CANBERRA Symphony Orchestra will launch an online mini-series later in May or early June, commissioning 14 short solo works by Australian composers.
Partly a move to cement its profile as a national leader in programming Australian music, the series will be co-curated by composer and director of the CSO’s “Australian Series”, Matthew Hindson, and UK-based Australian conductor Jessica Cottis.
Cottis, the former organ graduate from the School of Music who’s best known here for conducting “The Gallipoli Symphony” was to have conducted the second Llewellyn Series concert in May, and is widely touted as the replacement for chief conductor and artistic director of the CSO Nick Milton when he leaves at the end of this year.
The mini-series will be just one part of a suite of digital offerings to be delivered before the orchestra returns as Milton puts it, “in its full glory to perform heavenly symphonic music”. Along with online recitals and curated playlists, there will be virtual orchestra projects remotely recorded in collaboration with the ANU School of Music.
“Without minimising the gravity of these circumstances for the entire creative and performing arts sector, we are embracing the opportunity to try some new things,” Milton said in a YouTube message to the orchestra’s “tight-knit family”.
Quoting Aldous Huxley, who once wrote, “After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible, is music”, Milton goes on to say, “Now, more than ever, music can play an important part in our lives. It brings us joy and it lifts our spirits. It is a beacon of comfort and hope during these times. It is nourishment for our souls.”
Each work commissioned in the mini-series, he said, would be recorded by a CSO musician and premiered online.
As well, the CSO and the ANU School of Music would be inviting community members to record and submit their own parts for a community “Virtual Orchestra” event, to be made with artistic guidance from Milton and production by School of Music technical staff Matt Barnes and Craig Greening.
He reminded viewers that part of the opening Llewellyn Series concert, the Saint-Säens Organ Symphony, had recorded an empty Llewellyn Hall during a rehearsal with the full orchestra, and posted it on their YouTube channel to a rapturous response.
The new venture, he explained, would be additional to the joint “Side by Side, Byte Size” project announced recently, which is intended to give students the opportunity to play alongside CSO musicians in a short virtual performance.
The separate “Virtual Recital Series” will be showcasing soloists, starting with the CSO’s principal clarinet Alan Vivian.
The first Australian mini-series episode is expected to be released late May or early June. The “Virtual Orchestra” collaborations will be shared in June and information about the community special will come out via the above channels in the next week or two so that members of the public can submit videos.
The CSO will also be circulating regular playlists and Milton was quick to reassure the sceptics that his musicians had “eclectic tastes and a wide knowledge of the repertoire… I’m sure they will be revealing some unexpected surprises in an endless universe.”