Pronounced Ee fah-joe-LEE-nee and meaning ‘the little beans’, this exciting English vocal ensemble acclaimed for its fearless performances of music that demand the utmost from its singers will make its debut Australian national tour for Musica Viva in July.
Director Robert Hollingworth will lead the singers and audience effortlessly through countries and centuries with a characteristic mix of old and new, tossing early madrigals in with spectacular new works to create a delicious musical salad.
“Their program spans the full compass of music for combined solo voices, starting in the Renaissance and ending with new music by Australian composer Andrew Schultz, titled La Molière Imaginaire, which was commissioned especially for this tour,” says Musica Viva’s Artistic Director, Carl Vine AO.
For their inaugural Musica Viva tour, Hollingworth has dramatised two central works; Giovanni Croce’s Il gioco dell’Occa or The Game of the Goose, and Clement Janequin’s La Chasse (The Hunt), a viscerally descriptive and somewhat scatological account of a deer hunt.
“The Game of the Goose is a board game which you can still buy in shops in Europe today,” says Hollingworth. “We’ve done a simple staging of that, with people playing the board game.”
He continues, “In the Janequin, we only meet the animal at the very end. We spend most of the piece looking for him, and finding his droppings, and seeing what state they’re in.
“The piece is full of sound effects; dogs barking, horses’ hooves, so it’s quite good fun. It’s a nightmare to memorise, though – I think we’re the only group ever to have done that.”
Amongst these works are Monteverdi madrigals, which the group believe is their unique selling point.
“That’s what we’ve done the most of over the years,” says Hollingworth. “We had a project back in the noughties called The Full Monteverdi, and it was a thing we became quite famous for – it turned into a film, so you can find bits of it on YouTube.”
The second half of the concert features Poulenc’s Sept chansons for eight solo voices which Hollingworth says “is a big piece which works well with eight solo voices.”
Finishing the program is Adrian Williams’ Hymn to Awe, which was written as the final piece in a show titled How Like an Angel.
“It’s funny because this piece was written for an acrobat show, but we will take the acrobats out,” says Hollingworth. “It will, however, still have an incredibly energetic feel because of that.”