Meet the Composer – Eve Duncan

Our annual Meet the Composer concerts have become increasingly popular as an informal way to hear new music and to learn from the composers themselves about what influences their music. This year, Sirius Chamber Ensemble are delighted to have Melbourne-based composers, Eve Duncan and Dr Houston Dunleavy to discuss their work alongside performances of a selection of their compositions. In this post, we introduce Eve Duncan and her compositions selected for this programme.

ED Composer

Eve Duncan has won distinguished awards, including the International Music Prize for Excellence in Composition (Greece), Recital Music Double Bass Composition Competition (England) and the International Modern Music Award for Composition (Vienna). She received her Doctor of Creative Arts (Western Sydney University) with Bruce Crossman and Clare MacLean, Masters in Music (University of Melbourne) with Brenton Broadstock, and Honours in Music Composition (Latrobe University) with Anthony Briggs.

Sirius Chamber Ensemble previously premiered a new arrangement of Eve Duncan’s Madonna and Child with Goldfinch (2008) for soprano, flute, clarinet, violin and cello in 2015, as part of a programme of music by Sydney composer Alan Holley. Based on a poem by David Malouf, Madonna and Child with Goldfinch, and inspired by the Italian, Renaissance painting, portends an apocalyptic future, saturated with media melancholia and global warming. Words that reverberate still ten years on. The sublime soprano, Taryn Srhoj returns to Sirius for this performance.

Aer Turas (Air Journey) for flute, clarinet and cello depicts the distinctiveness of air experienced in different landscapes from Asia and America to Australia. For Eve, travelling gave her “distinctly uplifting experiences of air in mountains and deserts, that has remained as a fresh experience over time.” 

Composed in 1999, Little Botanicus for clarinet, cello and piano was written in celebration of the first-born daughter of cellist Penny Veldman. Of the work Eve describes it as, “a sketch of the emergence of a rose, through light and sound ether, condensing to warmth, then further condensing to warmth, air, water and solid matter.”

The Submerging City for cello and piano was written in 2007 following a typical Melbourne, summer heatwave and eventual cool change. Inspired by a painting of a city landscape submerged in water by Melbourne artist Jon Cattapan, Eve composed this musical reverie, “where drops of rain after summer heat lead to a fantasy of a living city underwater; oblivious to its having being drowned.”

Alexander’s Elements for flute, clarinet and bassoon is inspired by Alexander the Great. Through his travels he introduced the Hellenic teachings to Egypt and India, including aspects of the elements in relation to the human. For example, the elements within man include earth in bones, fire and water in the heart, blood circulation and other bodily fluids, and air in breathing.

In our next post, we will introduce Dr Houston Dunleavy and his selection of music for this programme.

Meet the Composer Concert

When: Saturday 23rdJune 2018, 6:00 pm

Where: Christ Church Lavender Bay, corner of Walker and Lavender Streets, Lavender Bay, NSW.

Tickets: $30 Adults, $20 Concession, $10 Child available at or at the door.

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Brahms’ Horn Trio Op. 40

Contrary to a previously advertised post about the Brahms’ Horn Trio, Op. 40, we would like to inform a change in soloist for this performance. Due to unforeseen circumstances, Michael Wray is unable to perform with Sirius Chamber Ensemble, however, we are delighted to announce the performance will be given by SSO fellow horn player, Aidan Gabriels.

Aidan Gabriels

Aidan Gabriels Sydney Symphony Orchestra Fellowship

Perth-born Aidan Gabriels comes from a family of four, all of whom began playing violin at a young age. He studied violin from the age of five and at ten he received a scholarship to begin studying French horn at John XXIII College. He has since studied with some of Australia’s leading horn players, including Robert Gladstones, Peter Luff, Ysolt Clarke and Ben Jacks.

