Melbourne Composers’ League concerts

This weekend we will make our Victorian debut in two concerts for the Melbourne Composers’ League. Guest flutist Lisa Breckenridge will join our core musicians Ian Sykes (clarinet) and Clare Kahn (cello) to perform works written by members of MCL.

Concert 1 – Saturday 9th November, 7.30pm

Church of All Nations, 180 Palmerston St, Carlton

Concert 2 – Sunday 10th November, 2.30pm

St Oswald’s Church, 100 High St, Glen Iris

The program will be:

Eve Duncan Aer Turas for flute, clarinet and cello

Brendan Black Uncommon Trio No.1 for flute, clarinet and cello (premiere)

Livia Judge a Granados for solo flute

Houston Dunleavy Concord Duet for flute and clarinet (premiere)

Alan Holley ‘the birds will sing them off’ for solo clarinet

Margery Smith Poppy Re-Imagined for clarinet and cello

Maria Christine Muyco Alalang Kundiman for flute, clarinet and cello (premiere)

Joseph Giovinazzo A Box of Events for flute, clarinet and cello (premiere)

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Composer Portrait

Our upcoming Composer Portrait concert will feature the music of Corrina Bonshek and Margery Smith. The program will include a world premiere and two Australian premiere performances. We spoke to Margery recently about her work and inspiration for the pieces we are to perform.

Margery Smith. Photo: artist supplied

Sirius: Sirius will be performing the Australian premiere of The Long Now. Tell us about how this piece was conceived and first performed.

Margery: The Long Now was written whilst taking part in the program Composing in the Wilderness, jointly run by Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival, the National Park Service and Alaska Geographic. The Long Now
is the result of this experience and was first performed on July 22nd, 2019
at the Denali National Park Visitors Centre, Alaska. The nine composers who took part in this program wrote music inspired by some aspect of their experience in Denali National Park. For my own contribution, the braided rivers that we saw from a high pass below as patterns, or simply watching from the riverbed inspired me. Listening to the rushing, gurgling and bubbles – the fresh vapour clearing my head. Perhaps listening to these rivers and the stories past and present that they tell will help us to understand that everything in the world is connected in some way. 

S: Both Poppy and Inferno reference visual art. Tell us about the art which inspired your music.

M: Both Poppy and Inferno were originally inspired by the artwork of my brother Pete Smith. Poppy is inspired by Pete’s graffiti style poppy images. Poppy was an early work in Pete’s journey as an artist; the lines are bold, stylistic yet with a softer quality. This makes a great start for a musical work…simple but strong lines suggest shapes in sound.

Inferno was inspired by a selection of Pete’s series on Dante’s Inferno. Pete’s Inferno series are much later paintings, however Pete’s bold style shines through, and was a wonderful start to my own imagination. 

S: How does your compositional process usually begin? 

M: The first part of any new project for me is searching for an angle to act as a springboard for inspiration. I will churn through many ideas before the central argument for the work becomes clear, and sometimes I don’t figure out what the work is doing until I am a fair way through the process. At other times it seems that hours are spent without much to show for the effort, and then as if by magic, a whole lot of ideas will crystallize onto a score very quickly and looking back, I think ‘Where did all that come from?’ A creative process is fascinating to step back and observe, so much happens behind the scenes in ones mind – relationships happen between your ideas that you are not consciously aware of.

There is the big idea behind the music, but so much realizing this is problem solving. The old saying of ‘sleeping on a problem’ often suggests solutions, but often these will come ‪at 3am! Questions like ‘what is that sound I can hear in my head?’ ‘How can I represent my ideas so the musicians can understand what I am asking of them?’ A musical score is a blueprint for action in sound, yet so much is open for interpretation and this is where the magic really happens for me. My music invites the performer to participate in my creative process, often I loosen the parameters so that performers interact and can add something of them selves to the score with elements of improvisation.

S: Who are some other composers or musicians who inspire you?

