Music for Teriffic Tales

In this week’s post we feature three works to be performed as part of Sirius Chamber Ensemble’s performance Musical Tales. Each work to be performed was inspired in different ways, but all have strong ties to works of fiction and other literature.

Eden for solo flute and narrator by Andrew Batterham and Matilda for woodwind quartet and narrator by Joseph Giovinazzo, were both composed in 2015 for a concert, Cabinet of Oddities, curated by writer Laura E. Goodin, and run in partnership with her husband, composer Houston Dunleavy. The concert was part of the Conflux Speculative Fiction Conference, which took place in Canberra in October that year. Our flautist Melissa Coleman took part in the premieres of both compositions.

Award-winning American science fiction writer, Jack Dann, wrote the story Eden for ABC Australia and was read by the author over the air in December, 1999*. It was later published in Agog! Terrific Tales 2 in April, 2003. Melbourne-based composer, arranger, songwriter and performer, Andrew Batterham, brings a unique energy and style to Eden, which clearly shows his love for Jazz and contemporary music. The flute ‘riffs’ are well grounded in the blues, in this work designed to be performed with freedom and spontaneity. The flute helps to tell Dann’s story, as extended techniques, funky themes, flourishes and catchy melodies bring objects, characters and events to life.

Inspired by the work of Sydney-based science fiction writer Simon Brown, Matilda* was originally composed for flute quartet and narrator. Melissa Coleman loved the work so much that she asked Joseph to write an arrangement of the work as a wind quartet for Sirius musicians to perform.

In Joseph’s words, “As a composer, my aspiration is a music that speaks to the common humanity residing in us all; a music that is intimate in its touch, but universal in its communication.” Matilda begins with a well-crafted, complex musical introduction, in which we hear evidence of Giovinazzo’s love for counterpoint and rhythmic precision. When the speaker begins however, there is a complete contrast – we hear a simpler, more intimate texture, as Giovinazzo develops and overlays his themes from the introduction, in an evocative display of rhythmic and harmonic tension and resolution. Brown’s story tells of a devastating catastrophic event; and Giovinazzo’s music richly portrays the emotional weight of this story, with it’s sad and brutal end emphasised as the final sounds of heartbeats towards the end of the piece comes to an end.

Also on the program for Musical Tales is The Death of Baldr by Sydney-based composer Paul Smith. Ian Sykes commissioned Paul to write this work for Sirius’ core ensemble, that being flute, clarinet, bassoon, french horn, cello and piano. The work, first performed in September 2014, is based on the gods depicted in Norse Mythology. In this performance Paul Smith joins the ensemble to recite selections from the Nordic sagas.


Balder on Ringhorn

In Paul’s words, “Norse mythology has long been a source of inspiration for artists of a variety of media. Paintings, novels, TV shows, and video games have all depicted or based figures on gods and monsters from Norse mythology. The movements of this work, for both the full sextet and the three solos, respond to different characters in the famous tale of the death of Baldr, the god of light. As with many mythologies, the pantheon of gods govern different parts of life and nature and the tone of each movement reflects this. While composing this piece, I viewed many painted depictions of the Norse gods to reflect on their aesthetic and presence in the mythology. I have long been captivated by this particular mythology, including an appearance on the ABC quiz show The Einstein Factor with Norse mythology as my topic (I lost). I wanted to respond to the drama of the tale using music in a traditional programmatic style. The piece culminates with a movement inspired by chief god, Odin, who approaches Baldr’s funeral pyre and whispers, ‘rebirth’.”

Musical Tales

When: Saturday 22 April 2017, 6:00pm.

Where: Christ Church Lavender Bay, Corner of Walker and Lavender Streets, Lavender Bay. For tickets and more information please visit ClassikOn

Notes by Melissa Coleman and Paul Smith.

* The author reserves all rights to the story.

Image from The Norse Gods 


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Music for gracious living

What if you were holding a dinner party for friends, what would you include on your music playlist for the evening?