In 2012 Aidan began a Bachelor of Music degree at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (studying with Robert Gladstones). In 2014 he moved to Brisbane, where he continued his degree, and in 2017 he joined the Australian National Academy of Music program in Melbourne.

Aidan has played with a number of Australian orchestras, including the West Australian, Queensland and Melbourne symphony orchestras and the Camerata of St Johns Chamber Orchestra. A long-term member of the Australian Youth Orchestra, in 2016 he toured with the orchestra to Europe and China, performing in some of the world’s most renowned concert venues.

Aidan Gabriels will perform the Brahms’ Horn Trio, Op. 40 with Angela Cassar (violin) and Benjamin Burton (piano) as part of our Songs My Mother Taught Me concert on Saturday 12th May, 6.00 pm at Christ Church Lavender Bay. Tickets available from or at the door.

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Songs My Mother Taught Me

Antonín Dvořák is arguably the second most notable composer from the Czech Republic, after Bedřich Smetana, to reach worldwide acclaim. Both are well-known for their nationalist style and employment of folk music in their compositions.


Originally written for voice and piano in 1880, “Songs my mother taught me” is the fourth song from Gypsy Songs, B.104, Op. 55. It has become one of the most popular and often performed songs from the seven-song cycle. Such is the popularity of the song that in addition to being frequently recorded by a number of well-known singers, there have been numerous instrumental arrangements regularly performed and recorded by musicians including Fritz Kreisler, Julian Lloyd Webber, Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman and Joshua Bell. Given the cello’s naturally lyrical and emotive qualities it is particularly well suited to take on the vocal line in the song.

The Gypsy Songs were composed around the same time as Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances (1878-1886). The original version for piano 4-hands, sold well, and the series of 16 orchestral pieces (Op. 46 and Op72) raised Dvorak’s international reputation. “Songs My Mother Taught Me” demonstrates all of Dvorak’s supreme talent for combining nationalistic folk influences with romantic, lyrical melodies.

While the poems that provide the lyrics for the song cycle were originally written in Czech, and translated into German for the song settings, English versions of the lyrics are also sometimes performed. The performance translation of the lyrics for Songs My Mother Taught Me are as follows:

Songs my mother taught me, in the days long vanished;

Seldom from her eyelids were the teardrops banished.

Now I teach my children each melodious measure.

Oft the tears are flowing, oft they flow from my memory’s treasure.

This work will be performed by Clare Kahn (cello) and Benjamin Burton (piano) as part of our Songs My Mother Taught Me concert on Saturday 12 May, 6.00 pm at Christ Church Lavender Bay. Tickets are available at or at the door.

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Graeme Koehne Time is a River

Fitting our program featuring music dedications to mothers, is the chamber work Time is a River by Graeme Koehne. Written in 2010, this work for clarinet and string quartet is a moving tribute to his mother.

Graeme Koehne (b. 1956) is Professor of Composition at the University of Adelaide. He has been recognised for his contribution to Australian music with prestigious awards, including the Australian Government’s Centenary Medal (2001) and the Sir Bernard Heinze Award from the University of Melbourne (2004). He has long been a popular Australian composer with his repertoire for orchestra especially, having been performed world-wide.

A popular metaphor, ‘Time is like a river’, has inspired songwriters, authors and philosophers of old. As the quote goes, “Time is like a river. You cannot touch the same water twice because the flow that has passed will never pass again. Enjoy every moment of life.” 

Of his work Koehne described, “The string quartet is the ‘river’ pursuing its relentless course, by turns gentle, swirling, turbulent and free-flowing. The clarinet represents some form of persona – a soul, if you like – that is carried along by the flow of the strings, pursuing its own diverse range of characters: melancholic, reflective, playful, ecstatic, capricious, finally reaching a state of acquiescence or acceptance.”

Koehne also arranged Time is a River for solo clarinet and orchestra, which is featured on the CD Time is a River recorded by Paul Dean (clarinet) and the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra (ABC Classics, 2015). The work was commissioned by Anne ArcusTerrey Arcus for performance by Musica Viva Australia.

