Review: Compassion

In 2012, award winning contemporary composer and conductor Nigel Westlake, who scored both of the Babe feature movies and has composed for artists such as pianist Michael Kieran Harvey and guitarist Slava Grigoryan, approached Sydney Symphony Orchestra about collaborating with Israeli-born, Australian-based singer songwriter Lior. The result was Compassion, a symphony of songs that blended…

In 2012, award winning contemporary composer and conductor Nigel Westlake, who scored both of the Babe feature movies and has composed for artists such as pianist Michael Kieran Harvey and guitarist Slava Grigoryan, approached Sydney Symphony Orchestra about collaborating with Israeli-born, Australian-based singer songwriter Lior. The result was Compassion, a symphony of songs that blended Lior’s voice with the drama of Westlake’s compositional style, which was then performed on stage with the result also released on CD, which has notched up impressive sales. With Lior making his orchestral debut back in 2006 with Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, it was therefore almost a given that he would one day perform Compassion with the orchestra with Westlake conducting. The first half of the concert had Lior, who has just been added to the line-up for WOMADelaide 2014, performing songs from his back catalogue as well as some brand new ones with the backing of most of the ASO although it was not the full kit and caboodle. Swapping between several acoustic guitars, Lior delivered many of his key songs as well as My Grandfather, a poignant new offering he had first premiered, with some initial reservation, at Space Theatre last year. Pleased with the response to such a personal song, he now features it in his set and for that he thanked his Adelaide fans. Award-winning oud player Joseph Tawadros was also invited to join Lior for a couple of songs which included April Bloom, a tune they had co-written as the opening song for the singer’s second album, Corner of an Endless Road. He also invited Amelie Bottrill, a red-haired Adelaide songstress, to the stage to duet on I’ll Forget You, a song Lior had recorded with Adelaide’s Sia for that same release. The first half then came to a close with Lior picking up an electric guitar and It only took the opening chords of This Old Love, the lead song from his Autumn Flow debut, to bring a smattering of audience recognition for what has become the singer’s signature song. Following a lengthy break – probably needed to reset the stage for the full orchestra – the audience was then treated to a rendition of Compassion, a suite of seven pieces that Lior sings in his native tongue as well as Arabic. Interestingly, the singer uses a different voice to that of his other work, as sometimes it was almost operatic while, on other occasions, he highlighted a quite stirring guttural growl. It was all sung with much passion however with Lior’s wild hand gestures signalling that he was really feeling the music. Westlake’s score was also quite magnificent and gave Adelaide Symphony Orchestra plenty to work with. A standing ovation of some length followed the second half performance and while some audience members thought that the first part of the concert was a little lightweight, the stirring performance of Compassion certainly made up for it.

Lior and Nigel Westlake with Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. Friday, February 7 at Festival Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre

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