What about a selection of Classical music?

Something easy listening seems like a good choice right?

But then one courageous guest, who is new to classical music, might venture to ask, “How do you listen to this stuff?” “How does it all work?”

Where to begin, you might ask. How do you explain to a non-listener, what to listen for in classical music? In Music for Gracious Living for actor and string quartet (1992/96), our host welcomes us to his home and attempts to provide answers to some of these questions. Composed by David Lang (USA) and with text by Deborah Artman (USA), music and narrative is interwoven with theatrical detail. The work in six movements depicts the dinner scene in question, but Lang’s writing is more cerebral and haunting than your typical party background music. And at times the ensemble contributes to the dialogue with punctuating rhetoric and expressive repartee.


David Lang (b. 1957) is not only well-performed in America, his works are performed all over the world. His work is extensive; including opera, orchestral, chamber ensemble, solo works and film scores. He is also co-founder and co-artistic director of New York ensemble Bang on a Can. Not only prolific, he also has a string of accolades after his name, including a Pulitzer Prize for The Little Match Girl Passion, and his score for Paolo Sorrentino’s film Youth which earned Lang both an Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations in 2016. The Almeida Festival commissioned Music for Gracious Living for the Brindisi Quartet, who first performed the work in 1993 at the Almeida Opera Festival, London. The work was subsequently revised in 1996, commissioned by Sequitur.


david lang1

David Lang. Photo credit: Peter Serling 

This work, along with other works for accompanied narratives, will be featured in our up-coming concert on Saturday 22nd April. David Lang’s Music for Gracious Living will be performed by Vanessa Tammetta and Heloise Meisel (violins), Ella Brinch (viola), Steve Meyer (cello) and Nigel Turner-Carroll (actor).

Musical Tales

When: Saturday 22 April 2017, 6:00pm.

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

For tickets and more information please visit ClassikOn

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Concert Program 2017

This year Sirius Chamber Ensemble presents their concert program at Christ Church Lavender Bay. The first concert will explore the connections between music and the spoken voice (Musical Tales – 22 April), and the program presented later in the year will feature music that transcends the state of homelessness (Where the Heart Is – 21 October).

In Musical Tales Sirius Chamber Ensemble will present an eclectic program intertwining music and spoken narrative which will feature several Australian composers and a range of guest artists. The stories to be told will deal with life, death and musical transcendence. Australian works include Matilda for narrator and wind quartet by Melbourne-based composer Joseph Giovinazzo, Eden for narrator and flute by Andrew Batterham, and The Death of Baldr by Paul Smith with music and selected recitations from Nordic poetry and sagas. The program will also include David Lang’s exuberant work Music for Gracious Living for actor and string quartet and the farewell ode Abscheid von der Erde by Franz Schubert.

Where The Heart Is is 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 composers who were known to have been homeless or displaced during their lifetime. Joseph Haydn became homeless as a young man, dismissed from St Stephen’s Cathedral choir in Vienna after his voice broke. Gustav Mahler was famously quoted as 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.” After being blacklisted by the Nazis in 1940, Bohuslav Martinu and his wife fled Paris and slept on railway platforms for several months before securing passage to America. And the African-American ragtime composer Scott Joplin became bankrupt and homeless after his opera Treemonisha failed to find any success. Selected works from these four composers will be presented to raise awareness of the many reasons people can become forced into homelessness, the many guises this can take, and to raise funds for a cause close to our hearts. 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.

