Recap: Selkie, a Sea Tale (13-M03-9) / Guus Kemp: Premier Cru (13-KEMP)

Never in the history of this blog has there been an event that I have anticipated attending to this degree. For many reasons, I almost didn’t get to make it. The Tuesday night, 2013 March 26, that all changed, as I won the last ticket giveaway and from that point forward I knew I would be attending.

And since I won two tickets, it would be just plain silly to attend alone. So this makes the second such event I’ve recapped for this blog where I have attended with my mom, who, like myself, needed a really good reason to get out of the house for a while and have fun. And have fun we did, believe me.

We arrived relatively early (barely after 7:30pm for a show starting at 8pm). This, despite several wrong turns on the way (I’m terrible at giving directions sometimes). The house was opened at around 7:45pm or so, and the crowd began filing in. We got seats in the second row on the right; the “reserved” spaces in front of us were quickly filled resulting in our view being somewhat obstructed by the heads of the gentlemen in front of us. Unintentionally, of course; though it would have been a nice touch if we had been offered the front-row seats as it appeared the parties for whom they were originally reserved were no-shows.

At right around the stroke of eight o’clock Misha Penton began introducing the show. Part of this introduction included a mention of the original 2010 performance of Selkie at Obsidian Art Space, which I did mention in this very blog in a monthly LOVIEE as event 10-M11-1. Unfortunately I was unable to attend and recap that one; looking back, I wish I had been able to attend that performance as well, so I would have a better idea of what to expect. If nothing else, it would have made for a very interesting compare and contrast.

Which brings me to my next point. I’m putting the finishing touches on this article four days after the show, and thinking back, I’m still not entirely sure just what I was expecting. I had listened to a couple of tracks from the performance; I already knew this was something special. I’m not even sure my words can do it justice; suffice it to say that the singing talent of Misha Penton and the musical talents of her accompanying musicians (Patrick Moore on cello and Kyle Evans on piano) far surpassed any reasonable estimation I had. The show transcends most attempts description using ordinary words like “amazing”, “spectacular”, and “breathtaking”; this was easily the best-spent hour of my life in at least the last year.

As much as I had heard about this work, I was curious about the actual storyline. By the first couple of songs, that quickly changed, and I thought to myself, “I’m not going to try to figure out the storyline, I’m just going to immerse myself in and enjoy the show.” In retrospect, that turned out to be a brilliant move, as it was easy to just get lost in the spectacle and let the hour just fly by.

Partway through the set (right near the end of a song, I want to say it was after the fifth or sixth of the nine songs), there was an ambulance siren audible from within the performance hall. At least one reviewer felt it was a well-timed coincidence; to me, it was more like an unfortunately timed distraction. Of course, I’m not faulting anyone for this; I realize it’s Just One Of Those Things That Happen. (Yeah, I looked at other reviews as I was wrapping this up.)

The dancers (Meg Booker and Yelena Konetchy of Thel Dance Theatre) added a dimension to this performance I wasn’t expecting, complementing the superb musical talents. Not to say that the music stands on its own quite well–I did purchase the CD and have already rated at least one of the tracks 5 stars in my media software.

This was billed as an intimate venue, and that it definitely was. I think there was room for an audience of about 60 to 70 (I didn’t count chairs, this is just a guess from memory). The piano, cello, and of course Misha’s voice were easily audible from our spot in the second row. In fact, about my only minor quibble is that there were at least a couple of points where Misha’s voice actually overpowered the accompaniment–something that I definitely was not expecting. (Maybe this was on purpose?) The front row was a good ten feet or so from the nominal “stage” area; as there were points were Misha went back into the audience, it could be said that technically the stage was the entire room. This was an artfully shrewd use of the venue and the seating layout, which added greatly to the performance.

The show concluded with a showing of the music video for “Softly over sounding waves” (the fifth of the nine songs). After which came the curtain call, and a solidly earned standing ovation for the performers. I wouldn’t have minded one bit being the only person standing in the audience, regardless of how out-of-place I might have looked in that situation. For the record, I am definitely glad I wasn’t.

We stayed for a little while for the afterparty, during which we were invited up to the Zoya Tommy Contemporary Gallery in the building by the featured artist, Guus Kemp. This was a nice addition and we were waiting for the afterparty to fill up anyway, so we spent about ten to fifteen minutes or so admiring Guus’s art and making conversation. Guus has on exhibit a set of twelve abstract expressionist paintings in his own unique style. I might add that three of the twelve paintings in the exhibit have already sold, so if you see a painting you want to buy (that hasn’t already sold), don’t wait too long.

If you weren’t able to make it and still want a copy of the music, the physical CD and digital downloads are both available on Bandcamp for minimums of $12 and $9 respectively. The physical CD is a limited edition, so if you want it, get it before it’s gone.