Neil Gaiman & FourPlay String Quartet to play at Hamer Hall

By Our Reporter
Neil Gaiman (c) with the FourPlay String Quartet // Pic supplied

Picture this: Neil Gaiman, the legendary British writer who’s penned everything from comic books to novels, is about to share the stage with Australia’s own FourPlay String Quartet. And they’re not just joining forces for any gig. The show will be an Australian premiere, set to grace the iconic Hamer Hall at the Arts Centre Melbourne on 18 January 2024.

The duo had previously wowed audiences at Sydney Opera House’s Concert Hall, marking the global live performance debut of their collaborative album, “Signs of Life”. Unveiled in April 2023, the album quickly clinched the top spot on Billboard’s ‘Classical Crossover Albums’ chart and also snagged an ARIA Award nomination for ‘Best Classical Album’. Not a bad start for a venture that takes the ‘classical’ genre and adds generous dollops of indie rock, intersected with stirring narratives.

Neil Gaiman needs little introduction. His sprawling oeuvre ranges from novels like “Good Omens” (in collaboration with Terry Pratchett) and “American Gods” to the groundbreaking comic series “The Sandman”. These works have not just been limited to the printed word; they have been successfully adapted into television series available on popular streaming platforms like Amazon Prime and Netflix.

On the other side, FourPlay String Quartet is hardly your usual classical ensemble. More like a band with classical chops, they bring an eclectic edge to their music, often improvising and playing around with extended instrumental techniques. They’re not just classical musicians; they’re musical innovators.

The tale of how Gaiman and FourPlay first met is almost serendipitous. It was back in 2010 when the quartet was commissioned to compose a soundtrack for Gaiman’s then-unreleased story, ‘The Truth Is a Cave In The Black Mountains’ by Sydney Opera House’s Graphic Festival. This initial collaboration was so successful that it resulted in a decade-long friendship and artistic partnership.

So what can one expect from this unusual alliance? In Gaiman’s own words, the performance is a sign of life after a ‘long fallow winter’ of the last two and a half years. For FourPlay, this collaboration represents more than just a golden opportunity. Neil is not just an exceptional storyteller but also a musical performer and wordsmith who’s taught them a thing or two about pacing and rhythm.

Album reviews have been glowing. The Strad, a UK publication, found the work to be ‘a brilliantly engaging, often revelatory listen’. NPR in the US described it as ‘a meeting of unconventional minds’, while Australia’s Beat Mag felt the album was ‘steeped in nuanced, atmospheric instrumental detail’.

The show in Melbourne will be more than just a musical performance; it promises to be a transformative experience that melds storytelling, music, and a dash of magic into an unforgettable night. And given the weight of both names involved, it’s not something you’d want to miss. After all, how often do you see one of the world’s most prolific writers team up with an avant-garde string quartet to create something that transcends musical and literary boundaries? Get your tickets now; this will be one for the books—figuratively and perhaps even literally.

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