Music Festival / Chloe comes home to sing

Soprano Chloe Lankshear… “I know my voice is good for baroque music, but I’m quite determined to pursue what contemporary opera can offer.” Photo by Peter Hislop

CANBERRA-raised soprano Chloe Lankshear is one of our rising stars.

A featured performer at the coming Canberra International Music Festival, the second-year student at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music will be seen singing the role of Fortuna (Lady Luck) in part of Monteverdi’s “The Return of Ulysses“ and as soloist in Handel’s “Israel in Egypt”.

“She’s a real musician and not just a pretty face and a pretty voice – she has a wonderful, clear, bell-like voice and a professional attitude,” says Canberra International Music Festival director Roland Peelman.

Lankshear tells “CityNews” that she grew up in Canberra was educated in the public system and the ANU’s pre-tertiary music course. But then, after first enrolling, she found herself caught in the crossfire of the crisis at the ANU School of Music and deferred in 2012, taking singing lessons with Louise Page.

“So I worked, while letting my voice settle,” Lankshear says.

“At the ages of 18, 19 and 20 it can be tricky, because your voice is still dealing with adolescence, breathiness slack and lack of control… we singers are considered young for most of our twenties.”

Lankshear joined Canberra’s Luminescence Chamber Singers, developingaural (listening) and theory skillsand in 2016 enrolled in the Sydney Conservatorium. She’s been contracted to The Song Company since halfway through 2017, covering for their lead soprano, Susannah Lawergren, while she was on maternity leave.

Brenda Gifford, indigenous composer and Yuin woman originally from Wreck but now a Canberra resident, has a new work called “Gambabarawaraga”.

The most exciting thing so far was performing with them in Brett Dean’s “Hamlet” opera, where another talented Canberra soprano, Lorina Gore played Ophelia.

Lankshear says the company played the semi-chorus as part of the orchestra for the first 11 scenes then in the death scene came on stage fully-costumed to play the judges for the final fight.

“It’s the most amazing work and it’s put me on the path for contemporary opera,” she says.

Right now Lankshear is a high soprano, “but I warm up to a ‘top G6′.

“I know my voice is good for baroque music, but I’m quite determined to pursue what contemporary opera can offer.”

Roland Peelman says he’s keen to involve local artists.

“No matter how global we go, we must always remember that the festival belongs to Canberra, it is owned by Canberrans,” he says.

“And overwhelmingly the majority of our audience is from Canberra.

“The arts scene in Canberra never ceases to be less than interesting, so many artists either come from here or continue to do good work here.”

Lankshear is one example of involving local artists and another, to be seen in the opening concert, will be Brenda Gifford, indigenous composer and Yuin woman originally from Wreck but now a Canberra resident, with her new work “Gambabarawaraga”.

Canberra Wind Symphony… performing “The Bitter and the Sweet”. Photo by Grace Costa

“Brenda has finally been given a chance to develop a craft and to make a musical statement,” says Peelman.

“She is as gifted as can be and this is her very first commission. The festival found the money to commission the piece.”

He says that many indigenous cultures don’t have a European idea about seasons and the title of her work indicates the seasons, in her language. Coincidentally, superstar American fiddler Tim Fain will be here playing Max Richter’s take on Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”.

“Return” is the overarching idea behind the festival and well in line with that theme will be the concert “A Soldier’s Return” beginning with Stravinsky’s acerbic work, “The Soldier’s Tale”, composed at the end of World War I, about a returning Russian soldier who sells his soul to the devil in return for a magic book.

That will be followed by Jodie Blackshaw’s musical/spoken word, “The Bitter and the Sweet”, performed by Melbourne actor Paul English with the Canberra Wind Symphony, whose conductor and director Geoff Grey has been working at the University of Canberra with servicemen and women returning from war.

“This concert is not just about 1918, but about the here and now, the phenomenon of post-traumatic stress disorder and the physical and mental devastations war can wreak,” says Peelman.

Another strong local element is the return of Yass artist Alice Giles, former head of harp at the ANU, with her Seven Harp Ensemble, founded with students in Canberra.

Peerman says Giles is undoubtedly the premier harpist in Australia and the ensemble’s sound is “blissful and heavenly”.

“Return”, he says, may mean the soldiers returning from war or musicians returning to their roots in early music and is best exemplified by the concert called “Ulysses Now”.

Monteverdi wrote “The Return of Ulysses“ in 1642, based on the greatest return tale of all, Homer’s “Odyssey”, where the hero Odysseus/Ulysses takes 10 years to get home from Troy. This central concert will feature parts of the Monteverdi in which local luminaries such as Lankshear, Toby Cole and Andrew Fysh will perform.

“The story of Ulysses may be an ancient epic”, Peelman says, “but it is right up to date.”

2018 Canberra International Music Festival, April 27 to May 6. Bookings to

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