‘The Lost Boy’ in the Salon Series was a highly enjoyable evening

United KingdomUnited Kingdom The Lost Boy: Conor Quinn (vocalist), Darren Day (piano), John Gillen (drums), Thomas Alford (double bass), Cameron Menzies (director). The New Orpheus, Belfast, 23.2.2023. (RB)

Conor Quinn in ‘The Lost Boy’ © Neil Harrison Photography

Anaïs Mitchell – ‘Wait for Me’ (Hadestown)
Kander and Ebb – ‘I Don’t Care Much’ (Cabaret)
Peter Allen – ‘Tenterfield Saddler’
Hans Eisler and Bertold Brecht – ‘German Miserere’
Charles Chilton – ‘I’ll Make a Man of You’ (Oh, What a Lovely War)
Boubil and Schönberg – ‘Empty Chairs at Empty Tables’ (Les Misérables)
Sara Bareilles – ‘Orpheus’
Bonnie Raitt – ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’
Cole Porter – ‘Miss Otis Regrets’ (Hi Diddle Diddle)
Cy Coleman and David Zippel – ‘With Every Breath I Take’ (City of Angels)
Alex Harding – ‘Only Heaven Knows’ (Only Heaven Knows)

This was the fourth concert in Northern Ireland Opera’s Salon Series. The venue was the New Orpheus which is situated above the Harp Bar in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter. This is a partial recreation of the Orpheus Ballroom in York Street in Belfast which opened in 1932 and has since been demolished. The concert featured a selection of songs from cabaret and music theatre.

The strap line for the concert was ‘The Lost Boy’ and it explored a young man’s journey into adulthood with themes of hope, loss of youth, and songs inspired by unrest and war. The theme of lost boys dominated the early part of the twentieth century from J M Barrie’s Peter Pan to the lost generation of young men depicted so movingly in the poetry of Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon and others. Cameron Menzies’s set consisted of a single soldier’s boot surrounded by clocks, red drapes and tasteful lamps. Prior to the start of the concert, one heard the ticking of a clock getting gradually louder and then ending abruptly. The vocalist, Conor Quinn, was dressed in a white frock coat, sparkly trousers, bright black buckled shoes, long white socks and a decorative white blouse over his shirt. The costume had an androgynous Harry Styles type quality. There were a few costume changes as the evening progressed and the music became more sombre.

In the opening song, ‘Wait for Me’, Quinn veered seamlessly between speech and song. He brought this dramatic monologue powerfully to life and forged an immediate strong connection with his audience. He brought a brooding dark vocal quality and excellent word colouring to ‘I Don’t Care Much’ from Cabaret. The build up to the climax was well calibrated although there was a little strain at the top of the vocal range. ‘Tenterfield Saddler’ explores the horror of PTSD and the way in which it affected soldiers in the Australian theatre of World War 2. Quinn gave an affecting highly lyrical account of this song which was very touching. In ‘German Miserere’ Quinn brought out the biting, satirical quality in Brecht’s words very effectively although the final section of the song could have perhaps been a little warmer and more reflective. One of the high points of the evening was ‘I’ll Make a Man of You’. Conor Quinn threw himself into the performance with an outrageous camp sensibility that was reminiscent of Dame Maggie Smith’s famous performance. It clearly went down a storm with the audience who responded with enthusiastic applause.

The next song was one of the great staples of the repertoire, ‘Empty Chairs at Empty Tables’ from Les Misérables. In the opening section, Quinn captured the stark barren scene very effectively. He injected the words with dark vocal colours and the song built to an impassioned climax. The postlude on the piano and backing band was highly atmospheric. That band brought energy and sparkle to Cole Porter’s jazz-inspired ‘Miss Otis Regrets’. Conor Quinn’s performance was also high in energy, and he did a brilliant job bringing the tableau depicted in the song to life. Cy Coleman’s ‘With Every Breath I Take’ is a slow-moving ballad which received an atmospheric account here. Quinn displayed considerable vocal power at the climax to the song. ‘Only Heaven Knows’ with its intricate piano part ended the programme on a reflective note. Conor Quinn and the band performed ‘The Parting Glass’ as an encore providing a moving tribute to all the lost boys.

This was a highly enjoyable evening and a highly accomplished performance from Conor Quinn.

Robert Beattie       

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