Q Theatre, Rangatira, Auckland

09/11/2017 - 11/11/2017

Production Details

Blackbird Ensemble, New Zealand’s most exciting chamber orchestra, is ecstatic to announce an awe-inspiring homage to the inimitable Icelandic pop artist Björk. 

In BJÖRK: ALL IS FULL OF LOVE, Blackbird Ensemble serves up an audio feast of Björk’s finest songs across the decades, re-imagining her much-loved classics from Debut through to Medulla and Vulnicura

Taking to the stage with signature flair at Rangatira at Q Theatre with four shows from November 8 – 11, ALL IS FULL OF LOVE will showcase an eclectic chamber orchestra and a glittering cast of vocal talent, with visual design to complement and evoke the themes which provide so much inspiration to Björk herself. 

The line-up includes the talent of electro-indie-pop artist Sarah Belkner (Australia), enchanting singer-songwriter Anna Coddington, emerging soulful star Teeks, and returning Blackbird favourite the ethereal Jessie Cassin. A band of strings, brass, woodwind, keys and percussion presents custom arrangements with beats made live via acoustic instruments, live object manipulation and foley. 

Magical, provocative, and unforgettable, this stunning new show from Blackbird Ensemble reimagines the genre-spanning sound worlds of Björk – don’t miss your chance to see it.

Rangatira, Q THEATRE
Thursday 9 – Saturday 11 November 2017
(Preview Wednesday 8 November)
Tickets on sale now, season runs November 8 – 11

Theatre , Musical ,

Brilliant eclectic content and delivery

Review by Penny Dodd 10th Nov 2017

All is Full of Love, a staged performance of songs by Björk, is absolutely brilliant; musical execution in every regard quite superb. A chamber ensemble of fourteen players – ten instrumentalists and four singer/instrumentalists – perform an array of songs from an extraordinary artist known for her widely diverse, mercurial and deeply personal work.

As Wiki says: “an eclectic musical style that draws on a wide range of influences and genres spanning electronic, pop, experimental, classical, trip hop, IDM, and avant-garde styles.” They are all present, reinterpreted by the live Blackbird Ensemble.

Theatricality is achieved through the entire ensemble being costumed in individual fantasies in white, with accents of coloured light: credit to Elizabeth Whiting and Poppy Serano. The band is placed on rostra in a semicircle and lit with an ever changing lighting display from Jonny Cross. Towards the end of the performance projections appear on the back wall, which doubles the magical factor. These projections – in keeping with the importance of the multimedia, artistic aspect of Bjork’s work – would be welcome even earlier in the piece, supporting the musical textures and shifting moods.  

To honour Björk’s 50th Birthday Claire Cowan has conjured up a sound canvas of infinite variety, using traditional and electronic instruments accompanied by four superb vocalists. The line-up of string quartet, drums and percussion, two and a bit keyboard stations plus harpsichord and harp, and a shifting array of woodwind, saxophones and French horn is augmented by a gamelan style moment and the Caliban chorus of “a thousand twanging instruments” from the audience.

Bass duties are shared amongst the keyboard stations and the cello, sometimes you can’t see where it is coming from, perhaps there is a sequence running somewhere, perhaps that doesn’t matter as one musical foundation of the show is to do with integrating technology into a live music environment. This is achieved with brilliant success through thoughtful and rigorous sound design. By sound design I mean live sound operation that matches the subtlety and care of a recorded sound mix. The sound by Sam Mence is stunningly good, with clarity, subtle sculpted special effects, reverbs, delays, and a wide range of dynamics. Considerable time and energy would have been spent in perfecting this part of the show, and it is a real pleasure to hear so well the wealth of detail present in the arrangements.

Claire Cowan, with Sarah Belkner, has created a universe of musical textures. Highlights are the beauty of the strings led by Charmian Keay, the harp, the bass clarinet and French horn, the “classical” instruments. Also notable is the combination of live drum set with electronic drum sounds, apparently played live, it was hard to see. What is that glowing orb set amongst the iPads? And is that a dulcimer or a glockenspiel? Too hard to tell in the dim light, in the context of the keyboards, the harpsichord; it doesn’t really matter because it sounds mesmerising and magical and we are transported.

The women – Jessie Cassin, Anna Coddington and Sarah Belkner – all sing incredibly well, all demonstrating the full range from pure power to restrained introspective moments. TEEKS provides unique stylings and great beauty of tone. All singers give of their all, in their own voices, while honouring a great artist for her unique voice.

In between songs the singers speak; a curious dropping of the fourth wall so carefully contrived by the magnificent Björk-like white costuming. Self-effacing gig talk – “are you having a good time?” – and comments about not being able to read music jolt us from the atmospheric and mysterious into the commonplace. Perhaps this is a deliberate “de-classical-ing” of the performance environment; perhaps there are other choices for the conversation.

I have a great time, really enjoying the creative Herculean task, the highest musical standards, the crazy musical abandon, the hypnotic introspection, the beauty and power of the songs. Blackbird Ensemble’s stated desire to change the traditional performance context of classical music has been achieved in this concert through the brilliant eclectic content and delivery of the finest contemporary artists.


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