Joanna Strand lit up the stage from the moment she stepped up and took the microphone for an evening showcasing songs tying the two sides of the Atlantic together. Surrounded by an ensemble of piano, accordion, double bass, flute, trumpet and percussion, this tight knit group of hand-selected musicians complimented Strand’s distinctively pure voice. With each lyric delivered with a clarity as if spoken, the melody skipped through with a careless precision honouring Strand’s classical training, this felt almost like an offering of a chanteuse show sans sleaze. Clearly an appealing idea to many as the captivated audience encompassed everyone from grandparents, to small children – as well as Camden’s resident on trend young things.
The show was made up of two acts, with each song earning its own history or story creating a context and veritable journey of an evening. John Bailey’s arrangements struck out particularly on several numbers, including a remarkable rendition of ‘Autumn Leaves’ that left it hardly recognisable but quite haunting. Romano Viazzani’s use of his accordion as both a persuasive and melodic apparatus was delightful, and Asaf Sirkis’ percussion at times downright hypnotic.
This was a charming and enchanting way to close the weekend down. Strand’s deft movement between operatic, musical theatre and an almost spoken voice delivered each chapter of our adventure, encompassed as we were by the beautiful hanging gardens of The Forge, and took the room away to a world of latin jazz, American folk, musical theatre of the nineteenth and twentieth century, an contemporary emerging composers. A truly safe set of vocal chords for such an epic, yet beautifully contemplative, journey of musical discovery.
The Forge, Camden Town, London, Sunday 25 March 2012