'Gratitude & Grief' at Civic Theatre

February 15, 2019

There is a special moment steeped into the very essence of what makes the Civic Theatre so unique. It’s a rare kind of moment where the lights dim, and the room once filled with lively chatter quietens into silence. Seasoned artist and one of Australia’s most beloved vocalists, Katie Noonan, is no stranger to this anticipated hush. With an ethereal voice, the esteemed songstress tends to still an audience, even before uttering a word. 

For this reason, it is no wonder why the folk-jazz trio, Elixir, led by Noonan, is set to take the stage once more at the Civic Theatre this February with their concert, Gratitude and Grief.

Elixir, a harmony of Noonan on vocals, her husband Zac Hurren on soprano saxophone and the magnificent Stephen Magnusson on guitar, have existed for over 19 years. A unique trio, the group has seen much success and great commendation along the way, including an ARIA Award (Best Jazz Album 2011) and 13 weeks at #1 in the ARIA Jazz Chart.

Raised on a musical diet by her opera singer mother, Katie Noonan eventually majored in jazz and opera at the Queensland Conservatorium. This influence has been widely clear in the cascading melodies of her songs that have seen her win 5 ARIA awards, go seven times platinum, release over a dozen studio albums and be named one of the greatest Australian singers of all time by the Herald Sun.  

Likewise, saxophonist Zac Hurren has been heralded for his distinct compositions and improvisations. Hurren has also received critical acclaim for being a triumphant new arrival on the contemporary jazz scene. This undoubtedly assisted in his win of the National Jazz Award (in 2009) and as a Freedom Fellowship finalist (in 2012).

Similar to the trio’s two front-runners, Elixir finds itself on the borders of its genre, flirting with jazz but experimentally so. Of course, this anchors Elixir all the more in the genre because jazz is, for the most part, improvisation and experimentation.

Much like the trio’s preceding performances, Gratitude and Grief is an incredible exploration into the sublime and unusual relationship between text and sound. In this latest collaboration, Elixir has set themselves a new creative challenge as they interweave incredible music to the iconic poetry of Australian, Michael Leunig

Equally charming and humble, Leunig was declared a national living treasure by the National Trust and was awarded honorary degrees by La Trobe, Griffith Universities and the Australian Catholic University for his unrivalled contribution to Australian culture. Known for his commentary on cultural and emotional life, through his work Leunig has explored the connection between the innocent and sacred personal world. 

For over four years Leunig and Elixir have worked to reinterpret ten of his poems into this musical masterpiece, with songs including ‘Love Is Born, ‘Peace (is my drug) and of course the title track, Gratitude and Grief. Through Gratitude and Grief, Elixir showcases a rare intimacy that is set to inspire, delight and explore the depths of what it means to be human. 

In the eyes of Noonan, this has been a very natural process with Leunig, as is clear in an interview with Scenestr, “It’s been beautiful for me to sing his words; they’ve been very cathartic for me. In his words I find solace, and I find a sense of calm, which are two things we try and make in Elixir as well.”

With this collaboration, Elixir is able to showcase a magical interweaving of text, sight, and sound, and achieve a great creative challenge. The performance itself is not to be missed. For tickets visit www.civictheatrenewcastle.com.au


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