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14 October 2010

Composer blog TSO Composers' School 2010 - Lorenzo Alvaro

Lorenzo Alvaro Image: Lorenzo Alvaro  

As I write about my experience in attending the Symphony Australia TSO Composers' School, I have come to realise how privileged I am to have received a series of rare opportunities. Firstly, although there are other development programs which utilise a full orchestra, not as many include the possibility for a solo vocal line. As it just so happened, at the time the TSO had put out their call for scores, I had already begun composing a new song cycle titled Moonless Night (for soprano and twelve instruments). Immediately, I seized the opportunity to recompose the first six and a half minutes of this songcycle for the TSO and soprano Jennifer Barrington, and to my surprise this new version, titled Spring in the Small Town, was chosen. Furthermore, after being chosen I was also set the task to orchestrate 'On the River' (From Mussorgsky's songcycle Sunless) for baritone Sitiveni Talei and orchestra.

During my time in Hobart, both works underwent several changes. Although I had already worked with orchestral forces several times before, the inclusion of the vocal lines added a new dimension of orchestration to which I was less familiar. At times, the penetration of the vocal line had been compromised by the weight of the original orchestrations.

After the first rehearsal the next rare opportunity exposed itself, and that was to be surrounded by some of Australia's most experienced composers which included Richard Mills, Andrew Ford, James Ledger as well as New Zealand conductor/composer Kenneth Young. With their input, and with further help from both soloists, I was able to alter the piece and provide fast, elegant solutions which improved the ability for the soloists to communicate in a much more effective way without compromising the music.

The third and most rare opportunity I received was to review my score overnight, not once, but twice! With the dedicated help of Kate Gray (TSO's education and training coordinator), we (the composers) were able to produce new parts and have them printed and placed on the stands before the next rehearsal. Additionally, the musicians of the TSO are a dedicated unit, their honest input helped me realise the best possible performance of my work.

The final opportunity I had was to be surrounded by young composers from around Australia: Anne Cawrse, Daniel Masmanian and Nicole Murphy. Forging these kinds of links are important for composers, and to have spent a week getting to know these composers and exchanging ideas about music only enriched me and helped me improve my music. Through discussing our experiences in music, I was led to other types of music I otherwise would have not been exposed to. I am truly humbled to have been a part of this experience and would recommend it to any composer serious about developing their orchestral technique.

Further links

Composer blog by Anne Cawrse, Symphony Australia TSO Composers' School 2010
Composer blog by Nicole Murphy, TSO Composers' School 2010
Symphony Australia TSO Composers' School information and guidelines for 2010
Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra (http://www.tso.com.au)

Lorenzo Alvaro (b. 1979) is a Melbourne/based composer currently completing his PhD (in composition) at the University of Melbourne. He is currently studying with Stuart Greenbaum and Johanna Selleck, after studying composition at an undergraduate level under Brenton Broadstock. His works have been performed around Australia and overseas.


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