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22 June 2011

Sunwrae tour: five states + Vietnam

Sunwrae, HCMC Opera House, Vietnam Image: Sunwrae, HCMC Opera House, Vietnam  
© Zac Johnston

Rae Howell has just completed an extensive tour, which took the Sunwrae String Quintet to five Australian States and to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

At last count, I am writing this from 39,000 feet in the air, thousands of miles from home, at -67 degrees Fahrenheit. I'm returning home from a week's holiday (well, sort of) in Hong Kong. I'm celebrating the fact that it's been little over a week since the completion of my last big creative project - the 5th Australian tour of the Sunwrae Ensemble, which took seven members of Sunwrae around to five Australian States and to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. Ok, so I still need to reconcile the books and catch up on long lost emails, but I've definitely been in need of a short interlude from my usual business workings, before the beginning of a fresh life chapter (one with potential eyebrow-raising preparations): the study of a Master of Music in Music Leadership at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London UK.

This year's tour has been an incredibly inspiring adventure, one that, yet again, has fulfilled me more than any other creative experience this year. Of course, the preparations feel sometimes like single-handedly dragging a 15-tonne bolder up a steep hill in the Italian Alps, where you don't know the language, but somehow trust that you'll find a bed for the night, and sleep, even if it's from sheer exhaustion... however the feeling of completing a year's work is none other than fulfilling.

The adventure to Vietnam was quite extraordinary. We conducted Masterclasses for the HCMC Conservatorium and collaborated with some amazing Vietnamese performing artists: musicians Ðinh Linh, Tuyêt Mai and Ðinh Duy Thành, playing a variety of traditional Vietnamese instruments, and well-known dancer Há Thê Dũng, who choreographed a dance to one of my compositions, Rainlesssness. They were all very inspiring to work with; so brilliant and articulate in their craft whilst being incredibly graceful to watch. Our work together culminated in a performance at the Ho Chi Minh City Opera House.

Now that it has come to a close, I can say that the 2011 Sunwrae tour was fabulous. Touring as condensed an ensemble as piano and string quartet for the first time, it was great to focus on developing the sound as a quintet, in comparison to the larger 10-piece ensemble Sunwrae has toured in the past. We premiered a number of my new compositions, inspired by recent residencies in Brazil and Sweden, and recorded the final June performance in Melbourne at Iwaki Auditorium, ABC Southbank Centre, presented by the New Music Network.

One aspect of touring that is always a delight, is gaining direct feedback from the audience after each performance. Hearing thoughts, thankyous and gushes of acclamation from listeners almost immediately is a very heartening, wholesome experience and certainly none that I take for granted. As a creative artist, it could perhaps be one of the most important ways that I maintain the energy and determination to keep moving forward towards the next project.

My plans for the coming two months are falling into place: I'm writing an orchestral piece, the live soundtrack for a theatre production, additional Sunwrae Ensemble works, and then there's the task of relocating to London. Sheesh! The idea of living elsewhere is still sinking in, but it is one that I can't wait to realise. I'll keep you posted on my ventures as my studies progress!

Further links

Rae Howell - AMC profile
Sunwrae - www.sunwrae.com/

Rae Howell is an Australian freelance composer and multi-instrumentalist. A graduate of the University of Melbourne Conservatorium, Howell is Artistic Director of the Sunwrae Ensemble, a Melbourne-based chamber music group dedicated to performing her original works for piano, vibraphone, string quartet, harp, clarinets, alto flute, lap-steel guitar, double bass, drums and percussion, including many guest performers.


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