On a sunny Sunday in one of the city’s most famous historic quarters, four musicians welcomed the crowd with upbeat acoustic tunes, wolf howls and knee-slapping dance moves. This was the event Troubadours and Minstrels, a combination of live music and performance poetry in intimate, quirky and hidden spots in the Rocks.
The quartet of tambourine, guitar, bass guitar and melodica (hand-held keyboard played by blowing through an attached wind tube) inspired the crowd and built anticipation of what was to come. Host Candy Royalle, performance artist and poet, played the tambourine.
The crowd was divided into four groups of about 15 people, with each group given a leader in face paint and musician to follow. Four poets were spread out in secret spots, and each group moved from poet to poet, until all groups had seen and heard all poets. The leaders guided the groups up and down sets of stairs, around steep bends and through hidden tunnels, while the muso at the back kept everyone in tune.
The first stop was up the Argyle Stairs to see Scott Sandwich. The crowd gathered into the small space set up on a landing with Turkish rugs and cushions. Sandwich performed sitting and standing on a ledge, reciting a poem about love, beginning with reference to the Otis Redding song, These Arms of Mine. He also critiqued Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18, saying that comparing one to a summer’s day makes for tough competition. Rather, Mr Sandwich would rather compare his sweetheart to the zipper on his pants.
“You’re one of the greatest and most useful inventions known to mankind. Often overlooked and always undervalued. No one could ever say that life could possibly be any better without you. Yes, there have been previous fasteners – there have been buttons, there have been clips but you’re the best.”
The second stop was the Glenmore Stairs, where Catherina Behan was sitting prettily on a rug with glimpses of Sydney Harbour in the background. On her rug were birdcage, flowers in wine bottles, a typewriter and a globe. She spoke about travel, love and death. “I wonder if they’ll talk about us when we’re gone? I want to leave something behind. Some trace to say I existed. That I drank too much, ate too much, talked too much, fucked too much. I want to know that there’s something more than nothing. When my body feeds the soil, my soul will soar.”
Poet CJ Shaw was next, on concrete stairs at the end of a tunnel. Passers-by continued to walk, run and cycle through the tunnel. Some stopped to listen. The tunnel provided echoing acoustics to his performance of two poems. His second poem combined his love of rhyming and public transport, along with his hatred of mobile phones on public transport. “It starts with a vibration. A ring tone irritation. And soon becomes an onslaught of a high pitched dissertation. So my situation, I hear half a conversation and it drains me of my patience and becomes damn fixation.”
The last stop led the group to Jade Oldfield, who wrote a poem for all those she falls in love with on public transport – a daily occurrence for her. “I’d compromise my plans for you. As long as it involved something I wanted to do to. I’d even be as lame as adding your name to my Facebook page. Just so the cyber world knew I was your girl.”
The groups all finished back in the Rocks Square, where the musicians joined together to bid farewell to the crowd with one last song.
The final performance of Troubadours and Minstrels is Sunday, May 26 from 12pm-1pm, meeting at the Rocks Square.