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Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen

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Wednesday, June 8, 2005

MIKELANGELO AND THE BLACK SEA GENTLEMEN

“The band play ancient instruments as if a life depended upon it…exuberant, faintly disturbing and extremely funny” The Independent (UK) ««««¶

Mikelangelo & the Black Sea Gentlemen embark on their second international tour in the past three years in July 2005. Beginning their travels in New Zealand, the gentlemen will appear as part of the Christchurch Arts Festival and the Taranaki Festival, before continuing onto one of Europe's largest outdoor music festivals, the Sziget Festival, in Budapest.

For the first time the gentlemen will collaborate with other artists. This year the group will work with such world famous artists as Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Franz Ferdinand, and Morcheeba.

To see and hear Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen is to take a voyage into their world - a rousing, theatrical re-imagining of Eastern European music and culture inspired by the music and lyrics of bandleader Mikelangelo. Unfettered by time, tradition or borders, the Black Sea Gentlemen are his musical ensemble and travelling companions - Rufino, the spirited ‘confidence man’ and Violinist; The Great Muldavio, a stoic and mysterious Clarinet player; Guido Libido, the sorrowful Piano Accordionist; and Ruprecht der Schreckliche, the fearsome Contrabassman.

Throughout their four years playing together Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen have racked up some impressive plaudits. At the 2003 Edinburgh Fringe they performed concurrent seasons at both The Gilded Balloon and The Famous Spiegeltent, drawing rave reviews from the public and press and picking up three awards including The Spirit of the Fringe and the coveted Herald Devil Award.

The group was a hit of the 2003 Adelaide Cabaret Festival and was invited back by popular demand in 2004 and packed houses for five nights. They have also performed successful seasons at the Sydney Opera House, Melbourne Fringe (Pick of the Fringe 2002) and at the Melbourne International Festival.

In April 2004 Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen won a Green Room Award for Best Original Music (Cabaret) for their show Songs to Illuminate the Dark and were also nominated for Best Cabaret Ensemble.

The independently released (2002) self-titled first album of Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen is approaching sales of 3000 copies. In October 2004 they released a limited edition live DVD of Songs to Illuminate the Dark filmed at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival. The new Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen studio album, 'Journey through the Land of Shadows', was released in March 2005 to great acclaim with sell-out CD launches around Australia, including stand-out performances as part of the Port Fairy Folk Festival and the inaugural Cockatoo Island Festival.

“We’re invited to be part of their adventure and find ourselves powerless to resist”

BBC Radio 3

“This is extraordinary music, you have to see one of their live shows to feel the impact

this group has…” Phillip Adams ABC Radio National

For full festival details, visit the "Applaud" Christchurch Arts Festival 2005 website, www.artsfestival.co.nz, or collect a copy of the quirky purple programme from outlets around the country or by phoning 0800 ARTS 05. Taranaki Festival of the Arts information can be found at www.artsfest.co.nz.

ENDS

Dates:

Christchurch Arts Festival

TV One Pavilion

July 27 – July 29, 7.30pm

Taranaki Festival of the Arts

Alexandra Room

August 3 – August 4, 8.30pm


Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen are supported by the Australia Council, the Australian Government’s arts funding and advisory body, through its Audience and Market Development Division.

A History of Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen

Translated from a fireside tale by The Great Muldavio

Whilst fleeing the purges of the tartars across the Russian steppes, the young Mikelangelo was separated from his family. It happened this way…during a perilous night crossing of the upper Dnieper river, Mikelangelo was washed overboard by the turbulent flow. His family could not but continue their flight into the west, in the certain knowledge that Mikelangelo had drowned.

Miraculously Mikelangelo survived the conflagration, dreaming he had been saved by a beautiful mermaid, and was washed up hundreds of miles down river on the shores of the Black sea. There, still unconscious, he was found by Carpathian monks who took him to their isolated monastry and slowly nursed him back to health. After a year at the monastry Mikelangelo grew restless and set off in search of his family.

In the city of Odessa he met the handsome and dissolute Baron, broken hearted genius of the Kontrabass. They immediately formed a strong friendship and Mikelangelo affectionately named the Baron ‘Babyface’ in memory of his youngest brother ‘little Ivan’.

A lost weekend became a lost month, then a lost year, and early one morning after a night of carousing and whoring, the Baron von Babyface and Mikelangelo stumbled into a café on the Bosporus, where they encountered a man who styled himself The Great Muldavio. Muldavio, a descendent from a long line of taxidermists to the Ottomans and quite a fine clarinet player, agreed to join the expanding entourage and informed the other two that they could not possibly do without the services of his old friend Senor ‘Handsome’, a renowned performer of the Polish music hall currently performing in Romania.

The three made a fruitless journey to Bucharest where Senor Handsome turned down their offer to join the band. ‘They love me here. I have just finished a record breaking season of my one man musical “The Universe Weeps For Me” at the Royal theatre, why should a leave?’ he was reported to say.

The next day the disappointed trio boarded a train to Istanbul. They shared a carriage with a richly dressed woman in a large hat who, after ignoring them for most of the journey, suddenly became animated and entreated them to play her a song. As the gentlemen began to play, the woman produced a violin and began to play along in a style most strange and captivating. She then began to sing in an astonishing baritone voice and taking off her hat, was revealed to be none other than Senor Handsome! ‘ Things suddenly became uncomfortable for me in Romania’ was all that he would say. ‘I will join your band and we shall become Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen.’

For decades the group toured Europe and Asia Minor, playing taverns and concert halls, tea houses and palaces, funerals and festivals, receiving ovations and accolades from beggars, critics and kings alike. All was well until the sudden and tragic demise of the beloved Senor Handsome on the eve of the groups’ debut at the Kirov Opera, St. Petersburg. Though details remain shrouded in mystery, it is believed he was thrown from his horse while hastily leaving the residence of one of his many lovers…and in that awful moment it seemed that the Black Sea Gentlemen would be no more.

Despondent, the gentlemen left St. Petersburg and returned to the Bulgarian Black sea town of Varna, hitting the drinking houses to drown their collective sorrow. It was in a particularly seedy gambling den at some unfathomable hour that the gentlemen lost all their worldly possessions to a sly young Catalan gypsy by the name of Rufino. Though quite proud of himself, the inveterate gambler and confidence man was apparently bemused at having won himself a piano accordian, a clarinet and kontrabass, ‘you know , I once swindled the devil himself for his infernal violin only to lose it in a card game a few days later, all I have left is the bow!’ he said with a cackle.

Half mad with grief and drink, Mikelangelo then brought out the last thing the gentlemen had, Senor Handsome’s violin, and placed it on the gambling table. Instantly, tears welled up in the eyes of Rufino and he began to shake quite uncontrollably. Calming himself with a walnut brandy, he opened the case, gently picked up the instrument and played a lament so heartrending that the whole room fell silent. He then cleared his throat, ‘my friends, this was once my brother’s violin, just last night I dreamed that he died, tell me this is not true.’ The gentlemen all stared into the eyes of Rufino and saw that same fire that had danced in the eyes of Senor Handsome, and in that moment they knew that he too was a Black Sea Gentlemen. Of course, since then Rufino has gone on to tour the world with Mikelangelo, Muldavio and the Baron.

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