An evening of piano music and poetry with Susanne Olbrich and Margot Henderson
Saturday 9 May 2009
Woodend Barn, Banchory [Map]
If the various locations of the Wordfringe 2009 Festival are by definition peripheral,
there was empathatically nothing peripheral about the quality of performance at
last Saturday's Coming Home event in the Woodend Barn.
The Wordfringe leaflet describes the event as "an evening of piano music and poetry
with Susanne Olbrich and Margot Henderson", but although the artists were two in
number their artistic voices were many and wide-ranging. Margot has a beautiful
singing as well as speaking voice, and her lyrics and poetry are an alluring mix
of humour and profundity. Her recitations were either solo or accompanied by Susanne.
Susanne's skill as a pianist and composer is such that in performing her haunting
music, as well as displaying her versatility as a pianist per se, she is equally
versatile as a harpist-painist, plucking the strings of the piano with heart-stopping
True to the theme of the event Margot's songs and poetry convey the complex and
multi-layered nature of the experience of homecoming, and she does so with humour
and poignancy. The audience were invited to think of a phrase which represented
to each their understanding of homecoming, and both poet and musician gave voice
in word and music to the essential and yet elusive nature of how and where one feels
at home. Both artists have first-hand experience of the acute sense of exile often
experienced by those who have lived and worked both at home and abroad, most especially
if that experience of exile feels forced rather than voluntary.
But of course Scots abroad have worked and continue to work for the common weal,
and when Margot read a beautiful poem by the Indian mystic Tagore, I was reminded
of a compilation edited by the Bengali poet Bashabi Fraser of the renowned collection
of letters exchanged between Tagore and Scotland's Patrick Geddes.
If this event at Woodend is an example of the quality of Wordfringe 2009 performances,
I recommend that you keep to the peripheries!
Joyce Gunn Cairns
Joyce Gunn Cairns is an artist currently exhibiting drawings of poets in Brussels,
and also on exhibit in Woodend Barn along with four other artists including Sera
Irvine whose Left Bank Gallery in Tarland will host the closing event for Wordfringe
2009. Currently on show at the Left Bank are prints for An Leabhor Mor as
part of Aberdeen University Word Festival.