Hidden Curiosities: Vestige

By Stella Joseph-Jarecki (Enquiries: stellamusicwriter.wordpress.com)

There are many challenges inherent in the life of a freelance composer: being commissioned to write works in the first place, reaching out to potential audiences, connecting with like-minded performers. But a challenge that is less commonly talked about is the life cycle of pieces, once the score is written and the applause from the premiere has faded away.

Once a musical work has come into the world, what then?

An upcoming concert series in Sydney and Melbourne is hoping to answer that question.

This piece was written as part of a paid partnership. Unless otherwise stated, all material published on Fever Pitch Magazine is put together through voluntary contributions from the editor (Stella Joseph-Jarecki) or guest contributors.

I was recently contacted by Cameron Lam, a producer, composer and arts administrator who was recently interviewed by Fever Pitch Magazine. Alongside his artistic associate Alicia Crossley, Lam is the artistic director of Kammerklang, a production company based in Sydney and Melbourne.

Their latest endeavour is Hidden Curiosities, a two-concert event performed by a piano/ singer duo from each state.

In Lam’s words, Kammerklang aims to “create, curate, and recontextualise Australian artistic creation, to instil wonder, awe and a sense of play. We present this work in formats that are inquisitive, detailed, and accessible; while still fostering exploration and communication between the arts.”

Hidden Curiosities was born out a gap in the offerings for Australian composers: the one that exists when it comes to their back catalogue. Lam elaborates that the company “wanted to create a platform to highlight the many hidden gems in existing Australian repertoire. This series aims to champion existing, under-performed, Australian compositions with interstate performances by some of Australia’s leading performers.

A piece of music doesn’t need to be brand new, to be new to an audience. We want to support these works to have a long and varied life after their premieres.”

Audiences in Sydney will be hearing a varied program of Australian art song brought to life by soprano Anna Fraser and pianist/ composer Jack Symonds. If you find yourself in Sydney this weekend, you still have time to grab a ticket– the concert is taking place at Sydney Conservatorium of Music on Saturday afternoon.

While the Sydney and Melbourne concerts are linked, they are also discrete. The programs were curated by their respective performer duos from the same open call for scores, which was met with over 390 minutes of music.

Soprano Anna Fraser took a moment to answer a few questions on how she and Symonds tackled the selection process.

How did you find the process of curating a program from a “call-for-scores” of Australian repertoire?

I was delighted to have such a large collection of submissions to consider – over 40 compositions! I am always up for a vocal challenge and the process of reading and singing through all the works engaged my artistic appetite instantly. I’ve enjoyed the process and am very pleased with the balanced qualities of the selected works for the Vestige program – lyrical, textural, virtuosic – showcasing stunning new Australian art song.

What drew you to the art songs you selected for Vestige: A Hidden Curiosity? Were you looking to build a program around a particular theme or style of music?

Text is key to devising one’s own story in performance. I love to take the listener on a journey, perhaps over textural landscapes or across wild open seas, yet often it is the inner emotional journeys that can lead us to moments of realisation.

Every piece in the program is linked by a thread – some connections more obvious than others. It was intriguing that many of the compositions submitted had common themes with works written during a joint time of isolation in 2020.

I do tend to lean towards settings of better-known poets. I engage well with dramatic subjects and am intrigued how a composer can find inventive ways to interpret text through a new musical idea – we all have our roles to play!

Having worked across a wide range of genres and performance contexts in your career, can you tell us a bit about your experience studying Australian art song?

I can honestly say I have been singing Australian art songs all my life! I believe all singers should engage with art song as it is such a versatile genre. Whether it’s a simple Australian Christmas carol or an expressive virtuosic setting of prose- through art song we can discover nuances of our collective artistic and poetic voice as a people, influenced by our heritage and unique location on this planet.

Whilst studying in Boston (now almost two decades ago- yikes!) I shared many Australian art songs with local repetiteurs. And on the other side of the coin, I wanted to leave Boston having experienced the art songs of a different culture.

I have continued to collect and perform art songs from all over the world throughout my career. I place a great importance on historical performance practices (approach to style, affectations, ornaments, language and pronunciation).

In a recent project associated with Sydney Living Museums’ Rouse Hill House collection, I was lucky enough to visit a physical space frozen in time to better understand the tone of the collection. This helped me learn how I could best represent a somewhat archaic, yet charmingly fashionable, collection of Australian art songs from the Victorian era.

I always like to return to original poetic texts in my performance preparation to find emotional and timbral detail. I find this helps me as I try to lift these miniatures off their pages.

Tickets to Vestige can be purchased here

Facebook event can be found here

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