HFHA logo single line 2-colour


Concert details:

Musical Tales

Saturday 22 April, 6:00 pm

Christ Church Lavender Bay


Where the Heart Is

Saturday 21 October, 6:00 pm

Christ Church Lavender Bay


Tickets and more information available from ClassikOn

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A Nightingale and a Lark

Sirius Chamber Ensemble are so pleased to welcome back Taryn Srhoj and Vanessa Tammetta as soloists in our Birdsong program on Saturday 29th October. Soprano, Taryn Srhoj will be performing a collection of folk songs by Michael Head, John McCabe and Luciano Berio, all of which were inspired by stories of love, death, and birdsong. Violinist, Vanessa Tammetta performs as soloist in Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending in a new arrangement by Sydney-based composer Paul Smith for violin, flute, clarinet, bassoon, horn and piano.  Also on the program will be music by Australian composers Alan Holley, Paul Stanhope, Corrina Bonshek and Nigel Ubrihien.

Taryn Srhoj

Taryn Srhoj studied at The University of Auckland School of Music, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Music majoring in Voice in 2008. Her other musicianship skills include attaining AmusA in piano and being accepted into the piano programme at the Aspen Music Festival and Summer school, USA.

Currently based in Sydney, Taryn has recently performed as a soloist in the Willoughby Symphony Grand Opera Gala and was a recipient of the Q Lab Artists in Residence Programme at the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre. In 2015 Taryn performed the role of Musetta in La Boheme with the Western Sydney Opera Company, Michaela in Carmen with Symphony Central Coast, Marie Antoinette for Blush Opera’s production Ladies Who Brunch in the Adelaide Fringe Festival and the role of Cora in the world premiere and subsequent tour of Fancy Me Dead by Australian composer Paul Smith. She also perfomed the Alan Holley song cycle Borneo Songs and Berg’s Sieben Fruhe Lieder with Sirius Chamber Ensemble as well as her own electronic opera work in collaboration with dLux Media Arts for the Spectrum Now Festival Sydney.

Taryn was a Young Artist with Pacific Opera in both 2011 and 2012 during which she performed the role of Bettina in The Deluded Bridegroom and also Second Spirit in Mozart’s The Magic Flute. As a Pacific Opera Young Artist she also performed as a soloist in the Pacific Opera Gala, Opera By The Lake, Opera Unlaced and covered all three roles in the premiere of new Australian work Golden Summers by James Long.

Taryn has had the privilege of premiering many new works. A highlight was performing and recording a new Soprano song cycle by Australian composer Dr Paul Smith and singing in Art/Opera collaboration Project Rise;Singing The Virtual (Dr Andrew Burrell/Dr Paul Smith).

Vanessa Tammette


Vanessa Tammetta completed her Bachelor of Music Studies (Violin) in 2009 under the tutelage of Associate Professor Goetz Richter, and is currently studying with Janet Davies. As well as regularly performing classical repertoire, she has played with such artists as Michael Buble, Tim Minchin and Glen Hansard, as well as for musicals including Georgy Girl, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and the 2014 Sydney production of The Lion King.

Vanessa also composes music for film and television, and was the recipient of the 2012 Johnny Dennis Music Award for Best Instrumental Piece, awarded by the Australian Guild of Screen Composers. Her love of scoring has also lead her to play for such projects as Sydney Theatre Company and Griffin Theatre productions, the 2014 Vivid Festival and the Sydney Film Festival. She regularly records for albums, soundtracks and TVCs.

Performers: Melissa Coleman (flute), Ian Sykes (clarinet), Alison Evans (bassoon), Clare Kahn (cello).
Guest Artists: Vanessa Tammetta (violin), Luke Spicer (viola), Michael Wray (french horn), Taryn Srhoj (soprano), Sumiko Yamamura (piano).

When: Saturday 29th October, 3:00pm

Where: Christ Church, Lavender Bay  (10-12 Walker St, Lavender Bay, NSW, 2060)

Tickets: available from ClassikOn or at the door

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Yellow-faced Honeyeater

Yellow-faced Honeyeater

Birdsong has inspired the creation of music for centuries. Its repeated motifs and interval patterns are distinctive, melodic, and perfectly suited for imitation or adaptation into a larger musical work. Australian composers have particularly been inspired by native birdsong to create a uniquely Australian sound.

