Symphony’s musical celebration of Canberra

“FIREWORKS”, “New World”, “Eroica” – the world of music has seen great works composed for great events – and now Canberra has its own such composition, “Centenary”.

It raised more than a few eyebrows when Centenary artistic director Robyn Archer, after a nationwide search, bypassed Canberra’s composers in favour of Sydney’s Andrew Shultz to commission the “Centenary” symphony. But now it’s about to happen, the buzz in our musical circles is palpable.

On March 11, as hundreds queue up at the longest bubbly bar in the world, thousands will be settling down in front of Old Parliament House to see the Canberra Symphony Orchestra and the massed choirs of Canberra perform the 40-minute Symphony No.3 – “Centenary” (2013, Opus 91).
Nicholas Milton will conduct. The CSO’s artistic director, a brilliant violinist-turned-conductor who has led more than 16 orchestras around Europe in recent years, told “CityNews” from Europe that: “It’s always exciting being present at the birth of a new work for orchestra”, describing the work as “Andrew Schultz’s symphonic tribute to our city”.

“Here is a cinematic sweep to the work that gives me the impression of optimism,” he says.

“It has drama, triumph and fire, but also introspection and serenity.”

The symphony will be the culmination of what Archer calls “one very big day” and even if you can’t drag yourself away from the bubbly bar, the symphony will be broadcast simultaneously on ABC Classic FM and screened all around the lake.

Schultz has been deep in “Centenary” for the past 12 months. Perhaps Australia’s best-known contemporary composer on the world stage, he has written several large-scale works, including three operas, and in taking up this commission, he follows in a long line of composers who have created music for great occasions.

While this new work includes three large orchestral movements, they will be preceded by short choral movements to be performed by the “Centenary Choir”, made up of three national capital treasures, the Woden Valley Youth Choir, the Oriana Chorale and The Resonants.
They’ll be singing the words of architects Daniel Burnham and Louis Sullivan, whose ideas partly inspired the Griffin design for Canberra, as well as words taken from Walter Burley Griffin’s original Canberra design submission.

Together with the grand orchestral core to “Centenary”, the singers and musicians, all Canberrans, will be creating musical fireworks for a very musical city.

Oh, yes, don’t forget, it is March 12 that’s the actual birthday, so Archer has asked all Canberrans to stop to raise a glass at 11am to toast the nation’s capital. 11am, you ask? It’ll be a moment to remember.

Symphony No. 3 – “Centenary”, Old Parliament House, 8pm, Monday, March 11. Free.

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