoon, violin; Roman Borys, cello; and Jamie Parker, piano

Reviewer John Jane

Canada's Gryphon Trio, consisting of Annalee Patipatanakoon on violin, Roman Borys on cello and Jamie Parker on piano, took to the floor of the newly finished Orpheum Annex for an eclectic repertoire of musical items that may never have been in considered in the same context.

The trio began with Spring, a lively atmospheric piece from Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas, a suite by Ástor Piazzolla, inspired by Antonio Vivaldi’s iconic Four Seasons. After which, the three musicians were joined by the popular chanteuse Patricia O'Callaghan.

It’s too bad Ms O'Callaghan doesn’t get out to the West Coast that often (but thanks to the cover of this week’s Georgia Straight, we know what she looks like). Despite a very Irish last name, she is a genuinely cosmopolitan artist. Fluently trilingual, she actually spent a year as an exchange student in Mexico.
Many of the tunes performed this evening were arranged by Roberto Occhipinti (brother of guitarist Michael Occhipinti) and recorded on a CD curiously titled Broken Hearts and Madmen.

The first song sung by O'Callaghan and arranged by the virtuoso bassist was the flamenco tinged Volver from the Pedro Almadovar film of the same title. The Toronto based singer, wearing a long, form-fitting, floral print dress, offered an expressive rendition (in perfect Spanish) of the song about a first love.

Next, was Nick Drake’s dark, melancholic River Man, followed by Estoy sentado aquí, a rock ballad by the East Los Angeles band Los Lobos. Perhaps O'Callaghan’s most exquisite interpretation was the Leonard Cohen, Occhipinti arranged The Gypsy Wife. Not really written for a woman, but the singer performs the song in homage to Cohen’s propensity as a lady’s man.

O'Callaghan somehow manages to bring an ability to find new meaning in familiar songs, but she is also able to take an ordinary song and give it special significance. Such was with La Confession, a song by Lhasa, the multinational songwriter who died age 37 on New Year's Day 2010. It’s good to know that her music lives in the stewardship of artists like Patricia O'Callaghan.

The group may have saved the best til last with Ástor Piazzolla’s Yo Soy Maria from the operetta Maria de Buenos Aires. The operetta’s only song (aria) is served was a passionate tango.

Any disappointments? Just one. The programme advertised that the group would play Gene DiNovi’s arrangement of a jazz medley from Porgy and Bess – it didn’t happen! However, an encore of Jacques Brel’s classic Ne me quitte pas sung in French, partly made up for it.

© 2012 John Jane