Sirius Chamber Ensemble have collated a program of music which explores the birdsong inspired music of local composers including Alan Holley, Paul Stanhope, Corrina Bonshek and Nigel Ubrihien.

As Small Birds Play (2010) by Corrina Bonshek, is one such piece inspired by the sounds of birds and insects heard whilst sitting in Sydney’s Centennial Park. This piece will be performed in its original scoring, for bassoon and recorded birdcalls. This birdsong soundtrack was recorded by the composer in Capertree Valley (NSW), home to over 200 bird species including the yellow-faced Honey eater and the grey Shrike-thrush.

Alongside these works we will present some of the most famous examples of birdsong in music: Olivier Messiaen’s Le Merle Noir and Ralph Vaughan William’s The Lark Ascending, in a new chamber arrangement by Sydney-based composer Paul Smith. Soprano Taryn Srhoj returns to perform songs by Berio, Michael Head and John McCabe.


When: Saturday 29th October 2016, 3pm.

Where: Christ Church, Lavender St, Lavender Bay.

Performers: Melissa Coleman (flute), Ian Sykes (clarinet), Alison Evans (bassoon), Clare Kahn (cello).

Guest Artists: Vanessa Tammetta (violin), Taryn Srhoj (soprano), Sumiko Yamamura (piano).

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

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Concerts in Sydney, Picton and Newcastle

Portrait of French novelist and memoirist George Sand by Charles Louis Gratia.


Sirius is excited to be taking the Wind Quintet on the road over the next two weekends. Starting this Saturday 14th May at All Souls Church, Leichhardt; followed by a “Classics at Picton” concert on Sunday 15th May; and lastly at Adamstown Uniting Church on Saturday 21st May. We have chosen an eclectic mix of chamber music for woodwind trio and wind quintet all of which were commissioned or dedicated to various artists.


Carl Nielsen’s Wind Quintet, Op. 43 is one of the key works of the wind quintet repertoire. In 1921 Nielsen was inspired to compose a wind quintet after overhearing a rehearsal of Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante by members of the Copenhagen Wind Quintet. Nielsen’s wind quintet was then dedicated to the ensemble who then premiered the work in 1922. The role of the Copenhagen Wind Quintet in the genesis of the work goes even further, as Nielsen captured musical portrayals of his friends’ characters and used their talents and personalities to inspire his composition.


Elena Kats-Chernin was commissioned to write a woodwind quintet for the Canberra Wind Soloists to perform at the Canberra Festival of Women’s Music in 2001. Kats-Chernin spoke of the Sand Waltz as “fitting to pay tribute to Chopin’s muse and a strong woman, writer George Sand. There is a quote from one of Chopin’s waltzes in the most reflective middle part of the piece. A short chord sequence from this piece became the main material for the movement Green Leaf Prelude of the Concert Suite Wild Swans in 2003.”


Belle Epoque en Sud-America – Suite for Wind Quintet by the Brazilian composer, Julio Medaglia, was written for the wind quintet of the Berlin Philharmonic, who recorded the work and have since frequently performed the work on their tours. Medaglia has arranged much Brazilian popular music for film and television. His suite for wind quintet takes many of these popular instrumental styles. Each movement reflects a popular dance or musical style – a tango, a waltz, and a chorinho.


If you had your wish and could commission a piece of chamber music, what style or genre would it be? As a wind ensemble, we find ourselves incredibly fortunate to have these pieces in our repertoire.


For tickets and more information:

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

“Classics at Picton”: $20 Adults, Students and Children Free. Afternoon Tea included. Tickets only available at the door.

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Music for Wind Quintet


Carl Nielsen photographed in 1908 by Georg Lindstrøm


Sirius Chamber Ensemble’s first project for the year will be a concert of music for wind quintet, featuring classics from the repertoire alongside recent music by Australian composers. Performances will be held in Sydney, Picton and Newcastle.

