Tag Archives | Australian Discovery Orchestra

Orchestra Musicians Never Fail To Amaze Me

Kevin PurcellThis is a duplicate post I wrote for the Australian Discovery Orchestra website about a recent experience.

I had the great pleasure last weekend of working with an essentially ‘scratch’ orchestra comprised predominantly of musicians teaching instrumental music in Schools in Melbourne and regional areas; including some musicians from the ADO roster, all of whom gave so generously of their time.

The ADO, through Managing Director, Janine Hanrahan, and Artistic Administrator, Briony Buys, was asked to curate this concert for the inaugural Independent Schools Victoria (ISV) Arts Learning Festival. I was delighted to return to Melbourne to work with the orchestra on a program of music specifically composed for Children.

We really need to celebrate the capacity of orchestra musicians who live in Australia: their willingness to tackle difficult music – with far too little rehearsal time; an undaunted enthusiasm for the task of finding their musical way through a barrage of notes, rhythms, dynamics and endlessly shifting tempi and, ultimately, their conviction that they can “pull it off” when the moment really counts – the concert!

We underestimate and under-appreciate orchestra musicians generally.  I believe this is true in most places in the world with very few exceptions. What is asked of them – in terms of the minutely exacting technical and artistic expectations  – is a continuing feat of human dexterity and skill-level that belies any general understanding of what they individually and collectively accomplish in the process of making music. Continue Reading →

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Recordings in June and July

I have had remarkably little time in the last month, other than to keep my head above that euphemistically imaginary line labelled ‘Drowning’.  I have started to consider how much music can one conductor keep in his/her head at any one time.  Without doubt, I have discovered my limit!

This month sees the culmination of two recording projects, for release in 2017, that have been long in the planning and about to be short in the execution.

The first of these projects is the new CD of the music of contemporary American composer, Nan Schwartz to be recorded at the marvellous Synchron Stage facility in Vienna. The original Synchronhalle was built in the 1940s, adjacent to Rosenhügel-Filmstudios as part of “Film City Vienna”. In the 1960s, eminent classical artists such as Karl Böhm, Herbert von Karajan, Yehudi Menuhin, Sviatoslav Richter and Mstislav Rostropovich used the halle for some of their now-legendary recordings.

Nan Schwartz

Nan Schwartz

Nan Schwartz comes from a family musical pedigree that is astounding, yet simultaneously defining in the emergence of her own unique musical voice in Amercian Music. Contrary to the availability of her Jazz arrangements, television and film music on records and CDs, the lack of available commercial recordings of Nan’s concert music is a major oversight – one that is about to be corrected.

Her family legacy includes a father who played with the Glenn Miller Orchestra and performed on nearly every Frank Sinatra recording, and a mother who performed such chart-topping hits as “Chicago” and “On the Sunny Side of the Street” for musical legend Tommy Dorsey before going on to work as a studio singer for Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Judy Garland, Henry Mancini, and Sonny and Cher, among others.

With a record 7 Emmy nominations, a Grammy win for her elegant and sophisticated arrangement of “Here’s That Rainy Day” for Natalie Cole, two 2014 Grammy nominations (Gianmarco & Amy Dickson), and a 2013 Grammy nomination (The London Symphony Orchestra) Nan’s melodic, harmonically-rich music, is a perfect vehicle for symphony orchestras to peform.  No doubt you will start to see her name on orchestra concert programs in the near future.

The second project is the recording of Brenton Broadstock’s concerto for orchestra, Made in Heaven, that I premiered with the Australian Discovery Orchestra two weeks ago in one of their live-streamed Internet concerts.  This is a marvellous piece and a wonderful homage to ‘Kind of Blue’, the iconic Jazz album of 1959 from Miles Davis.  It is incredible how this large-scale work (for a very large orchestra) captures the heart and soul of this Jazz masterpiece without ever using a single melody from any tune on the record – it’s like a classical music counterpart to the five tunes that make up the album.

Made in Heaven will be recorded in Bratislava in early July.

More soon,

Kevin

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If You Listen Very Carefully….

In this informative discussion about ‘Music Director Searches’ for orchestras organised by the Conductors Guild (of which I am a Board member for purposes of disclosure) I was most impressed by comments offered by Henry Fogel.  Mr. Fogel is Dean of the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. Between 2003-2008, Mr. Fogel was President and CEO of the League of American Orchestras.  In fact his list of professional accomplishments is extensive.

Mr. Fogel (and his son Karl) also run a website called HenrysRecords.org which is one of the most wonderful resources for classical music recordings available anywhere on the Internet.

The disclosure statement is important as the Conductors Guild is currently developing a new handbook on this specific topic – and one that presents quite contrary views to an extant document published by the League of American Orchestras.