M: These are many! I love composers like Ligeti, John Adams but I also admire artists Björk and Laurie Anderson. I enjoy exploring the work of artists who embrace a broad context of what it means to be a musician. There is much to explore, I just keep an open mind. A highlight of my recent trip to Alaska was seeing/listening to John Luther Adams’ work ‘The Place where you go to listen’ literally hearing the landscape sounding, real-time seismic and weather events controlling the music. So, I’ve been reading a lot of Luther Adams writings, listening, trying to figure how he controls the massive soundscapes that he creates. 

S: What other projects are you currently working on?

M: At the moment I’m planning a multi-work project based around Southwestern Victoria, the new landscape where I am currently living. Themes will be based around environment, water, pre-colonial history and contemporary influences. Music is so abstract; it embodies emotions, a sense of place…

S: What is the most unusual place your music has been performed?

M: One of the most interesting places a work of mine was performed was in an empty grain silo-the acoustic was truly amazing!

Margery Smith is a composer-performer and creative music workshop facilitator with a special interest in collaborative work. She is a curious musician who explores new music and improvisation with works that cross boundaries through producing her own projects. Smith loves to work with students of all ages and abilities, and has performed throughout the world on both clarinet and saxophone. She has held Principal positions with Australia’s leading orchestras and chamber music ensembles. 

Concert details: Annandale Creative Arts Centre
81 Johnston St, Annandale on Sunday 20 October, 2.00 pm. Tickets via trybooking.com

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Composer Portrait

Our next concert will feature the music of Margery Smith and Corrina Bonshek. The program will include a world premiere and two Australian premiere performances. We spoke to Corrina recently about her work and inspiration for the pieces we are to perform.

Corrina Bonshek. Photo: Lamp Photography

Sirius: Sirius will be performing the Australian premiere of Up in the Clouds. Tell us about how this piece was conceived and first performed.

Corrina: There’s quite a long backstory about this piece as it’s actually based in a work I wrote called Desert Time for solo Pipa or Chinese Lute! In 2015, I was a composer-in-residence at the Experimental Thai Music Laboratory at Burapha University of the Arts in Thailand where I met an amazing Pipa performer called Jasmine Chen. After seeing her perform, I asked if I could write a piece for her, even though I had never written for that instrument. Up in the Clouds reworks many of the musical ideas and sound colours of that piece, but on western instruments. I was inspired to do this after seeing how Dr Koji Nakano, director of Experimental Thai Music Laboratory, has done this with many of his works and has sought ways to bring sound colours and gestures traditional instruments into western contemporary music. The opportunity came for me to do this, when from my friend Rachel Walker (a fellow composer who writes for western and Chinese instruments) invited me to write for All of the Above, a sextet based in Cincinatti USA with [Schoenberg’s] Pierrot Lunaireinstrumentation; flute, clarinet, violin, cello, percussion, and piano. 

S: You have written Lotus Flower Blossoming for Sirius with the voice of soprano Taryn Srhoj in mind. How did you come to be inspired to write for Taryn and Sirius?

C: I heard Taryn perform at a 2016 Sirius Chamber Ensemble concert themed around birdsong and was impressed by the way she embodied the emotions of the song, particularly one that told of sadness postwar and release via nature. I thought, wouldn’t it be amazing to write some powerful music for Taryn. Strangely life & art has taken us on a different direction, and instead I have written a really joyous work for Taryn and Sirius about spiritual awakening.

S: How does your compositional process usually begin? 

C: It begins with a seed / musical idea and a context to grow it. I ideally write with particular performers and a length of time in mind. Then I weave ideas out of the seed to fit the performers and the timeframe. I like to work closely with the performers or know their musical habits and tastes well. This means I can do fun things to invite them further into the work via graphic notation or improvisation. I quite like mixing up scoring styles and lately have been moving between standard notation and graphic, plus electroacoustic layers/processing.

S: What other projects are you currently working on?

