REVIEW - Songs Unsung (Sole Sessions)

Updated: Aug 7, 2020

By Judith Greenaway -

Innovation is the name of the game for artists in isolation, with some spectacular examples of Aussie ingenuity.  Sole Sessions is quite a balm for the busy on-line soul as their first offering brings a calm and simple artistry.  Daniel Assetta is a home grown talent, seen on stages local and international, in West Side Story, The Book of Mormon and CATSSongs Unsung is a show that was, pre-COVID-19, scheduled to be performed in May.  It’s a chance for this musical theatre star to explore music that doesn’t fit the mold.

Songs, we are told, that are ‘the tunes he’s hummed along to backstage night after night and belted out in the shower for no one to hear.’  As the YouTube screening opens, we know those chords.  Don’t Rain on my Parade from Assetta is bright and heartfelt and as the comments say … that’s how you start a show.

Seated on a stool but definitely not still, Assetta has a charming and evident love of immersing in the music.  Hand to heart – ‘look at me world, here I am’. The passion traveling powerfully from the small screen.  Discreetly created to make the best use of the viewing format, Songs Unsung has orchestrations which avoid accompaniment-only sections, so the voice is foregrounded.  The electric piano from Nicholas Griffin is very well done but not showy and there is an easy relationship between the musician and the singer of hand-chosen songs. 

It’s the voice that we have tuned in for and the aCapella opening of his second offering A Place for Us is rich and smooth.  The set might showcase those fine upper notes but there is no lack of depth as Assetta bottoms out for Unlimited.  He has a Wicked belter’s instinct but can bring a phrase like ‘Am I losing my mind?’ from Follies, down to a whisper.  A whisper picked up very well by the terrific audio set-up.  The lighting, too, is carefully in tune with the challenges of the small screen.  As the lights pull Assetta from the dark blue background, the rig brings enough variety that the 2 camera set-up brings a welcome intimacy and clarity of viewing. The ever so subtle lighting states, including soft gobo rotations on the background, are pitched perfectly to the tempo and emotion of each song. (Peter Rubie)

And his chats in between.  It’s a genuine exchange with the audience as he speaks in between songs, not too much, though, but the sharing seems slightly more personal in this format than on a real stage.  It’s probably the opportunity to comment in real time as the chat sidepanel is used for both applause and quiet reflection … for tears and standing ovations.  It’s a warm experience and may be why emojis were invented, in my opinion.  From a 10 year old struck by  the electricity of a Lion King elephant puppet to the nerdy adolescent with Broadway cast recordings on repeat, Assetta shares a little of how he came here and why these particular choices.  Without mucking around with favourites like The Little Mermaid, Assetta’s selections are unusual, thoroughly enjoyable and, yes, shower worthy. 

Meeting with the star of the show on Zoom later is also great fun with a glass of wine and comments like ‘my Nan was in tears’ really give that human connection with artists that we are craving.

Well done to Sole Sessions which aims to ease the feeling of isolation by bringing Australian live entertainment into homes across the country and around the world; performances recorded in isolation during the global Coronavirus pandemic.  Tickets can be purchased by donation with no minimum amount set. Every little bit helps and people are asked to donate as much or as little as they can, and all money raised goes directly to the artists.

I’m excited to see what’s up next.