Read why Sarah and Michael, and the Afternoon of jazz and wine tasting will be extra special
Spending an afternoon with Sarah Hirst and Michael Brown is a rare opportunity to experience music infused with romance, elegance and passion.
At our Afternoon of jazz and wine tasting next Sunday Sarah and Michael will be playing a well-picked selection of songs written and performed by LGBTIQA+ artists from the early 20th Century, such as Billie Holiday, Cole Porter and Bessie Smith. They will balance these great tunes with a spare selection of songs by some of our great contemporary LGBTIQA+ artists such as Elton John, Rufus Wainwright and LP.
A queer-identifying performer herself, Sarah’s readings of these tunes are timeless because she respects and understands the composer’s intent. There are singers around with more flash but very few with such commitment to the melody. She is accompanied by Brownie, a gifted guitarist who effortlessly infuses their timeless repertoire with a fresh and colourful sound.
Read our interview with Sarah below to find out more and get excited – because this is going to be a fabulous event!
How long have you played together for?
We performed together regularly between 2005 and 2010 and have only recently begun playing together again.
How did you two meet and decide to play together?
We met many years before we actually formed a duo. In our early 20s both of our partners at the time lived together in a share house and that is how we met. At the time, Brownie was busy being a rock star, and I was busy completing my music degree in Melbourne. I remember the first time I met Brownie and being struck by what a lovely man he was. Years later, I moved to Ballarat. I had been performing in Melbourne with an acapella group but it became difficult to maintain the group long-distance, so I was looking for a new project. I contacted Brownie and thankfully, he was up for it.
What inspires you to perform?
Singing for an audience is thrilling. There is something about having others listening, that enables me to really push into the emotions of a song and this is really gratifying.
What inspired your idea of covering queer artists for this gig?
Jazz is not a genre of music that tends to be associated with LGBTIQ+ culture. However, there have been some hugely influential players in jazz who were queer. I’m a huge Billie Holiday fan and I’ve been heavily influenced by her vocal stylings. I cover a lot of songs that Billie sang and, knowing that she was bisexual, it was then natural for me to consider the inclusion of other LGBTIQ+ composers and performers in the set. My focus is on the jazz music from the first half of the 20th Century and when I discovered that Cole Porter was gay I knew that it was going to be easy to find plenty of material for the set. My research also uncovered Billy Tipton, a trans-man who was a jazz pianist and bandleader who performed many wonderful songs.
What can audiences expect at the gig?
Brownie and I will perform a selection of popular music from the early 20th Century, along with a selection of some more contemporary pop songs by artists such as Elton John, Rufus Wainwright, and LP. Talented pianist Akasha will be playing some beautiful tunes in between our sets.
Is there a particular song you’re most excited to play?
T’aint Nobody’s Bizness is a song that was first performed by blues singer Bessie Smith who, along with Ma Rainey, Gladys Bentley and others, was part of the queer subculture in 1920s Harlem that gave rise to drag ball culture. I have always loved expressing the sentiment of this song, and I have created some new lyrics for the modern era. So listen out!
What kind of people do you think will attend the gig?
I think this gig will appeal to members of the LGBTIQ+ community and allies who are towards the older end of the spectrum, along with anyone who enjoys beautiful, lyrical music.
If you could play a gig with any performer alive today, who would you choose?
Rather than any particular performer, I would really love to sing with Post Modern Jukebox. I love the way they reconstruct contemporary pop songs into vintage genres. It’s just really fun music!
10 words or less to describe your act:
Romantic, passionate and heartfelt, sometimes kitsch and cute, occasionally gut-wrenching.