C: Right now, I am getting ready for a residency at HOTA Home of the Arts Gold Coast with Jasmine Chen, Michael Askill, Anna Whitaker and Daniel Belton of Good Company Arts as part of inaugural HOTA Creative Development program, a partnership between HOTA and the City of Gold Coast. Our team is making a 40-minute performance inspired by connection of humans to the stars and recent digital mapping of our galaxy, which is one of a vast supercluster of galaxies. I am enjoying the compositional challenge of suggesting the vastness of time and space with two instrumentalists and a lot of electroacoustic processing, spatialisation and effects. 

S: What is the most unusual place your music has been performed?

C: One of my favourite ‘unusual’ places was the opening of Sydney Labyrinth at Centennial Park Sydney. I wrote music for string quartet and birdsong that you can stream while you are walking the labyrinth. The opening was really special as I got to see elders from 11 different faith traditions blessing the labyrinth path whilst walking and listening to my music. It was quite an experience! 

Concert details: Annandale Creative Arts Centre
81 Johnston St, Annandale on Sunday 20 October, 2.00 pm. Tickets via trybooking.com

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A note from the composer…

We are pleased to collaborate with Hammerings Records and Alan Holley again for tomorrow’s recital. Alan has, as always, led us to discover some wonderful new music which we can’t wait to share with our audience. Here are some thoughts from Alan about the music we will be performing tomorrow.

Starting points in an art work

When assisting Sirius Chamber Ensemble with the programming for Saturday’s concert I realised that Pa Titull, which translates as ‘No Title’, the flute and piano work by the Albanian composer Enis Mullaj, was a reaction to a loss in his immediate family. It is a work full of drama, with some moments of raw emotion and also contains moments of intense beauty.

My own Umbra, from 2001, was written as a ‘memory piece’, a musical contemplation fifteen years after the death of my father. It is not sad in approach but rather inward looking. Umbra has as one of its meanings a shadow or darkness. I liked the idea of having two works in the same concert that started from a similar idea – an experience of loss.

What I did not know was the clarinet solo by the young Albanian composer Kris Sopiqoti, AlbPhonia 1 touches similar ground. Kris writes about the influences of his work, ‘In our culture Kaba is a musical form where the folk clarinettist plays a solo improvisation and expresses his deeper emotions imitating a human lamentation for the dead. Kaba was used as a way of crying with no words at all, during ceremonies for the dead.’ 

And yet these three works, from different spaces, all travel their own musical paths and without tapping extreme musical emotions.

Alan Holley

Christ Church

Lavender and Walker Streets,

Lavender Bay

August 3 at 5pm

Tickets $30 and $20 concession

Tickets on sale at the door

Program
Alan Holley – Piano Sonata
Francis Poulenc – Sonata for clarinet and bassoon
Kris SopiqotiAlbPhonia for solo clarinet
Enis Mullaj“Pa Titull…” for flute and piano
Eve Duncan From A Star Afar for solo piano
JS Bach – Prelude and Fugue in B flat minor
Paul SmithClow Card Variations for flute, clarinet and bassoon
Alan Holley Umbra for clarinet and piano

Guest Performer:
Danaë Killian (piano)

Sirius Chamber Ensemble

Melissa Coleman (flute)
Ian Sykes (clarinet)
Alison Evans (bassoon)
Claire Howard Race (piano)

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An Interview with Alan Holley

Apologies to our readers – there is a correction to the start time for the upcoming concert on Saturday 3 August, which will commence at 5.00 p.m. and not 6.00 p.m. as previously advertised.

Sirius Chamber Ensemble and Hammerings Records are pleased to present a co-production with guest artist Danae Killian, featuring music of Alan Holley, Enis Mullaj and Kris Sopiqoti. We asked Alan a few questions about the project.

Sirius – Tell us about the two pieces Sirius Chamber Ensemble and pianist, Danae Killian, will perform in August, the Piano Sonata and Umbra.

AH – I wrote the Piano Sonata (2001) for the Italian pianist Michele Bolla when he toured here that year. In four movements, I approached the work in a classical way using old-fashioned forms and a conventional approach to movement speeds; fast – slow – quirky – fast.