This work will be performed by Ian Sykes (clarinet), Vanessa Tammetta and Sonia Wilson (violins), Lucy Carrigy-Ryan (viola) and Clare Kahn (cello) as part of our Songs My Mother Taught Me concert on Saturday 12 May6.00 pm at Christ Church Lavender Bay. Tickets available at or at the door.

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Becky Llewellyn Berceuse

Along with our theme of dedications and mothers, Becky Llewellyn’s quartet, Berceuse, offers an intimate lullaby of reflection, a glimpse of a moment shared between mother and child.

Becky Llewellyn (b. 1950) grew up in Minnesota and migrated to Australia in 1969. She began composing in the mid-1980s and studied composition with Graeme Koehne at the Adelaide Elder School of Music.  As well as her composing career, Llewellyn was a special education teacher and disability access consultant. Her works for chamber ensemble, orchestra, choir, and solo instruments have been performed widely in Australia, the US and UK.


Berceuse, or lullaby, was composed by Llewellyn in 1989 when her grandson was born. The inspiration also came from Llewellyn’s memories of herself nursing her own children whilst watching the moon setting over the sea. The quartet is scored for clarinet, violin or viola, cello and piano. The work evokes a sense of calm rocking – the ebb and flow of the tide against the beach. Llewellyn has paired 3-8 and 4-8 time signatures to create the sense of an irregular wave pattern. The lullaby melodies are set to a simple circle of fifths progression and sparse texture to allow the four voices to come through individually – rising and falling.

Berceuse, and other works composed by Llewellyn in the 1990s, feature on the CD Milerum’s Basket(Move Records, 2002). Berceusewas commissioned by Grahame Dudley for performance by Lights New Music Ensemble, who premiered the work on 20 July 1990 at Little Theatre, Adelaide University.

This work will be performed by Ian Sykes (clarinet), Lucy Carrigy-Ryan (viola), Clare Kahn (cello) and Benjamin Burton (piano) as part of our Songs My Mother Taught Me concert on Saturday 12 May, 6.00 pm at Christ Church Lavender Bay.

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Brahms’ Horn Trio, Op. 40

Our concert coming up on Saturday 12 May, features music by composers depicting their relationships with their Mothers. We also welcome back French horn player Michael Wray as guest soloist performing the Brahms’ Horn Trio in E flat major, Op. 40. Michael has performed as Principal Horn with the Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra in China and now regularly plays with the Australian Ballet and Opera Orchestra as well as other theatre productions. Michael also tutors French horn privately, with Sydney Youth Orchestra and the NSW Public School’s Arts Unit Ensembles.

The Trio for horn, violin and piano, Op. 40 was composed by Brahms in 1865 in dedication to his mother Christiane who passed away earlier in that year. Despite the fact that the valve horn was becoming increasingly popular at this time, Brahms wrote the score for natural horn. It is suspected he chose this instrument in tribute to his childhood memories of his mother – he also learnt the natural horn as a child. Indeed, he may have preferred the timbre of the natural horn for its sombre and melancholic qualities and its relation to hunting and nature.

There are two unusual features to the compositional structure of the trio. As a departure from the typical Classical style Brahms is known for, in this work he adopts a slow, fast, slow, fast order of movements, instead of the usual fast, slow, fast, fast. Brahms also abandons using sonata form for the first movement, preferring a simplified structure containing three slow sections interposed with two rhapsodic sections. It was said that, the opening theme to the first, Andante,movement came to Brahms on one of his many walks in the woods.

