Arts Ambassador Jennifer Banful reflects on her encounter at concert hall Turner Sims with the work of musician and performer Olivia Chaney, in celebration of International Women’s Day.
Before this week, I had never heard of the singer-songwriter and pianist, Olivia Chaney. On top of this, last night was the second time I had set foot in Turner Sims, ever, despite walking past the venue a million times on my way to Avenue Campus. However, after that evening, I’m convinced it’s one of Highfield Campus’ best-kept secrets. It’s tucked away in a literal sense too, which is interesting because the venue seems to be frequented by lots of members of the public as opposed to students. Waiting in the foyer gave me a real sense of this disconnect, but I was curious as to why this is. The concert hall itself is a decent size and presents a programme of performances that fall under the genre of Folk, Jazz, Global and Classical music. To the majority of students, this has little or no appeal against karaoke at the student union’s pub Stags. I want to immediately retract the above statement and I’m hoping that in reading this, you’ll agree as to why.
The live concert was a great way to celebrate my first time celebrating International Women’s Day with the accompaniment of a great setlist. Olivia’s vocals are so incredibly rich and captivating the second you hear them, so much so, that you are compelled to listen attentively. Each song was full of emotion that it was bewildering at times (in a good way) and accompanied by the incredible acoustics of the concert hall made for an unparalleled listening experience. That’s the beauty of a live performance – the momentary aspect encourages you to take it all in and enjoy.
During the performance, Olivia paid homage to some of her favourite influential female artists, one of which was Roberta Flack. Olivia performed Flack’s ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ – a rendition of a rendition. Her version was accompanied by a Harmonium and a Violin, a combination I had never heard before. It was utterly beautiful and produced such an organic sound. I particularly liked the fusion between folk influences and soulful melodies as this was a refreshing twist. The setlist was eclectic and largely reflected Olivia’s vast musical talents.
I also loved Olivia’s warm and friendly stage presence and was lucky to talk with her in person after the show. Getting to know the musician behind the music was another new and exciting experience for me. Olivia explained that she inherited a lot of musical influences from her father and shared a bit about her experience of gigging in the US. From the sounds of it, it’s not all glitter and gold!
One thing I wasn’t expecting was the use of a soundscape of a train crossing which tied into the narrative style of Olivia’s songs. The emotional content of her lyrics is coupled with multiple different characters that trace the human experience. I would say my favourite song from the night was ‘Arches’.
Overall, I would say my experience of Turner Sims was lovely, and a great way to escape momentarily from all the pressures of University life. Doing something out of the ordinary is often enjoyable and it’s how we discover new sounds. Most of all, it is through this exposure to various kinds of art and artist that we are able to formulate our own tastes. Also, what’s really great about Turner Sims is that they offer discounted tickets to students so grab a friend and treat yo’ self!
Head over to Turner Sims’ website to see what’s coming up in their Spring Season.
Jennifer Banful is an Arts Ambassador and BA English Student at University of Southampton.
Arts Ambassadors is a paid opportunity, supported by the Careers and Employability Service’s Excel Southampton Internship programme, University of Southampton.