Outdoor revellers were able to partake in a colossal rolling program of music, theatre, storytelling and dance across the University of Adelaide campus during the two-day Floods of Fire “festival within a festival”, which coincides with the university’s 150th anniversary. Some were even able to take part themselves in the Citizens’ Orchestra, a community project run by the ASO that anyone can join. “No musical experience necessary!” proclaimed the billing.

Then it all swung indoors at the Festival Theatre for Floods of Fire: Our Celebration with Electric Fields & the ASO, which marks the fulfilment of the orchestra’s social inclusion dream. Floods of Fire is a project the ASO has been working on for some years, and audiences saw this being road-tested at Festival of Orchestra at the end of 2021. Well, here it was in final form and nicely polished up.

Numerous composers and performers have been involved in its making, but in the end, the now-renamed Floods of Fire Symphony proved quite elegantly simple: it expresses the renewal, through powers of healing, of an Earth ravaged by natural disaster. Chant-like and totemic through the course of its 10 pieces, it gathers a spirit of hopefulness against adversity through human willpower.

Nancy Bates and Farhan Shah lent its vocal numbers powerful diaphragmatic singing that reminded one of Dead Can Dance, and a variety of instrumental textures added interest thanks to outstanding playing from Zhao Liang (on guzheng), Adam Page (saxophone), Maryam Rahmani (santur), Noriko Tadano (shamisen) and Isaac Hannam (yidaki).

But what really made Floods of Fire touch the heart were the contributions of Poco Tutti choir and the amusingly titled Quirkestra instrumental ensemble. Both these are from Tutti Arts, a much-loved local organisation for disabled and neurodiverse artists. They excelled marvellously and seamlessly, too, with Grace Lam in particular working electronic wonders on the theremin.

The Floods of Fire Symphony expresses the renewal of the Earth through powers of healing. Photo Saige Prime

As a gesture towards a more humane society, Floods of Fire engendered much good feeling with laudable work from its composers: Luke Harrald, Hilary Kleinig, Zhao Liang, Adam Page and Grayson Rotumah. Credit must also go to arranger Julian Ferraretto and conductor Luke Dollman for bringing this work to fruition with much skill and vision.

Many audience members, though, had descended on the Festival Theatre for what was to follow. This was Electric Fields – much in the news of late for having been selected to represent Australia at the 2024 Eurovision Song Contest. This duo have already gathered an impressive fan base, but come May, the whole world will surely know about them when they sing “One Milkali (One Blood)”.

We didn’t get to hear this one unfortunately, but a dozen of their other songs rocked the stage in the second half. Electric Fields are an experienced act who relate extremely well with their audience. Zaachariaha Fielding is a flamboyant powerhouse on vocals and Michael Ross is a whiz on keyboards. Parallels can be drawn between them and Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart of Eurythmics fame, except that there is something more wildly adventurous about this electronic duo.

Backed by a smaller but much amplified ASO in lush arrangements, their set opened with the catchy “Anpuru Maau Kutjpa” in Indigenous language, and continued with the heavy, beat-dominated “Shade Away”, which amply showed Fielding’s extraordinarily wide vocal range.

Next came a tribute to womankind “and all the beautiful men that come from woman”, as Fielding announced, in the softly pulsing, glowing song “Lore Woman”. With the anthemic “Glorious”, the duo hit a high with their uplifting lyrics and wonderful solo cello playing from ASO cellist Sharon Grigoryan.

Electric Fields rocked the stage. Photo” Enzo Frisini / Photostudio Australia

Kev Carmody and Paul Kelly’s song “From Little Things Big Things Grow” carried a powerful message with some of its verses in Indigenous language, and a lovely new lullaby, “Litjatitjatilu Maau Kutjpa”, stole every heart.

In these songs, Antara singers Zaavan Fielding, Sandra Pumani and Audrey Umala provided backing, while Belle Bangard and Alyson Joyce supplied vocals mainly in English-language songs. Conductor Aaron Wyatt was excellent, and the ASO’s contribution was top-notch, proving once again that they can straddle diverse styles with ease.

This was Electric Fields’ last show in Australia before they head over to Sweden for Eurovision. As this unique concert and the whole Adelaide Festival drew to its close, everyone present could only wish them the best of luck.

Floods of Fire: Our Celebration with Electric Fields & the ASO took place at the Festival Theatre on March 17.

Read more 2024 Adelaide Festival coverage here.

Make a comment View comment guidelines

Support local arts journalism

Your support will help us continue the important work of InReview in publishing free professional journalism that celebrates, interrogates and amplifies arts and culture in South Australia.

Donate Here

. You are free to republish the text and graphics contained in this article online and in print, on the condition that you follow our republishing guidelines.

You must attribute the author and note prominently that the article was originally published by InReview.  You must also inlude a link to InReview. Please note that images are not generally included in this creative commons licence as in most cases we are not the copyright owner. However, if the image has an InReview photographer credit or is marked as “supplied”, you are free to republish it with the appropriate credits.

We recommend you set the canonical link of this content to https://inreview.com.au/inreview/adelaide-festival/2024/03/18/adelaide-festival-review-floods-of-fire/ to insure that your SEO is not penalised.

Copied to Clipboard