Umbra was written as a ‘memory piece’, a musical contemplation fifteen years after the death of my father. It is not sad in approach but rather inward looking. Umbra has as one of its meanings, a shadow or darkness. It is also from 2001 and it will be intriguing to hear two works from the same year in concert 18 years later.

Sirius – Your music has become increasingly performed in Europe. What are some of the highlights of your 2019 European performances?

AH – Throughout July the Australian Chamber Choir performed my composition Time Passages to a text by Mark Tredinnick in Denmark, Germany and England. There are also performances in Victoria and also soon in Sydney. The conductor Douglas Lawrence and the choir were magnificent and hearing my music in the beautiful Trinitatis Cathedral in Copenhagen is a memory I will long cherish. Built in the mid 1600s it has an acoustic that made my ‘dots’ become something akin to magic.

Sirius – Sirius will perform Australian premieres of music by Kris Sopiqoti and Enis Mullaj. Tell us about your relationship with these two composers.

alan&enis

Enis Mullaj (left) with Alan Holley (right).

AH – I met Enis in Albania in 2016 and I have been able to organise a couple of performances of his enchanting and dramatic music in Sydney. When an invitation came to have a concert of my music in Albania in June this year, including my Borneo Songs for singer and wind quintet, I was pleased that Enis was also on the program. The work was Pa Titull, which translates as ‘no title’, for flute and piano and is the same work that Sirius will perform on August 3.

alan&kris

Kris Sopiqoti (left) with Alan Holley (right).

I only met Kris this trip but I already knew of his music. The music coming out of Tirana now reminds me of the exciting times we had in Sydney in the 1970s when young composers were realising that they are part of a bigger world and the music of here then and now in Tirana is full of vision and boldness. His solo clarinet work is both virtuosic and lyrical.

Saturday 3 August, 5.00 p.m.

Christ Church Lavender Bay, 10 Walker St, Lavender Bay, Sydney.

Sirius musicians: Ian Sykes (clarinet), Melissa Coleman (flute), Alison Evans (bassoon) and Claire Howard Race (piano).

Tickets: $30 Adult; $20 Concession via trybooking or at the door.

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Upcoming collaborations 2019

Sirius Chamber Ensemble have ongoing collaborations in 2019 with performances in Grafton, Sydney and Melbourne. As we are always committed to performing new chamber music, our upcoming concert programs will feature premiere performances of works by Australian and Albanian composers. For our Composer Portrait concert, Sirius will perform works by Corrina Bonshek and Margery Smith. Later in the year, we will perform new works composed by members of the Melbourne Composers’ League.

 

As part of the 2019 Clarence Valley Chamber Music Festival, Sirius will perform a concert for piano and winds at the Clarence Valley Conservatorium, Grafton on Sunday 30 June, 1.00 p.m. Programme includes Quintet for piano and winds K.452 by Mozart, the Sextet for piano and winds by Poulenc and an Australian premiere of Rock of Reconciliation for flute, oboe, clarinet and piano by US based, Australian composer Kristofer Spike.

 

Sirius Chamber Ensemble will present a joint performance with Melbourne pianist Danaë Killian at Christ Church Lavender Bay on Saturday 3 August, 6.00 p.m. Programme includes works by Australian composers Alan Holley, Eve Duncan and Paul Smith as well as Albanian composers Enis Mullaj and Kris Sopiqoti. Danaë Killian is an Australian pianist whose poetry-infused performances have found regard internationally for their intense originality and rare communicative power. Her broad repertoire includes works from J.S Bach, music of the Second Viennese Schoolas well as a wealth of Australian contemporary compositions.

 

Our Composer Portrait concert will feature two Australian composers Corrina Bonshek and Margery Smith. The programme will include the Australian premiere of Up In The Clouds for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano and vibraphone by Corrina Bonshek as well as a new arrangement of Inferno for solo clarinet, flute, bassoon, violin, cello, piano and vibraphone by Margery Smith. Details about concert date and venue will be published soon.

