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Phillippa Lusty and Ben Thapa in Concert

Concert: A Night of Music and Fun with Phillippa Lusty and Ben Thapa
Venue: Southfields Baptist Church, London
Date: Saturday 26th February, 2010
Performers: Phillippa Lusty (soprano), Ben Thapa (tenor), Jake Gill (guitar), Giles London (piano)

Phillippa Lusty
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Ben Thapa
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Highlights: Beautiful Encounter (Lusty & Thapa), O Sole Mio (Thapa), Song to the Moon (Lusty), All I Ask of You (Lusty and Thapa), Please Stay (Lusty)

Rising star Phillippa Lusty and Ben Thapa (former member of the operatic boy band G4) joined forces to deliver an eclectic menu of music and entertainment and they succeeded in doing so. The venue was a humble one - there were no fancy lights, no sound engineers and the stage just about held its piano, mics, music stands and the four people that embodied it. It had an intimate and homely atmosphere and despite expecting ill acoustics, the sound quality was more than enough to convey the clarity of the performers.

The set was kicked off with Lusty's original composition 'Beautiful Encounter' - a melody that would be instantly recognisable to Ennio Morricone fans, as it's taken from his haunting 'Cinema Paradiso'. The pair sang it as a duet with Thapa leaning quite far from his mic as to not to overpower the room with his gutsy tenor which blended surprisingly well with Lusty's smooth soprano.

Ben ThapaThapa then took the stage as a soloist and sang two standards - 'Ave Maria' (Bach and Gounod) and the Neapolitan song 'O Sole Mio'. It's apparent how far Thapa has come since his time with G4. Or maybe he was always this good, but never had the chance to show it with three other talents sharing the same spot light. Either way, Ben Thapa has become the real deal. His set list remained predictable and unadventurous throughout the evening ('Panis Angelicus', 'You Raise Me Up' and 'You'll Never Walk Alone'), but he performed with immense power and ear bursting volume, but he just as easily sang with gentleness and subtlety. He was technically flawless, but he had a higher air about him that doesn't suit crossover artists, less accessible perhaps, and he lacked any chemistry with his partner, who was trying so hard to glean something from him. Lusty knew the set better than Thapa, so a score book aided him a lot of the time, but imagine, if you can, Phantom of the Opera's Raoul singing 'All I Ask of You' from a score, and spending any quality time away from it to look at the audience rather than his dear Christine who had eyes only for him. It was off-putting, to say the least.

The concert's guitarist, Jake Gill also took to the stage as a soloist and announced himself (accurately) as the "light relief" of the evening. If not tripping over things and breaking music stands (which was done with so much charm one wonders if it was planned) he was wearing pink flowers in his hair and cracking jokes at his own expense. But he captured the stage for two jazzy numbers, including 'A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square', revealing a voice that far surpasses his talents as a guitarist. With his stage presence and likeability, Gill should perhaps headline his own act. After receiving his well earned applause, Lusty was welcomed back onto the stage.

Phillippa LustyHer first solo piece was the Antonin Dvořák favourite, 'Song to the Moon' sung in its original Czech language and was followed up with Caccini's 'Ave Maria'. Whilst standards offer nothing new, they were a welcome addition for Lusty, who is usually known only by her original pop/crossover material that does not make much use of her operatic vocal. These two songs allowed her to demonstrate just how versatile (and powerful) her voice can be. Her pitch perfect vocal never falters; it seems effortless for her, there's not even a hint of strain showing on her face. She moves elegantly; well poised, open and sincere. In short Phillippa Lusty oozes star quality. Many artists can only dream of performing with the professionalism that Lusty so easily and naturally possesses. Many more of those artists have not a shred of song-writing talent that Lusty has in buckets. Other than the first two standards, the rest of her set consisted of her own songs and arrangements. The highlight was her touching and intimate 'Please Stay', accompanied by Gill on the guitar where she was able to convey her vulnerability and emotional delivery. Lusty also performed two of her Myspace favourites 'Guiding Light' (which came fourth in a national song-writing competition and received significant airplay) and 'Vanishing', alongside a new song 'Stranger on the Shore'.

The pair finished their set with 'Time To Say Goodbye' but the audience gave a standing ovation and demanded an encore, so they repeated their performance of 'All I Ask of You'. Their voices complement each other well, but as far as image and charisma is concerned, the two are quite contrasting. Thapa should be performing in operas, whilst Lusty should find a partner that can match her more accessible passion; but the night is well worth repeating. It revealed, more than anything else, that if you haven't heard of Phillippa Lusty yet, you sure are going to.

You can catch the duo performing another concert together on 28th July, 2010, in Truro, Cornwall, UK.

Visit Phillippa Lusty's Myspace
Visit Ben Thapa's website

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