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25 September 2014

Peter Sculthorpe's life and music celebrated in Hong Kong

Detail of the 9 October concert program. Image: Detail of the 9 October concert program.  

On 9 October 2014, a group of expat Australian musicians living in Hong Kong will celebrate the life of Peter Sculthorpe, a composer who is very close to their hearts.

There is no name more synonymous with Australian music than that of Peter Sculthorpe. Peter redefined what it meant to be a composer, indeed a musician, living and working in Australia in the late 20th century and being influenced by, and responding to, its unique landscape and Indigenous culture and heritage. Peter was also one of the first composers to open his ears and creative sensibilities to the wealth of musical cultures of Australia's Asian neighbours, all so close by.

Absorbing these powerful influences, a new voice began to emerge, one that resonated with us all and began to give a deep-rooted sense of cultural identity and community. There was not a musician in Australia who was not influenced by Peter's deeply expressive sound world that seemed to resonate with the country itself.

I first met Peter in the early 1990s when he joined us in Darwin, in Australia's 'Top End', for the closing concert of the First Darwin International Guitar Festival. This historic concert, 'Peter Sculthorpe's Images of the Territory', was held at the foot of Nourlangie Rock, three hours' drive from Darwin in the heart of Kakadu National Park. The centrepiece of the concert was the work he had written for guitarist John Williams, Nourlangie, a work for guitar and orchestra. The seemingly impossible task of getting an orchestra to this remote location, with an international renowned soloist, became possible through Peter's personal commitment and his love of the country and community that had done so much to inspire him.

There was a most memorable moment as the concert drew to a close and the sun began to set. The local birds came in to roost and joined the sounds of the orchestra with their evocative avian chorus. The birdsong, with which Peter had so beautifully ornamented his music, was joined by the songs of the birds themselves creating a magical moment that all who were present will never forget.

In the same concert, John Williams also performed the solo work From Kakadu that Peter had written specially for the Festival. This was just one of many visits Peter then made to the Northern Territory where he was soon embraced by the local community and embraced as an honorary citizen of the Top End.

The program of the Hong Kong concert, presented by the Australian Consulate General, Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, will feature music that has a special meaning to the performers: Irkanda 1 (performed by James Cuddeford, the concertmaster of the Hong Kong Sinfonietta), From Kakadu (performed by Adrian Walter, Director of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts), Sonata for Viola and Percussion (performed by William Lane, founder and artistic director of the Hong Kong New Music Ensemble and percussionist Louis Siu), String Quartet No 12 From Ubirr (performed by the Clover Quartet, students from the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts and HakGwai Lau on the didjeridu), and a work by Ross Edwards, Ulpirra (performed by Leanne Nicholls, founder, artistic director & principal oboe of the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong).

AMC resources

Concert details 9 October 2014 (AMC Calendar)
Tributes for Peter Sculthorpe (1929-2014) - Resonate (10 August 2014)
'Peter Sculthorpe - a reflection on his music and its context' - an article on Resonate by John Peterson (19 August 2014)
'Peter Sculthorpe - a composer in Australia' - an article on Resonate by Andrew Ford (11 August 2014)

Subjects discussed by this article:

Adrian Walter is the Director of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.


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