 

For a performance later in the year, Sirius Chamber Ensemble will collaborate with members from the Melbourne Composers’ League. The Melbourne Composers’ League is a non‐profit organization who promote indigenous and contemporary art music of Australia and the Asia‐Pacific. Sirius are honoured to be selecting new compositions for a performance on 9 November. Programme details will be published later in the year.

 

2019 Programme details:

 

Sirius Chamber Ensemble: Music for Wind Quintet and Piano

Clarence Valley Conservatorium, Grafton on Sunday 30 June, 1.00 p.m.

Performers: Melissa Coleman (flute), Alex Fontaine (oboe), Ian Sykes (clarinet), Tony Grimm (bassoon), Hannah Murray (french horn) and Benjamin Burton (piano).

Performance and ticket details see 2019 Clarence Valley Chamber Music Festival

 

Sirius Chamber Ensemble and Danaë Killian

Sirius musicians: Ian Sykes (clarinet), Melissa Coleman (flute), Alison Evans (bassoon) and Claire Howard Race (piano).

Christ Church Lavender Bay, 10 Walker St, Lavender Bay on Saturday 3 August, 6.00 p.m.

Tickets: $30 Adult; $20 Concession via trybooking or at the door.

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Spike Mason and Sirius Chamber Ensemble perform ‘FLYING’

We’re so excited to be performing with Spike Mason for the launch of his new CD, ‘FLYING’ next Friday night. This is Spike’s 8th album in his “10 albums in 10 years” project. FLYING is a large-scale original composition which combines the broad sound palette of a classical ensemble with free melodic improvisation. Check out this sneak preview.

And here’s a few more details about the event and venue.

  • Spike Mason and Sirius Chamber Ensemble will perform all of the music from the album.
  • Ensemble musicians: Ian Sykes (clarinet), Melissa Coleman (flute), Alex Fontaine (oboe), Alison Evans (bassoon), Gareth Lewis (trombone), Vanessa Tammetta (violin), Luke Spicer (viola), Steve Meyer (cello) and Benjamin Burton (piano).
  • The Tasmanian writer Di Adams will read her poem FLYING that inspired the music on this album, and
  • There will be a Q and A with Spike about the music he composed for the album.

When: Friday 2nd November 2018, 8.00 pm

Where: The Coote Theatre, The Scots College. Opposite 30 Victoria Rd, Bellevue Hill, Sydney.

Tickets: $30 (cash at the door) with each entry you also receive the ‘FLYING’ album artwork flyer, the ‘FLYING’ poem and a download code for an MP3 copy of the album.

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St Stephen’s Lunchtime Concert

Members of Sirius Chamber Ensemble will be performing a free lunchtime recital at St Stephen’s Uniting Church next Friday 12 October. A selection of works on this program will be performed as part of The Elements recital on Sunday 21 October 2018, 2:00 pm at Annandale Creative Arts Centre, 81 Johnston St, Annandale.

Performers: Melissa Coleman (flute), Ian Sykes (clarinet) and Clare Kahn (cello)

Program:

  • Nigel Butterley (1935 – ) The Wind Stirs Gently for flute and cello
  • Andrew Schultz (1960 – ) From Fire Country for solo bass clarinet
  • Gordon Kerry (1961 – ) Silver-point for solo flute
  • WA Mozart (1756 – 1791) Duets for clarinet and cello, KV 487 (arr. De Bleser)
  • Eve Duncan (1956 – ) Aer Turas for flute, clarinet and cello

When: Friday 12 October, 1.10 pm – 1.50 pm
Where: 197 Macquarie Street, Sydney. Admission is free – donations are kindly appreciated

 

Can’t make it Friday lunchtime, then come along to The Elements recital to hear an all-Australian program of music inspired by the four Western elements of nature – earth, air, fire and water. Music will be accompanied by stunning images by Slovakian-born photographer Henrich Varga.

