Performers Amelia Ryan and Libby O'Donovan unearth some underrated songs from the sidelines in 'Unsung'.
It's a celebration of women in music, born from a want to give relatively 'unsung' tracks a proper platform and an opportunity to be celebrated and enjoyed by the public.
Here, Amelia and Libby sit down to answer a few questions about the show, appearing at Adelaide Cabaret Festival.Amelia, what does this show mean to you?
This show is a wonderful, nostalgic celebration of our Aussie female pop and rock heroes, from an era that is rarely celebrated – 1960s and 1970s Australia. It’s been both interesting and joy-giving to go back into the annals of history and find about these women. I’ve learned a lot about Australia at the time, and what is was like for women, particularly women in music! And you, Libby?
I’ve always been passionate about celebrating, honouring and thanking my foremothers for paving the way for future generations of women, children and men. Specifically shining a light on the unique Australian pop and rock voices of the '60s and '70s is not only important for me personally as a singer in this country, it also acknowledges our heritage within this genre. Who came up with the idea to explore the themes in the show?
Amelia: The initial idea for this show actually came from dad’s partner, Angela Williams. She’s a wealth of knowledge when it comes to music history. She told me about this wonderful league of Australian female singers, whose work has been relatively ‘unsung’, and suggested that it would make a great cabaret show. A few years later, I pitched the idea to the festival, and here we are! Libby and I have fleshed it out with our own inspirations and research, but I must give a huge amount of credit to Angela for what she contributed to the foundations of the show. The soundtrack is described as 'uplifting, raucous and nostalgic'. What kinds of sounds can we expect?
Amelia: The show has so much musical variety – everything from the sweet and simple sounds of the early 1960s, to the bluesy, gutsy pub rock songs of the '70s. There are songs you may have never heard, and songs you’ll be able to sing along to. With Musical Director Mark Ferguson at the helm, we’ll be joined by a brilliant four-piece band and two backing singers.
What is one main thing you admire about each other?
Image © Claudia Raschella
Libby: Amelia is as fiercely intelligent a performer as she is generous with her talent. It is always a blessing to work closely with artists who have the grace to share the vulnerabilities of being a human with the audience through songs and stories. Amelia is utterly delightful.
Amelia: There is so much that I love about Libby (for a start, she’s a total hoot and her voice is sublime), but I really admire how genuine she is. Both on and off the stage. She has a wonderful way of making you feel totally at ease, and the audience feel that too. She’s a joy to work with! Do either of you have any comments about the current perception of women in contemporary society? How much further do we have to go on this journey of equality?
Amelia: When you look back through history, women have come a very long way. But I personally think the journey will be ongoing. We’re lucky enough to enjoy a lot of freedom and liberation as women in our current climate. Women have a voice and we’re slowly but surely making it heard. But I think ultimately, the freedom starts from within. Once we shift our own inner dialogue, we can begin to make shifts on a wider scale. Why does 'Unsung' belong within the Adelaide Cabaret Festival programme?
Libby: It is so important for us to be sharing the songs and lives of our own Australian pioneers in the pop and rock industry during the '60s and '70s. The women who were out there working at that time, despite the road blocks, have helped pave the way for future generations of singers/artists/performers. Each woman holds a thread of the tapestry that makes history and inspires and informs the future of Australian pop and rock music. Cabaret is an amazing platform, where a performer can be personal, political, opinionated, dangerous, flexible, challenging, exciting... And this is exactly what these women were too. It’s a perfect fit. What do each of you want audiences to be thinking and feeling as they leave the theatre after having seen 'Unsung’?
Libby: I want them to feel musically uplifted, and to go away cherishing a little piece of Aussie musical history.
'Unsung' plays Space Theatre at Adelaide Festival Centre 9-10 June.