By Tamara of Tamara and the Martyrs
This article originally featured on performer Tamara's blog, Tamiad
Monday night was all about charity. It was 'Reclaim the Night' at the Port Mahon organized by Nicola Jane Peters to raise awareness about violence against women.
First on stage was Jazz singer and pianist, Rachel Hughes. She opened with a new song of hers called 'Sometimes Love is Poisonous.' After a softly spoken preamble in which she explained she'd have to reapply frozen peas to her scolded thumb between numbers, her voice was an unexpected delight, rich and deep. Her songs were heartfelt and personal and the audience drank it in in silence.
Up next was Anna Hobson, a poet I've seen perform before at the Oxford Pride Festival, which she helped organize last summer. Her poetry is dark and visceral, performed with confidence and a sharp wit. I especially liked 'A Tale of Modern Courtship'. Read more of her poems here
Claudia and Jessie closed the first half with an awe-inspiring bunch of operatic arias. From Dido's Lament to The Flower Duet from Délibes' Lakmé, there was something to suit every taste. Claudia sang in Italian and Jessie in English. Both with pantomime eyebrows and thespianic gestures, they zigzagged through different operatic registers with ease, making us all well up one minute and belly laugh the next. It's funny how even when presented ironically, Dido's song still triggers a very real emotional response. There's something in it, innit? My favourite performance had to be Jessie singing The Laughing Song from Strauss' Die Fledermaus. A rare and wonderful thing to see, especially from two meters away!
Exonic, an MC from Witney, opened the second half. Her music blasted out over our heads as she snapped into the mic. Her performance evoked in me memories of marveling at the verbal dexterity of Laura Dockrill and Kate Tempest. With a style all her own, though, she tampered with the lyrics of popular songs, sharpening and bending their meaning. The audience were plenty warm by the time I got on!
I chose to open with a cover of 'Behind the Wall' by Tracy Chapman, in keeping with the theme of the night. It's a haunting accapella piece about domestic violence, and has been a favourite song of mine since I was small. I then tested out a few new songs and got a lot back from a delightfully attentive audience.
Lucy Aryton then took to the stage to share some of her poetry. In a highly skilled performance, Lucy took us on a journey through the poetic past of a political activist to an increasingly political present. She charmed us too with tender observations, reaching deep into childhood memories. I especially liked her poem about her best ever summer.
Hannah Bruce saw us to the end of the night. Her cold-kindled, husky voice fitted the close of the night perfectly. Everyone sat huddled around the stage, as the room began to emanate a kind of Autumnal festival vibe. I had to watch from the door as the room was at bursting point. Hannah closed-up with a stunning rendition of 'Me & A Gun' by Tori Amos.
I won't lie. It was so nice to be part of an all-female bill, and to play for a largely female audience. This night stands as proof of all the fantastic female talent that exists in Oxford today. The best thing for me about the event was the atmosphere. Despite any nerves the performers might have had, all these were dispelled once on stage thanks to such a friendly and warm audience, who were as quick to hop on stage to help move a piano or pin up the lights as they were to applaud the huge variety of acts on show.
If you want to find out more read some info here or join the march on the 28th October in Gloucester Green.