Christmas Bells

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Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Monday, October 20, 2008

Irish Dancers and "Mr Fibby"

Yesterday, the last day of the Springtime in Robertson program, saw the Highs and Lows of the Festival program coincide.

Firstly, it must be said that there was some "ambiguity" (to say the least) about the way in which this event was advertised.
What we had was a local Irish Dance School giving a performance. OK. As a parent myself, I understand that kids are cute (sometimes) and that it is important to encourage them (always).
But, why not tell people that instead of a program of Irish and Gypsy dance music, we were going to have a display of Irish Dance - by young girls (some of them barely beginners). It is always fair enough to have a display for the parents, grandparents and persons interested in the arcane art of Irish Dance.
But let us not mix young Irish Dance class performers with an adult-style "Viennese Cabaret performance". When the girls had finished their routines, the Irish Dance troupe left, as did many of the parents and supporters (understandably). That left a mostly empty hall. That is very discouraging to other performers.
After the girls left, a trio called the "Pilgrim Band" came on. Nice people, no doubt. And they could play their instruments. But their repertoire was boring, monotonous and soporific.
Someone (who shall remain nameless) commented to me afterwards that they would have been well received at a Retirement Village. I agree - except my father, who is in a retirement village, probably would have pressed the "panic bell" around his neck and demanded that an attendant wheel him out of the room.
These people were supported by the Australian Irish Welfare Bureau (Illawarra Branch). No doubt, as an organisation they do good deeds, for their clients. But there the story must end.
These were two and a half hours of my life which I will never get back.

When we got inside the hall, (having paid our $20) - we were presented with a printed program, setting out who and what we were going to see - so the organisers knew in advance, exactly who and what were scheduled. So why was the publicity so wildly misleading?
"IRISH AFTERNOON starting at 1.30pm – School of Arts Hall
Enjoy the uplifting Irish Dance, Folk and Gypsy music for $20.
It doesn’t get any better than this!"


Anyway, having vented my spleen, I will show some of the pictures of the little Irish dancers. This group are Celeste, Penny, Matilda and Ramona. Cute as buttons, all of them.
Their performance was touching in the extreme, especially when one of the little ones spotted her Mum in the audience, and gave Christine a little wave - "Hi Mum". That was a genuinely charming (and disarming) moment.This next dancer's costume was described by the Irish Dance instructor as an example of the American influence in the modern world of Irish Dance. I can see what she means. Obviously there is some tension within the ruling elite of Irish Dancing, as to whether or not to remain strictly traditional. This next young lady demonstrated great proficiency in the leaping style which seems to be a feature of Irish Dancing.She was very good, as were several others in the troupe. Here is the full troupe, taking a final and well deserved bow.I was intrigued to witness several of the youngsters (Ramona and Matilda) taking a peak - from the dressing room (past the shoulder of their instructor) at the older girls performing a complicated routine. This innocent innocent gesture at least shows me that they were genuinely interested in the performance. Good for them.I feel that at least some of the girls in this dance school have a bright future in Irish Dancing, if they choose to pursue this challenging discipline.


And then, sometime after 4:00pm, along came Mr Fibby.This amazing group were the most accomplished musicians, with the most imaginative stage show it has been my pleasure to witness in a very long time. According to a somewhat dubious biography, they are "Borracio" - on Cello, "Seraphina" - on Violin, and "Zavi"- on guitar. The artist known as "Not Important" is billed as providing the vocals. In fact his stage presence, even when silent, is very powerful.

Their own "blurb" shows their literary style and humour (which owes something to "Borat"):

"Mr. Fibby are to engulf you in a howling dervish of despair. With them you shall wander through faux fairy tales most lamentable, past monstrous trees, men once dead, jealous lovers, lost gypsies, shattered hearts and a moon, as red as blood. The musicians shall pluck at your heart, as well as their instruments, while a lone man (from where? from when?) spins tales as delicate, and as deadly, as a spider’s web."

"Three young, up and coming acoustic musicians have joined forces with an established playwright and story teller to form a unique group - Mr. Fibby."

"These innovative Canberrans collaborate to perform a highly skilled, endearing and frequently comical ‘manouche’ style show which has already proven to delight and enthrall audiences."

"Mr. Fibby are come to you from a place that you do not know.
There is to be laughter, there is to be tears."

Indeed, yesterday, in Robertson, there was much laughter, but we stopped short of tears (but only just).

The foot of the Artist known as "Not Important" - a comic/tragic genius.

This performance was the highlight of the Springtime in Robertson program for me.

But I can still barely forgive the organisers for such an ill-judged combination of events (on a single bill).

  1. Mr Fibby was done a great injustice by being linked with the most boring presentation of Irish music I have ever heard. Besides, there was nothing even remotely "Irish" about Mr Fibby's performance, so the headline billing was wildly inaccurate.
  2. As for the group of schoolgirls performing their Irish Dancing routines, such performances have their place - in front of their doting parents, friends and relatives. The same might be said of School Concerts, and performances at School Speech Nights, or indeed Swimming Carnivals. I have no problem with parents attending such performances, for they know who they are supporting, and why.
  3. It was inappropriate to advertise the Irish Dancers performance as part of a supposedly "Uplifting Irish, folk and Gypsy Music" event. It was no such thing.
  4. Worse, the Pilgrim Band was a totally inappropropriate choice as a preliminary act for a group of talented, and highly imaginative musicians and actors. As a professional group of performers, Mr Fibby has every right to feel that they were disrespected (to use the modern jargon - they were "dissed") by the organisers of the Springtime in Robertson program.
  5. I also feel it is fair to say that some of the audience - parents and young children - were there under an equally false impression of what they were about to see and hear (as I was). I was not offended, but some of them obviously were.
  6. Mr Fibby's language rating and use of "adult concepts" made them an inappropriate Act to stage in Robertson, on a Sunday afternoon, after a childrens dance performance, at the local School of Arts. It was a "Cabaret" performance - and even the briefest of research into their routine ought have brought that to attention.

Don't get me wrong - the people who did not walk out (including myself) - loved Mr Fibby's performance.

But many of the audience would have every right to feel that the choice of program was inappropriate.


If only Mr Fibby had been billed for the Saturday night - the party could have kicked on for hours, and a great atmosphere, suitable to the content of their performance, could have been engendered. It could have been a legendary performance - as it was indeed fit to be.

And, as a Cabaret performance, appropriately advertised, it would most likely have packed the Hall, which might have helped with the other unspoken problem with the Springtime in Robertson program.

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