When: Sunday 21 October 2018, 2:00 pm

Where: Annandale Creative Arts Centre, 81 Johnston St, Annandale.

Tickets: $20 Adults, $15 Concession, $10 Children – Available at www.trybooking.com or at the door.

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The Elements

Since ancient times, the four elements of nature – earth, air, fire and water – have inspired creative expressions by philosophers, poets, artists and musicians. Sirius Chamber Ensemble presents an all-Australian program of music inspired by these Western elements of culture, accompanied by stunning images by Slovakian-born photographer Henrich Varga. The selection of compositions and photographs reflect the impressions that these four elements – seen throughout the unique Australian landscape – has influenced Australian contemporary composers and their music making.

Graeme Koehne. Time is a River (2010) for clarinet and string quartet is a moving tribute to his mother. The clarinet represents a persona drifting down a swirling, free-flowing river depicted by the four voices from the string quartet.

Andrew Schultz. In From Fire Country (2003) a solo bass clarinet evokes the desolate landscape after destruction from fire.

Eve Duncan. Aer Turas (Air Journey) (2018) for flute, clarinet and cello depicts how the distinctive quality of air in varying landscapes across three continents can have a fresh, uplifting experience of being in nature.

Chris Wright. String Quartet (Premiere) will utilise the four instruments of the string quartet to depict all four elements.

Nigel Butterley. The Wind Stirs Gently (1992), inspired by a poem by Kathleen Raine, is a free rhapsodic conversation between flute and cello.

Gordon Kerry. Silver-Point (2000) for solo flute refers to the use of a silver wire to create a pencil-like drawing, and reminds us of the ways the earth – and the other elements essential to life – can be adapted to form art.

Musicians: Melissa Coleman (flute), Ian Sykes (clarinets), Clare Kahn (cello), Vanessa Tammetta, Dominique Guerbois (violins), Lucy Carrigy-Ryan (viola).

 

When: Sunday 21 October 2018, 2:00 pm

Where: Annandale Creative Arts Centre, 81 Johnston St, Annandale.

Tickets: $20 Adults, $15 Concession, $10 Children – Available at www.trybooking.com or at the door.

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Spike Mason ‘Flying’ CD Launch

Halfway through last year it was our absolute pleasure to collaborate with jazz musician (saxophones) and composer Spike Mason on his CD project, ‘FLYING’. We are really excited to share that we are launching the CD on Friday 2nd November, 8.00 pm at The Coote Theatre, Scots College, Bellevue Hill.

‘Flying’ was inspired by a poem, written by the Tasmanian poet Di Adams, about someone waking up and realising that they can FLY! Originally from Sydney, now based in Tasmania, Spike composed this work while flying back and forth to work each week in Sydney. The composition is a sublime combination of composed music for chamber ensemble with interweaving improvised melodies played by Spike. Each movement portrays the changing landscape that one might see from flying high above. A talented and respected jazz musician in his own right, it was a first for Spike to write music down for a “classical” chamber ensemble. But what he has been able to achieve is a work of beauty with layers of sound and ethereal harmonies.

Spike was fortunate to receive a grant from Arts Tasmania to fund the recording project. But we need some help to cover the production costs. You can support Spike through his crowdfunding page at Pozible. You can hear more from Spike about his inspiration for this project, on his CrowdFunding Video below.

We really hope that you might be able to support Spike in recognition of local creative artists collaborating on a truly amazing work. There are lots of different pledge options available, including MP3 copies of ‘FLYING’ and tickets to attend the launch of the CD to hear this wonderful project live.

We also thank our amazing musicians that play with us. Ensemble musicians involved in this recording include Ian Sykes (clarinet), Melissa Coleman (flute), Alex Fontaine (oboe), Alison Evans (bassoon), Gareth Lewis (trombone), Vanessa Tammetta (violin), Luke Spicer (viola), Steve Meyer (cello) and Claire Howard Race (piano).

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