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23 October 2018

Emerging talent takes centre stage at KPO Composer Workshops

2016 workshop participant Kezia Yap's work is featured at a KPO concert on 3 November. Image: 2016 workshop participant Kezia Yap's work is featured at a KPO concert on 3 November.  

Ku-ring-gai Philharmonic Orchestra's Composer Workshops were initiated 15 years ago. At first annually, and every two years since 2012, three young or emerging composers have been selected to create an orchestral work which is then rehearsed, refined and recorded over the course of three workshop sessions. The process begins before the first workshop, with composers receiving detailed feedback on their drafts from the composer mentor. Past and present mentors include some of Australia's most prominent composers, including Nigel Butterley, Paul Stanhope, and Matthew Hindson.

At the workshop sessions there will also be guidance by the orchestra's conductor, and feedback from the players. Static on the page, the musical score becomes a living, evolving organism, fed and reshaped by the players, audience and acoustic environment. Feedback on orchestration, subtleties of texture, and questions of balance and voicing are just some of the many issues encountered during the workshops. A source of wonder and inspiration for the composer, a live performance is an experience that no music software can simulate, and the chance to interact with musicians who offer invaluable advice on the inner workings of each instrument is of utmost importance.

Over the years, the KPO has sought to offer this experience to composers with diverse backgrounds and musical styles. This is achieved both through the selection process and by engaging composer mentors representing a range of stylistic orientations. There have been several interstate participants, and, in some instances, grant money has allowed the orchestra to provide a modest subsidy towards their travel expenses.

Many of the Composer Workshops alumni have gone on to become successful, professional composers, and it is very encouraging to see the growing number of women amongst their ranks. Notably, female participants outnumbered the men in three of the workshops held over the last ten years.

One of the important aims of the workshops has been to promote the creation of new works suitable for programming by community orchestras, and the orchestral forces are deliberately kept within reasonable bounds. A composer is permitted to provide their own instrumental soloist, however, and this has led to some remarkable collaborations, including a work for jazz quartet and orchestra by Nadia Burgess in 2012 (mentored by Mark Isaacs) and Katia Beaugeais as saxophone soloist in her own composition in 2007.

The KPO has led the way in constructing a path from workshop to concert performance, and compositions by Van P. Nguyen, Lorenzo Alvaro, Michael Sollis, Chris Williams and Kezia Yap have been picked up from the workshops and included in the orchestra's concert programs.

Participants of the KPO Composer Workshop in 2018 are Michael Bakrnčev with Czárdás, Naomi Dodd with Salt to the Senses and Jeremy Richmond with Barrenjoey.

KPO's chief conductor and artistic director, Paul Terracini, believes that opportunities such as the KPO Composer Workshop are instrumental in giving exposure to emerging musical talent:

It is particularly gratifying for me to be involved with the KPO Composer Workshops as conductor, since, apart from my own work as a composer and arranger, I have been performing new music, both in Australia and abroad, since the 1970s. It is often forgotten that most of the composers throughout history are unknown to us today. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms were not the only people writing music during their own eras; they are simply the ones who have stood the test of time. One can never predict when and where great musical talent will emerge, but initiatives such as the KPO Composer Workshops play an invaluable role in ensuring that it does not go unnoticed', he says.

Preceding this year's Composer Workshop sessions on 6, 13 and 20 November, the KPO's concert on 3 November will feature the work eggshell by Kezia Yap, a participant of the program in 2016. KPO will join forces with the Willoughby Symphony Choir, the Barker College/Abbotsleigh Choirs, soloists Barbara Jin and Benett Tsai and conductor Peter Ellis for a program also featuring works by Prokofiev, Debussy and Tchaikovsky.

The 2018 Composer Workshops will take place at the Ku-ring-gai Town Hall, Pymble on 6 and 13 November, and at the Abbotsleigth Girls' School in Wahroonga NSW on 20 November. The KPO will be conducted by Paul Terracini, with Matthew Hindson as composer mentor. The workshop on 20 November is open to the public - for more information, see the orchestra website.

Event details

KPO: Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev and Kezia Yap, 3 November at 7:30pm, the Concourse, Chatswood NSW - event details in the AMC Calendar

Further links

Ku-ring-gai Philharmonic Orchestra - homepage (www.kpo.org.au)

Kezia Yap - composer's homepage (www.keziayap.com)

'Ku-Ring-Gai Composer Workshop: from musical thoughts to physical sounds' - an article by the 2009 Composer Workshop participant Aristea Mellos (25 March 2009)

Lewis Cornwell is the Workshop Coordinator for the KPO Composer Workshops; Paul Terracini is the KPO's Artistic Director and Chief Conductor.


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