Carl Nielsen’s Quintet Op.43 is perhaps the best-known and loved work for wind quintet. Dedicated to the members of the Copenhagen Wind Quintet, Nielsen captures the distinctive sound of each instrument and the players’ personalities in his modern, yet very accessible language.

Christine Draeger’s Variations on a Patriotic Love Song was written for Sirius and premiered in 2014. Researching her family tree, Draeger discovered a fellow musician amongst her ancestors, and adapted one of his songs for wind quintet. Draeger has crafted a pleasing set of lyrical, playful and sonorous variations featuring each of the members of the quintet.

Elena Kats-Chernin needs no introduction to Australian audiences, and her Sand Waltz for wind quintet has become one of the most performed pieces for this combination for good reason.

Andrew Schultz’s Six Miniatures for flute, oboe and clarinet exploits the diverse range of timbres available to these three instruments. Alternating short movements of free, flowing melodies and fast, virtuosic passages, these miniatures by one of Australia’s foremost composers deserve to be appreciated by a wider audience.

Belle Epoque in Sud-America by Brazilian composer Julio Medaglia is a fun-filled dance suite featuring a lively tango, dream-like waltz and a chaotic and exuberant finale featuring the Eb (piccolo) clarinet.

Sydney: Saturday, 14th May, 2pm – All Souls Church, Leichhardt (corner of Norton St and Marion St).

Picton: Sunday, 15th May 2016, 1:30pm“Classics at Picton”, Wollondilly Shire Hall, 44-60 Menangle St Picton.

Newcastle: Saturday, 21st May 2016, 7:30pmAdamstown Uniting Church, 228 Brunker Rd, Adamstown.


Perfomers: Melissa Coleman (flute), Alex Fontaine (oboe), Ian Sykes (clarinet), Alison Evans (bassoon) and Julia Zeltzer (french horn).


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

“Classics at Picton”: $20 Adults, Students and Children Free. Afternoon Tea included. Tickets only available at the door.

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Postcards from Vienna

vienna postcard

The engaging and talented soprano Taryn Srhoj returns to perform with Sirius in Postcards from Vienna, featuring music premiered in Vienna between 1777 and 1913. The earliest piece, Mozart’s Flute Quartet in D major (No.1) will be followed by the more recent, Seven Early Songs for soprano and piano, and Four Pieces for clarinet and piano by Alban Berg. Complimenting the program will be Richard Strauss’ Das Alphorn for soprano, horn and piano, and Brahms’ Trio for clarinet, cello and piano, although no Viennese concert would be complete without a rousing finale by Johann Strauss. We are sure that you will be delighted by a humourous arrangement of Strauss’ Tritsch Tratsch Polka by our good friend and colleague Nigel Ubrihien.

This year we are presenting our performances at two venues. Saturday evening performances will be at Glebe Justice Centre, a relaxed venue with couches. Tea, coffee and refreshments will be available and the audience is invited to bring their own food and drink to enjoy during the concert. Sunday afternoon performances will be in the beautiful space of Christ Church Lavender Bay, where we will serve an afternoon tea at interval, overlooking Sydney Harbour.

Saturday 17th October, 7.30pm at Glebe Justice Centre, corner of St John’s Rd and Colbourne Ave, Glebe.

Sunday 18th October, 2pm at Christ Church, Lavender Bay, corner of Walker and Lavender Streets, North Sydney.

Tickets: $30 Adults/$20 Concession/$10 Children

Performers: Melissa Coleman (flute), Ian Sykes (clarinet), Alison Evans (bassoon), Julia Zeltzer (french horn), Martyn Hentschel (violin), Georgina Price (viola), Clare Kahn (cello), Claire Howard Race (piano), with guest artists Taryn Srhoj (soprano) and Gabriella Pusner (piano).

