Saturday, 3 September 2016

#edfringe2016: Ghost Quartet: Summer Hall ★★★★★

Dave Malloy - Photography by Ryan Jansen
A 9pm showing of Ghost Quartet, by Ghost Quartet, was how I spent my last night at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Set at the Roundabout, a large tent at the back of Summer Hall, encased musical curiosities and explorations of ghost stories read to fringe audiences in a spectacular blend of music styles. Jazz, slow rock, gospel, ballad or emo, call it what you want, but one thing's for sure and that's that the music is a collection of crafty creativity you've never heard of before. 

The music and lyrics were composed and written by New York-based Dave Malloy, and he has accolades to boast. Success from his off-Broadway hit Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 grabbed punters attention, and Ghost Quartet is a testament that his individual score writing prevails. 

There in a carpet floored, round swirl of eager music lovers, Molloy, Gelsey Bell, Brittain Ashford and Brent Arnold took to the small circle stage facing each other with a wide range of peculiar instruments at hand. This included an erhu, dulcimer, ukulele, Celtic harp, metallophone and their exhilarating, harmonising voices.

As the marketing suggests there are moments where audiences are left in the dark, encouraged to listen to the music for itself and pay attention to the pivotal details of the ghostly tales. However, the performance as a whole isn't linear or perhaps it is and I may have missed the punch; there are patchy mentions of a broken camera, a talking bear, a Thelonious monk, an astronomer, a man that dies in a subway and lost sisters reunited, but all seem unrelated, and somehow related. 

Arnold is an intelligent cellist. Malloy is the man with a capital M - a pioneering rhythm-maker, while Armold and Bell produce the most amazing vocal sounds that can bring you to tears in their solo ballads. 

Engaging talent, enthusiasm, and passion are harmoniously harnessed by Ghost Quartet. I'd highly recommend this to anyone who loves soul and the idea of clapping and stomping until their hands and feet hurt, to the sound of loud percussions instruments.