The theme of nature is recalled again with hunting calls used in the second, Scherzo Allegro,movement and final, Allegro con brio, movement. Both second and fourth movements, being livelier in tempo also suggests the lighter side of grief and of happier memories. The third movement, Adagio mesto, is the most solemn and contemplative movements of the work. Brahms quotes a popular German funeral chorale “Wer nur den lieben Gott lasst walten”, used most notably in J.S Bach’s Cantata BWV 93. Brahms also used this theme in his German Requiem, composed between 1865 and 1868. The hymn is a song of consolation, dealing with trust in God. Although considered an agnostic, Brahms’ quotation of the popular hymn may not come from devotion but rather his own contemplation and heartfelt relief from mourning.

You can listen to this in the recording below of Daniel Barenboim (piano), Itzhak Perlman (violin) and Dale Clevenger (horn). Forward to 2.00′ to hear the sublime melody taken from “Wer nur den lieben Gott lasst walten”.


Songs My Mother Taught Me

When: Saturday 12thMay 2018, 6:00pm

Where: Christ Church Lavender Bay

Tickets: $30 Adults, $20 Concession, $10 Child – Available at or at the door

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2018 Concert Program

Is anyone else surprised that it’s March already! Well, I’m looking forward to Autumn, the best season of the year, and to planning for our next concerts. The Sirius Chamber Ensemble program for 2018 includes a concert dedicated to Mothers; a concert showcasing the compositions of Melbourne-based composers Eve Duncan and Dr Houston Dunleavy; and an all-Australian program of compositions inspired by the Elements. We will also be launching Flying, a CD featuring the music of jazz saxophonist and composer Spike Mason. More information available later in the year.

Songs My Mother Taught Me

Sirius Chamber Ensemble will present a special concert program dedicated to mothers. Each work performed explores different relationships experienced between mother and child. In Berceuse for clarinet, violin, cello and piano by Becky Llewellyn, we catch a glimpse of the unique bond between a mother and newborn child. Many compositions dedicated to mothers often express love but also grief, which is seen in works by Graeme Koehne and Johannes Brahms. Koehne’s Time is a River, written in 2010, is a moving tribute depicted by the melancholic sound of a clarinet drifting down a flowing river of a string quartet. A deeply personal composition, Brahms’ Horn Trio in E-flat major was written after the death of his mother in 1865. In this four-movement work Brahms portrays the different stages of mourning – not only grief and sadness – but as time inevitably passes, love and acceptance follows. Originally written for voice and piano in 1880, “Songs my mother taught me” by Antonin Dvorak has been transcribed for many instrumental combinations. One of the more popular songs from Dvorak’s Gypsy Songs and often recorded, will be performed by cello and piano as a short tribute to all who hold special childhood memories.


  • Becky Llewellyn – Berceuse for clarinet, viola, cello and piano
  • Antonin Dvorak – Songs my Mother Taught Me (arr.) for cello and piano
  • Graeme Koehne – Time Is A River for clarinet and string quartet
  • Johannes Brahms – Horn Trio in E-flat major, Op. 40 for horn, violin and piano

When: Saturday 12th May 2018, 6:00pm

Where: Christ Church Lavender Bay

Tickets: $30 Adults, $20 Concession, $10 Child – Available at or at the door


Meet the Composer

Our meet the composer concerts have become increasingly popular. In June, we have the absolute pleasure of inviting Melbourne-based composers, Eve Duncan and Dr Houston Dunleavy to discuss their work alongside performances of a selection of their compositions.

When: Saturday 23rd June 2018, 6:00pm

Where: Christ Church Lavender Bay

Tickets: $30 Adults, $20 Concession, $10 Child – Available at or at the door






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A Gypsy Rondo and a Ragtime Opera

Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) may have been a celebrated composer in Europe during his lifetime, but he did not always enjoy a privileged life. From 1740-1749 Haydn was a choir boy at the St Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, until a foolish prank resulted in him being dismissed from his employment and home. By this time, Haydn’s voice was maturing and he could no longer sing the high choral parts. But when Haydn foolishly snipped off the pigtail from one of his fellow choristers, he was severely punished and thrown out onto the streets. Fortunately, a friend took him in to stay and thereafter Haydn pursued his freelance career.