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A Portrait: The Music of Alan Holley

Le Merle Noir. Photo credit: Fotolia

Rehearsals are underway for our concert with Alan Holley and Eve Duncan next Sunday afternoon. We will be presenting works composed by Alan Holley, Eve Duncan and other works that have had a profound influence on Alan’s career, such as Messiaen Le Merle Noir. The concert will also feature Borneo Songs, a suite of songs composed for solo voice and wind quintet – a collaboration between Alan and Jyoti Brunsdon (1941-2011) author, librettist, musician and editor. Originally commissioned by Enigma – Five, but rarely performed. It is a delight to be presenting this beautiful work inspired by the sounds and heat of the jungles of Borneo. Join us for an afternoon of music inspired by birdsong and hear Alan speak about his compositions.


  • Lutoslawki – Dance Preludes (clarinet & piano)
  • Holley – Musics for Sue (oboe & piano)
  • Holley – Edward Harvey Portrait (flute, clarinet & violin)
  • Messiaen – Le Merle Noir (flute & piano)
  • Holley – Take Flight (violin & cello)
  • Eve Duncan – Madonna & Child with Goldfinch (soprano, flute, clarinet, violin, cello)
  • Holley – Borneo Songs (soprano, flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn)

Performers: Taryn Srhoj (soprano), Melissa Coleman (flute), Alex Fontaine (oboe), Ian Sykes (clarinet), Alison Evans (bassoon), Tina Brain (horn), Martyn Hentschel (violin), Steve Meyer (cello) and Claire Howard Race (piano).

Sunday 13th September, 3:00pm

Glebe Justice Centre, 37-47 St Johns Road, Glebe

Tickets can be purchased through ClassikON

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Portrait of Edith Sitwell (1887-1964) by Roger Fry

We are very pleased to promote the next production by Places and Spaces, in partnership with Operasmith & Co, a performance of William Walton’s Facade: An Entertainment. Containing settings of Edith Sitwell’s surrealist poetry, recited by Silvia Colloca, Simon Lobelson, featuring the Sirius Chamber Ensemble conducted by Luke Spicer: thirty-one musical vignettes that celebrate the eccentricities of our inner and outer selves.

In the 1920’s, William Walton and Edith Sitwell’s musical miniatures caused an outrage when performed with their scandalous mix of musical styles and absurdist prose. The cryptic words spoken through a megaphone by Sitwell herself, hidden behind a screen, together with Walton’s jazz-inspired music and rhythms of tango, foxtrot, tarantella and waltz through to the modern sounds of Satie and Stravinsky caused a sensation. Grouped together as ‘Facade’ and increasing in popularity over time, these peculiar musical vignettes are today celebrated for capturing the wit, frivolity and blithe spirit of the 1920’s.

This performance will present William Walton’s definitive collection – ‘Facade: An Entertainment’ published in 1951 together with ‘Facade 2: A Further Entertainment’ compiled for the Aldeburgh Festival in 1979. Three songs of Edith Sitwell’s poetry will also be performed, arranged by Luke Spicer.

Recited by Silvia Colloca (Orfeo et Euridice, SBS Made in Italy with Silvia Colloca) and Simon Lobelson (ROH, ENO, SSO), together with the Sirius Chamber Ensemble conducted by Luke Spicer (Orfeo and Euridice, Spectrum Now Festival), lighting by Colin Alexander, direction by Matthew Barclay and Johanna Puglisi for Operasmith & Co.

The performance is part of the Common Eclectic performance series at Glebe Town Hall, produced by Places and Spaces, in partnership with Operasmith & Co.

‘Facade: An Entertainment’ is a boundlessly imaginative interplay of words and music, join us for a joyful trip through English life in 1920’s, highlighting the nonsensical, the peculiar and quixotic!

Sun 16th August

Glebe Town Hall, 160 St John’s Road, Glebe

Performance at 5.00pm, Doors open at 4.30pm

Tickets can be purchased through Moshtix $30 + booking fee OR $35 at the door

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