This little Google Hangout online seminar has particulary good information for younger orchestral conductors trying to make the first big leap to a music director role – an issue specifically addressed by Mr. Fogel on several occasions.  The information from all participants in this seminar, including both Diane Wittry and Gabriel Lefkowitz, is honest and generally well-considered.

My only concern in this presentation is the rather limited understanding of the place and inclusion of contemporary composers in the orchestral repertoire and the somewhat unhelpful antagonism toward some types of contemporary orchestral music as expressed by several of the participants.  This topic might have better been avoided frankly, if only for the reason that the sentiments expressed tend to reinforce the outmoded and ill-informed attitudes commonly heard by many orchestra artistic administrative personnel.  It’s the classic chicken or the egg scenario.  Since I have written extensively on this in the past, I won’t mount my soapbox again here.

Also, pre-announcement to conclude today’s post:  Mark your calendars for the Australian Discovery Orchestra’s opening 2017-17 season concert on May 29, streamed live from the ADO website.

From late April also check out our 3D interactive environment where you can explore the world of the music we are presenting in this concert event.

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Orchestral Musicians: Evangelists For Our Art or Violin Operators?

Catherine_Arlidge

Catherine Arlidge

This is the title of a wonderful Op-ed. piece in the Fall, 2015 issue of’ ‘Symphony‘, the magazine of the League of American Orchestras.  It’s worth reading and I suggest you do.  What I want to draw your attention to here, is just one brilliant paragraph on p.23 of the article in question.  Written by Catherine Arlidge, sub-principal second violin with the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, she offers an alternative to orchestra governance models (governed and self-goverened) by analogy to the John Lewis retail chain of stores in the U.K. (John Lewis is a store somewhat like David Jones in Australia).

Catherine suggests: “However could there be a third way, a “John Lewis” vision of our U.K. orchestras following the example of the successful John Lewis retail chain, where players and staff are employed and are members? There may not be profits to share, but there would be a vision to share and a collective sense of ownership. If we could combine the best qualities of both orchestral governance models, we could create a structure that serves our art better.  Looking to the future, one key factor of sustained solvency for our orchestras will be “invest-ability.”

With the imminent website launch of the Australian Discovery Orchestra (ADO) on Tuesday this coming week (October 6), Catherine has just outlined the ‘exact’ long-term governance model aspirations for the ADO – not as a venture that relies on Government hand-outs or the strictures of Not-For-Profit structure – but an organisation that is totally entrepreneurial with high-level aspirations of “invest-ability”.  The only difference to Catherine’s model is that the ADO is made up of ‘members’ (from the outset) who are not employed in full-time orchestral practice.

So Catherine, I am a fan, not only of your far-reaching vision but because your ideas are born of being a highly experienced (and highly credentialed too, I might add) orchestral musician, and not orchestral administrator who will only think inside the box (because the box is the walls in which they operate). Kudos.

More soon,

Kevin

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Forthcoming Events And The Launch of Something Very Close To My Heart

Australian Discovery OrchestraSo, I’ve just realised that I haven’t written a post since July 8 – which even for me must be a record of sorts.  Well, I did go on vacation for three weeks, and did have to move to escape from an insane landlord here in NY, but otherwise I’m not sure what my excuse is?

Oh yeah, I remember now, I’ve been planning a couple of great new projects (actually I’m starting to sound like a character in Andy McDermott’s ‘Nina Wilde’ action novels – which are just just by and by, a great read, not to mention a respite from reading more serious tomes on different aspects of music and theatre).  I digress.

Let’s start with something very close to my heart.  Yes, the logo on the upper left.  In a very few weeks time will see the launch of the new Australian Discovery Orchestra.  What no URL link Kevin?  Apparently the web site is still under development by the management team, so can’t go there right now.  But I can tell you (cue fanfare Mr. Stokowski please!) that I have been appointed Principal Conductor.

The ADO will give two concerts a year (actually three in 2016, but more on that later).  So how did this all come about?  Well a few folk who had some involvement with a previous orchestra project that I had put together in Australia, asked me whether I’d be prepared to help them put together a bigger and better version of the previous enterprise. Who can say ‘no’ to such a request!  And the reason is this: I fervently believed in and nurtured the previous orchestra for several years and it (and by this I mean the orchestral musicians who performed with the orchestra) achieved tremendous results – notably in a very short space of time.  But most importantly, those orchestral players suddenly had opportunities to perform that otherwise previously did not exist.  And that’s why it is so important to me.  Keep and eye out, as I will write more about this when the ADO web site goes live.  It’s going to be great! Continue Reading →

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