The event: The newly named Dharma Dolls’ (alias Venus Headlights) fifth sold-out vocal concert since they pooled their talents a year ago, along with those of versatile musician Jim Leonard on keyboard and bass.
The setting: Headbones, the avant garde gallery and studio on Old Kamloops Road, created by artist/writer/performer Julie Oakes and her partner, publisher/entrepreneur Richard Fogarty.
The backdrop: Doug Alcock’s metal and Ortansa Moraru’s paper sculptures, which inspired Oakes and Fogarty to invite all attending to wear black and white. Many obliged, inventively and impressively. But the most inventive, impressive backdrop to Saturday’s three-hour musical extravaganza was the collection of huge bird images painted by Oakes, in particular a 12-by-8-foot baby chick image – a sure sign of spring and apt comment on the Dharma Dolls theme.
The “Dolls” feature Judy Rose, Melina Moore and Tanya Lipscomb – three women whose harmony when singing together is that of angels, yet whose individual styles are as different as Alcock’s is from Moraru’s, chalk is from cheese, hammers are from spoons, and camels are from cats.
Speaking of cats, these three consummate females opened their program with Duetto buffo de due gatti (humorous duet for two cats) – Miau, Miau, Miau (Meow, Meow, Meow). Often attributed to Gioacchino Rossini, it is actually a compilation, drawn principally from Puccini’s opera Otello, by English composer Robert Lucas Pearsall.
Wittily adapted in this instance to accommodate three voices instead of two, it featured Moore as opera-diva-cum-musical-comedy-star, Lipscomb as mistress of improvisation, and Rose as the closest answer to Edith Piaf that this devotee of France’s singing “sparrow” has encountered to date.
The combination of the three singers’ talents, coupled with their humorous, good-natured interplay, based on obvious mutual respect, continued to thrill all present, bringing them to their feet several times throughout the evening.
The women’s personalities echoed their contrasting singing styles.
Opera-trained Moore is disciplined and controlled while Rose’s experience and intelligence naturally inform her work, and Lipscomb’s free fall approach means her emotions could take her, and us, in any direction.
Each engaged Saturday’s audience in her individual way. And each made the most of her solo spot too: Moore as Olympia, the mechanical doll from Jacques Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann, as a Clark Gable fan singing Judy Garland’s adapted version of You Made Me Love You, and as herself with I’ll be Seeing You; whereas Rose’s foray into opera – quite a leap from her traditional role as jazz diva – made a huge impression, although even she couldn’t top her own rendition of Je Suis Malade, sung with true Piaf conviction and power; while Lipscomb’s This Little Light of Mine shone as intended, with Leonard backing magnificently on bass.
Although a tad long, this black and white Dharma Dolls/Venus Headlights evening was up there with the rest and no one left Headbones disappointed.
The Dharma Dolls return Friday, June 8.
–– Christine Pilgrim is a freelance writer based in Vernon.