HELD across four venues, the “Sounding Murdoch” concert celebrated local composers and performers – something to be highly commended.
The music began in the courtyard garden among heavy vines and flowers, where three tousle-headed young musicians charmed the crowd.
Accomplished pianist Adam Cook showed another side of musical life, performing his original song “Flirt in the Dirt” with fellow musicians John Griffith and Alec Coulson. Cook’s light-hearted elucidation of zombie invasion myths demonstrated an eccentric fusion of styles, from Keith Jarrett to Manga, Shostakovitch and experimental jazz.
In the Bogong Theatre, David Shaw gave an excellent performance of Larry Sitsky’s “Sonata for Solo Flute”. Played entirely from memory (no ordinary feat in such a complex work), Shaw effortlessly navigated difficult ornaments, flutter and double-tongued passages, accented grace notes and multiphonics.
This work, by one of Australia’s best loved composers, features snatches of bird song and Hebraic melody in the tradition of the great Olivier Messiaen. Listening to this fine work, one couldn’t help but wonder why more Sitsky hasn’t been programmed in the Centenary.
Moving to the contemporary art space, the audience was treated to another fine performance – Matt Withers playing Nigel Westlake’s “Hinchinbrook Riffs”. Originally composed for Canberra’s own Tim Kain, this work was performed with professional aplomb by Withers and a digital delay unit – the “second half of the duo” as the performer wryly noted. The piece is characterised by cascading virtuosic passages, pedal tones, harmonics and ringing bell-like sounds, creating an almost carillon effect.
The audience was then ushered across the road by fine arts lollipop ladies in fluorescent vests, to the Ainslie Arts Centre. After a brief but highly entertaining lecture by festival director Chris Latham on the Masonic symbolism of the building, the concert concluded with performances of original compositions by David Pereira and Kate Moore.
Pereira’s “Mount Ainslie Rising”, for cello and piano, highlighted an almost unbearable beauty of timbre. Like the late nineteenth century piano superstars, Pereira writes music to showcase his ability as a performer and the result is always something very special.
The Song Company gave a mesmerising performance of “Uisce”, a composition by Canberra girl (in exile) Kate Moore. This work, described by director Latham as “a bit hippy”, was an accomplished and mature composition – otherworldly and ethereal. Consisting of layered vowel sounds, separated consonants, gliding tones and Tibetan harmonic singing, Moore’s “Uisce” delighted and soothed the audience.
The Song Company performed facing one another across a circle, giving this work a theatrical element and adding to the surreal atmosphere it created.
Perhaps Latham was on to something with his description of the Masonic qualities of the venue, but it is rare to see such a spellbound audience at a performance of new work.
Judith Crispin is a composer, writer, photographer and director of Manning Clark House .
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