Rebecca Schroeter

Haydn was most known for his developments to Classical form and chamber music compositions such as the Piano Trio. The Piano Trio No 39, in G major (1795) was written during an auspicious time for Haydn, when we experienced great success with two tours to London – the last two London Symphonies (No. 103 and 104) were also written during this time. Piano Trio No 39 was nicknamed the Gypsy trio, as the third movement was written in an Hungarian style. The work was one of a set of three trios, dedicated to Rebecca Schroeter, an amateur musician and widow, whom Haydn met in London. It has been reported, the pair had a romance during Haydn’s visits.

We are delighted to have, guest string instrumentalists Angela Cassar (violin) and Steve Meyer (cello) join Claire Howard Race (piano) for this performance.

African-American composer Scott Joplin (1868-1917), was known as the father of Ragtime composition with its characteristic off-the-beat rhythm, based on African-American gospel and folk tunes.  Joplin wrote 44 rag pieces for piano as well as one Ragtime ballet and two operas. The second opera, Treemonisha was written during 1911-1915 while Joplin lived and worked in New York. Unfortunately, the opera failed to secure financial banking and with failing health, Joplin did not live to see a full production of this opera.

During the 1970s Ragtime revival, Gunther Schiller arranged and directed a full professional production by the Houston Grand Opera in 1975. One can hear the once-popular ragged rhythm and jubilant choral singing in Schuller’s production recorded in 1975 [DG recording].


Carmen Balthrop in the full stage production of Treemonisha at Houston Grand Opera

In this program, Alex Fontaine (oboe) and Michael Wray (French horn) join Ian Sykes (clarinet), Melissa Coleman (flute) and Alison Evans (bassoon) to perform Five Scenes from Treemonisha for wind quintet (arr. Graham Bastable).

Read the Q and A with Melissa Coleman on the Where the Heart Is program at

Where the Heart Is – Saturday 21st October, 6:00 pm at Christ Church Lavender Bay, 10-12 Walker St, Lavender Bay. Tickets available through or at the door.  

Funds raised will be donated to Habitat for Humanity Australia to assist their work to build safer homes and stronger communities throughout the Asia Pacific region.


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From Prague to Paris…and all that jazz

Sirius Chamber Ensemble have an ongoing affection for the music of Bohuslav Martinů, having performed his La Revue de Cuisine on a number of occasions. So we are delighted to program his Quartet for clarinet, French horn, violoncello and snare drum (1924) for our next concert, Where the heart Is. And we are excited to invite our very first percussionist to the ensemble, notwithstanding the occasional triangle part! Joshua Hill, Sydney percussionist, is a member of Australia’s premier percussion ensemble SYNERGY Percussion and has performed with many of Australia’s leading orchestras and ensembles including the Sydney Symphony, Opera Australia Orchestra, Australian Chamber Orchestra, Canberra Symphony and Ensemble Offspring.

In 1923, Bohuslav Martinů moved from Prague to Paris, where he stayed until 1940. Under the tutelage of Albert Roussell, Martinů began to find his compositional style. The 1920s in Paris was a melting pot of new trends, and elements of jazz, neoclassicism and surrealism can be found in the compositions by Martinů during this time. Martinů was also inspired by the music of Igor Stravinsky, particularly the ballets which were a reflection of the modernism movement of the day.

The Quartet for clarinet, French horn, violoncello and snare drum was a significant composition from the early years Martinů spent in Paris. Although written for an unusual combination of instruments, there are similarities between this composition and L’Histoire du Soldat by Stravinsky, which was premiered in 1918.

According to an analysis by Robert G. Patterson, the connections between this Quartet and Stravinsky’s L’Histoire are the inclusion of the snare drum in prominent positions, the use of overlapping polyrhythms and nationalist themes. Martinů employs thematic use of the medieval Czech hymn Svatý Václave (Saint Wenceslas Chorale) in the first and third movements.

