Cabaret Festival Review: Songs My Mother Taught Me

A magical blending of the musical stories of six talented performers of very different backgrounds


Presented by Adelaide Festival Centre

Reviewed 24 June 2022

This was a magical blending of the musical stories of six talented performers of very different backgrounds. Each of the artists told a little of their childhood and early experiences of music and the stories and music were as varied as the people involved. The concept was put together by Johanna Allen, who wrote and directed it.

The Cabaret Festival headliner Tina Arena welcomed the audience and asked them to make themselves comfortable and led the artists in a version of Madness’ song Our House. She then opened the performances with a song from, of course Italy, Maledetta Primavera which she told us means damned springtime and Ti Amo along with tales of singing with her mother and sisters. Later she combined with the beautiful voice of Jess Hitchcock to bring us Sorrento Moon. Very memorable was her version of Caruso, a poignant story beautifully delivered.

The second artist to bring us her recollections was Sophie Ko who told us of growing up in New Zealand and Singapore. Ko was a pop star earlier in her life and gave us Wa Yao Ni Ai (I want your love), up tempo and fun. She also sang from the Book of Songs, a tribute to her mother, Yellow Rose, in Mandarin, and Gan Lan Shu (The Olive Tree), famous as a Chinese pop song.

Thando, R & B singer, originally from Zimbabwe, made her presence felt with Survivor, the Beyonce hit translated to Nbedele, her native language. Thando’s strong stage presence was obvious in her rendition of Golden but she demonstrated depth with her Zulu lullaby, Tula Tula (Hush now, Hush now)

Multi-award-winning opera singer Jess Hitchcock has her family origins in Torres Straits and Papua New Guinea and burst onto the stage singing Stupid Cupid (the Connie Francis hit) because it reminds her of her childhood listening to her mother sing it as she danced around their kitchen. The complete change followed with Baba Waiyar (Father send) a Torres Strait Island song of welcome and farewell.

Wendy Matthews talked of her upbringing in Canada and her Scottish father from whom she learnt A long Way From Home sung accompanied only by the stamped beat of the members of the ensemble. The haunting song Cherokee Louise was from her Canadian childhood. The rest of the company joined her to sing Standing Strong.

Remembering his childhood in Israel, Lior sang a song he recalled singing with his mother, Gan Sagur (Kindergarten is closed), a sad but pretty song in Hebrew. He also said one of his strongest memories are of the traditional Hebrew Prayer Avinu Malkeinu (Our Father Our king), a very gentle plea. With a story of a visit to Israel, Lior sang us Shir L’Shalom (A Song for Peace) and told of the sad associations it has for him.

The star of the show for me was the combined effort to sing one of Lior’s beautiful compositions Old Love with each performers singing a verse or a chorus in their language, a lovely song made even more memorable.

These talented artists were backed by an equally talented ensemble of musicians lead by Mark Simeon Ferguson on the keys, supported by his wife and daughter, Jasmine and Ciara on backing vocals and assorted other tasks. With Chris Neale on drums, Nick Sinclair on bass, and Cam Blokland on guitar they had a solid ensemble, but with addition of the string section of Emily Tulloch and Zsuzsa Leon on violin, Karen De Nardi on viola and Hilary Kleinig on cello they were so much more. With the usual high-quality lights and sound this show was gem, glad I didn’t miss it.

Reviewed by Fran Edwards
Twitter: @franeds

Rating out of 5: 5

Season Ended – One Night Only

Photo Credit: Claudio Raschella

[adrotate banner="159"]
To Top