Q&A Scene: Mama Alto


Tell us about your new show?

The Mama Alto Revue is a very special, one night only performance to help celebrate 20 years of Chapel Off Chapel, Stonnington’s premiere venue for the arts and one of Melbourne’s cultural treasures. For this evening of cabaret song and storytelling, my musical director Miss Chief and I have assembled a stunning set list revisiting the best moments from the last 4 years of Mama Alto performances, including highlights from our seasons at Melbourne Cabaret Festival, the Melbourne Fringe Festival, tributes to great divas, and more.

How would you describe your sound in food form and why?

Many people have described my sound in food form!  The lovely Jennifer Kingwell, a fellow performer, once declared Mama Alto to be “the voice of honey,” whilst one occasion an audience member exclaimed that “to experience Mama Alto sing was akin to bathing in a vat of warm liquid chocolate”! And I have been referred to as a “caramel goddess” from time to time, which I am sure has as much to do with my complexion as my sound…

Which song resonates most strongly and why?

It is certainly the case that all the songs I choose to perform and include in my repertoire resonate with me – that is why I choose them – but the one which touches me the most is probably the luscious jazz ballad “Summertime.” My favourite lyric – “one of these mornings, you will rise up singing” – expresses the bittersweet triumph after struggle, and to me, the song as a whole is a masterpiece which embodies the paradox of life: simultaneous heartache and joy, adversity and beauty, vulnerability and strength. It gives me chills.

Any on the road anecdotes?

A lady never tells!

Where do you draw inspiration from?

Inspiration for me comes from many sources, including from the incredible family and friends I am blessed with, and of course from great art and theatre… But dearest to my heart is the inspiration from the great jazz divas of the past, including Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae and Lena Horne, and the cabaret powerhouses of today, amongst them Moira Finucane, Meow Meow, Le Gateau Chocolat and Yana Alana… Ultimately though, the emotions and energy which feeds and inspires live performance is the audience itself!

What’s next for you?

Next, my musical director Miss Chief and I launch our 2015 performance season – nine incredible productions across some of Melbourne’s most exquisite venues and exciting festivals. We have sequins, we have glamour, we have jazz… We celebrate 100 years of Billie Holiday, we pay tribute to Sarah Vaughan, we reprise our past award winning shows and we unveil whole new works of cabaret decadence. Stay tuned to hear more…

What’s your scene?

Find me in a softly lit and ambient corner of quirky kitsch folk art at The Butterfly Club sipping a drink and chatting in whispers to close confidantes after taking in a cabaret or comedy show; seek me out at the Melbourne Fringe Club late at night during festival season partying with extraordinary artists; run into me in one of Melbourne’s fabulous laneways enjoying a well earned cup of tea with fabulous friends, browsing the eclectic shops of Chapel St before catching a show at Chapel Off Chapel, or dazzled at the Curve Bar after experiencing an exquisite musical epiphany at Melbourne Recital Centre…

About Mama Alto

Mama Alto is a countertenor diva, jazz singer and cabaret artiste. Drawing on the legacies of vintage torch singers and from her own identity as a queer person of colour, Mama Alto’s vocal and visual aesthetic – described by various critics as haunting, ethereal and intoxicating – transcend gender, disrupting and discomforting societal constructions of dichotomous boundaries. “Opening my mouth, singing with my voice, is an act of transgression against traditional gendered vocal roles, and indeed, of traditional expectations of gender constructed by society. The voice of Mama Alto – my voice – is a voice that defies gender, the (ascribed to be) female voice of the contralto or mezzo-soprano within the body of what is (ascribed to be) male.” Sexually and racially ambiguous, by embracing perceived difference Mama Alto reclaims the narrative of Othering, defies the normative and rejoices in the sublime. Mama Alto performs regularly at The Butterfly Club, and has previously performed at festivals including Melbourne Cabaret Festival (2013 & 2014), Melbourne Fringe Festival (2012 & 2014), Stonnington Jazz Festival (2014), Adelaide Fringe (2014), and Fringe World in Perth (2014), and at venues including Chapel off Chapel, the National Gallery of Victoria, Bendigo Art Gallery, RMIT Design Hub, MPavillion, Sofitel Melbourne on Collins, Piccadilly Cinema (Perth) and La Boheme (Adelaide). Mama Alto has worked in collaboration with Finucane & Smith; Phillip Adams BalletLab; visual artist Brook Andrew, composer Theodore Wohng and performer Justin Shoulder; director Warren Wills, playwright Neil Cole and Arts Events Australia; and the Monash Jazz Orchestra (MOJO) at the Monash Philharmonic Society.


Show info

The Mama Alto Revue
Wednesday 18th March, 8pm at Chapel Off Chapel
Part of the Chapel Off Chapel 20th Anniversary Celebrations
Bookings at www.chapeloffchapel.com.au



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