You can hear Joshua Hill on snare drum, along with Ian Sykes (clarinet), Michael Wray (French horn) and Steve Meyer (violoncello) at a free lunchtime concert at St Stephens Uniting Church on Friday 13th October, 1:10 pm and at Christ Church Lavender Bay on Saturday 21st October, 6:00 pm. Funds raised at the Where the Heart Is concert will be donated to Habitat for Humanity Australia to assist their work to build safer homes and stronger communities throughout the Asia Pacific region.

For tickets visit ClassikOn.

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October 7, 2017 · 11:18 am

Where the Heart is

What does Gustav Mahler, Joseph Haydn, Bohuslav Martinů and Scott Joplin have in common? Well Mahler, Haydn and Martinů may have shared similar roots from Bohemia or the Austrian empire, and all four composers achieved fame in their lifetime. But seldom is homelessness associated with the life of these musicians.

On Saturday 21 October, Sirius Chamber Ensemble presents a collaborative fundraiser for the not-for-profit organisation Habitat for Humanity Australia. The concert program will focus on the plight of the homeless in our society, featuring works by these four composers who were known to have been homeless or displaced during their lifetime. Funds raised through ticket sales and collection on the night will empower families to build safer homes and stronger communities throughout the Asia Pacific region.

Jheronimus Bosch – The Pedlar (circa 1500). Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.

Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) was famously quoted saying, “I am thrice homeless, as a native of Bohemia in Austria, as an Austrian among Germans, and as a Jew throughout the world. Everywhere an intruder, never welcomed.” Soprano Taryn Srhoj returns to Sirius, to perform a selection from Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer) by Gustav Mahler. Composed between (1884-85), the song cycle of four songs depicts the Wayfarer’s grief over the heartfelt loss of a loved one to another. The text was written by the composer himself, and may have been influenced by the German folk poems, Des Knaben Wunderhorn. The title of cycle translates to Songs of a Travelling Journeyman. Traditionally a journeyman was an apprentice of a trade or craft, who would travel from town to town to work with different masters. This bears an autobiographical resemblance to Mahler himself, who at the time travelled to many towns as a young conductor and composer to hone his skills from others in the field.

Sirius Chamber Ensemble will also be joined by Angela Cassar (violin), Steve Meyer (cello), Alex Fontaine (oboe), Michael Wray (French horn), and Josh Hill (percussion). A selection of this concert program will also be performed at a free lunchtime concert at St Stephen’s Uniting Church.

Friday 13th October, 1.10pm – 1.50pm

St Stephen’s Uniting Church, 197 Macquarie Street, Sydney


  • Bohuslav Martinů (1890 – 1959) – Quartet for clarinet, French horn, violoncello and snare drum
  • Krzysztof Penderecki (1933 – ) – Prelude for solo clarinet
  • Joseph Haydn (1732 – 1809) – Piano Trio, Op. 39 in G major (“Gypsy”)

Performers: Ian Sykes (clarinet), Michael Wray (french horn), Steve Meyer (cello), Josh Hill (percussion), Angela Cassar (violin), Claire Howard Race (piano).


Saturday 21st October, 6.00pm – 8.oopm

Christ Church Lavender Bay, 10-12 Walker Street, Lavender Bay


  • Joseph Haydn – Piano Trio, Op. 39 in G major (“Gypsy”)
  • Gustav Mahler – Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen
  • Scott Joplin – Selections from “Treemonisha” for wind quintet
  • Bohuslav Martinů – Quartet for clarinet, French horn, violoncello and snare drum

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

Guest Artists: Taryn Srhoj (soprano), Angela Cassar (violin), Steve Meyer (cello), Alex Fontaine (oboe), Michael Wray (French horn), Josh Hill (percussion).

Tickets: $30 Adults, $20 concession, $10 children. Tickets available at or at the door.

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