Hidden Curiosities: Memento

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 discussed 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?

A concert series in Melbourne and Sydney 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 writers.

I was recently contacted by Cameron Lam, a producer, composer and arts administrator who has been interviewed here at 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 pianist/ soprano duo in each state.

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.”

Last month, soprano Anna Fraser and pianist Jack Symonds presented their Vestige program at Sydney Conservatorium, drawing a glowing review from Limelight Magazine.  

This weekend, Stefan Cassomenos and Amelia Jones will bringing their Memento concert to Melbourne Recital Centre. (Tickets are still available here) While the mission behind the Hidden Curiosities series is to give new life to existing repertoire, it should also be pointed out that the program is entirely made up of works by living composers. This would be barely rate a mention in many other musical contexts, but is sadly all too rare in the world of chamber music and related classical genres.

Both concert programs were drawn from an open call for scores which attracted over 390 minutes of music. The performers took charge of the curation process- guided by instinct rather than the specifications of a particular theme.

“It was a nearly impossible task to narrow down the works submitted to a shortlist- there was so much wonderful music”, Cassomenos concedes.

Stefan Cassomenos

“I was drawn to works that affected me deeply, and there wasn’t a particular style for this program in my mind. The only real theme I noticed emerging was that they were all really well-written and heartfelt works, and the composers all have an inspiring level of craft.”

It is makes sense then that the program is a diverse one, both musically and artistically, with composers in varying stages of their careers. Those in the audience on Saturday night will hear works by Anne Cawrse, Connor D’Netto, Robert McIntyre and Caerwen Martin among many others.

Cassomenos and Jones are known for their versatility as performers. Jones regularly appears alongside early music ensembles across Melbourne, and has supplied vocals for multiple video game soundtracks. Cassomenos can be seen performing concert pianist repertoire, and is also an active figure in the world chamber music.

“It has always been a great pleasure to feature Australian compositions in my solo recitals, particularly overseas, and also to premiere Australian piano concertos”, he elaborates. “I also feel very fortunate to have premiered and recorded several new Australian art songs. My chamber ensemble PLEXUS has commissioned and premiered over 110 new works, including many art songs – and I’ve also written a few, as it’s a genre which is very dear to my heart.”

Amelia Jones

I also had a chance to speak to Lam about the link which exists between the dual programs in the project, and how this was represented in the original poster designs. “Sydney’s Vestige refers to ‘that which remains’, in contrast to Melbourne’s Memento– ‘that which is taken’. Both focus on the context these programs were created in, sorting through a trove of treasures to curate something new. The artwork follows that visual theme of something hidden or obscured being found.

The moth motif is depicted in both posters. In the poster for Memento is appears in silhouette, drawing attention to its absence in the landscape. It has been pinned and preserved outside of its original context. The contrast between dull peaches and indigos highlight the final sunset on this original meaning. However, mementos can have a second life. They can serve a new purpose beyond merely preserving the shadow of a memory.”

Tickets to Memento can be purchased here

Facebook event can be found here

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