For years I have seen the Candlelight experiences advertised but had never attended. So, when I was given the opportunity to pick an experience from the 2024 program presented by Fever, I was excited!
For those that do not know what a Candlelight Concert is, it is a classical style tribute to popular music including Queen, ABBA, Adele, Coldplay and even film composers such as Hans Zimmer and Joe Hisaishi. There are even classical performances with the music from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. Each performance is hosted in a beautiful venue lit by Candlelight. And whilst these all sounded amazing, it was the Ed Sheeran experience that I had no hesitation in choosing and attending at Collingwood Town Hall on Thursday the 8th of February in Melbourne.
Having been an Ed Sheeran fan since prior to the release of his debut album, I was excited to see how a string quartet would tackle Ed’s unique music style and replicate his loop-pedal skills with classical instruments. Well, to say I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement.
Performed by Eclective Strings with Eunice on Viola, Nils and Dan on Cello and Robyn on Violin, the quartet were set up on the Collingwood Town Hall stage, surrounded by candles. Well, not real fire lit candles, but battery-operated digital candles that are just as good as the real thing.
The evenings performance was segmented into multiple sections, each comprising of three songs with each section introduced by Dan and Eunice. The opening segment of the evening’s performance, introduced by Dan, covered Ed’s debut album ‘+’, an album that was released over a decade ago in 2011 consisting of songs ‘A Team’, ‘Lego House’ and ‘You Need Me, I Don’t Need You’. From the moment the quartet played the first bar of the concert, I was in awe and had it me singing along in my head.
The remainder of the evening’s set consisted of ‘I See Fire’ from The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug film soundtrack, ‘Thinking Out Loud’ and ‘Photograph’ from Ed’s album ‘X (pronounced as ‘Multiply’)’, ‘Castle on the Hill’, ‘Supermarket Flowers’, ‘Happier’, ‘Perfect’, ‘Galway Girl’ and ‘Nancy Mulligan’ from the album ‘÷ (pronounced ‘Divide’)’, ‘Joker and the Queen’, ‘Bad Habits’, and ‘Shivers’ from ‘= (pronounced ‘Equals’)’.
With arrangements by Eunice on the Viola, I was amazed by how the quartet interpreted Ed Sheeran’s music and style, an artist that has such a wide variety of songs ranging from slow, emotional and love songs like ‘A Team’ and ‘Thinking Out Loud’, to the harder more upbeat tracks such as ‘Shivers’ and ‘Bad Habits’. Eclective Strings performed these songs so perfectly, right down to the percussion sounds by tapping the strings and slapping the bodies of their classical instruments. I was blown away by their performance of ‘You Need Me, I Don’t Need You’, as not only is it my favourite song of Ed’s but the string quarter performance and arrangement of the iconic tune was unique and impressive.
Other callouts of the evening would have to be the hauntingly beautiful rendition of ‘I See Fire’, a track that was made for the strings, so much so that Ed learnt the violin for the recording of this song. Also, a perfect choice with the quartet surrounded by the flickering flames of the Candlelight Concert candles. Two other Ed Sheeran numbers that seemed to be made for the strings would be ‘Nancy Mulligan’ and ‘Galway Girl’ due to their traditional Irish folk song style. Another favourite song of Ed Sheeran’s extensive discography is ‘Photograph’, a song that sounded exquisite when performed by Eclective Strings.
You may be asking yourself; ‘How can a string quartet cover a singer-songwriter without a vocalist?’ Well, there is no need for one when the strings themselves become the vocals. Each song demands a different vocal tone, and the quartet covers this wonderfully by switching between the lower bellowing tones of the cello to the higher tones of the violin and viola, expertly following the the musical melody penned by Ed Sheeran. Not only is this musicality of this quartet impressive, but their knowledge of Ed Sheeran’s career is also just as good, with each section introduction containing little known facts behind each of the songs and how they impacted Ed’s growth as a genre defining musician.
It is safe to say that my first venture into the Candlelight experience will be a memorable one. I was grinning from ear to ear the entire time and the musicianship from the Eclective Strings quartet continuously amazed me. Anyone can perform a cover of a song, but to arrange it and make it their own, all whilst still maintaining the essence of the artist, is no easy feat. I still cannot get over the full use of their instruments, plucking, slapping, tapping, and playing in ways I never thought possible. Bravo, Eclective Strings.
Presented by Fever, the Candlelight Concerts are held all around the world and are in Melbourne at various venues including the Athenaeum Theatre, Collingwood Town Hall, Fitzroy Town Hall and even an experience held at the Melbourne Aquarium.
At certain performances, there are photo packages available where you get your photo taken amongst the candles, receiving a printed ‘polaroid’ of the image after the show. And whilst this is a musical performance and any seat in the house is good, being closer to the front is highly recommended as you can see the musicians perform in what feels like a sincere and intimate performance just for you. You can also film and take photos during the final segment of the show, so the closer the better. There is even a gift shop where you can take home your very own digital candle.
If you are keen to check out the Ed Sheeran experience, there is one more performance on the bill for the 2nd of March at the Athenaeum Theatre. However, there are a wide variety of Candlelight Concerts to choose from, and there is bound to be something for everyone.