28 November 2013
Ensemble Offspring - roaring in 2013 & spawning hatchlings in 2014
'We were initially unsure of what sort of program we should be taking with us to the hallowed new music grounds that are the European concert halls, but I think that, in the end, touring an almost exclusively fresh and new Australian program was the right thing to do', writes percussionist Claire Edwardes who co-directs Ensemble Offspring together with composer Damien Ricketson. Offspring's European tour featured works by seven Australian composers, plus international repertoire.
2013 has been an exciting and very busy year for Ensemble Offspring - so many strikingly varied memories, from collaborations with Sydney Grammar students in our final concert of the year, 'Sagittarius', all the way back to the Sydney Festival in January when we (crazily) performed Ligeti's classic Atmospheres for two violins, two percussion, electric guitar and turntables. In 2014 we look forward to the inaugural year of our 'Hatched Academy' and another performance at the Sydney Festival, this time with Mike Patton of Faith No More fame.
Hatched is our new elite education program, designed to provide hands-on experience to one Australian performer and one composer. They will be mentored throughout the year by Damien Ricketson and myself, culminating in a showcase concert that they will compose for, perform in, help curate and administer, at the end of 2014. Applications for this program close 11 December - please spread the word and get your application in asap if you are under 30 (for details, see the EO website).
Whilst this year's Sydney Festival seems like eons ago, what is still etched in my consciousness is our recent European tour, which we embarked on in October 2013. We toured a quartet of musicians. I am so proud of Lamorna Nightingale (flute), Jason Noble (clarinet) and Bree van Reyk (percussion) for what were truly memorable performances in Den Haag, Brugge, London and Glasgow. While the rain attempted to dampen our spirits almost every day (as well as dampening our non-waterproof shoes and jackets) the standard of performance just kept getting better and better, culminating in our Glasgow concert, which was probably the tightest we have ever played as a group. The opportunity to perform this dynamic Aussie repertoire over and over again was one that we don't really get to do at home and it was much appreciated in terms of the standard we were able to achieve.
As part of the program, which we called 'Roar', we took over
works by Aussie ex-pats
Matthew Shlomowitz, Kate
Moore and Jane
Stanley and teamed them with Australian pieces written for us
Elena Kats-Chernin and our own Bree van Reyk, plus some
international composer friends Laurence Crane, Jennifer Walshe
and Bryn Harrison. We were initially unsure of what sort of
program we should be taking with us to the hallowed new music
grounds that are the European concert halls, but I think that, in
the end, touring an almost exclusively fresh and new Australian
program was the right thing to do. It was Ensemble Offspring's
own unique brand of new music making that we showed the audiences
over there, and the feedback was surprising and very positive.
These were some of the things they said: it was 'fresh', 'fun',
'dynamic', 'somehow very Australian', 'eclectic programming that
showed every side of the ensemble's skills'…
Some personal highlights were the concert at Kings Place in London, which was very well attended and a real buzz, for me, as I got to perform two solos with the composers in the room. Irish composer Jennifer Walshe's reaction afterwards was something I don't think I will ever forget either - she was enamoured with the group. We were so relieved because it was at that concert that we performed, for her for the first time, the theatrical wonder she had written for us earlier in the year called Everything you own has been taken to a depot somewhere and we weren't sure whether she would like our interpretation or not. She did!
We were lucky enough to present a concert for 150 seven-year-old
children and their parents at the Brugge Concertgebouw, hosted by
the lovely Sterre de Raedt. We performed for them our 'Music to
Infinity' program, and Sterre engaged the kids through activities
during the concert including their own rendition of Musique
de Table on wooden stools led by Bree - what a great idea
and how awesome to see so many excited and inspired
seven-year-olds leaving an Ensemble Offspring concert desperate
And finally our time at Glasgow University, working with the composition students, was very satisfying, and the reactions from these students to our honest and open Aussie feedback on their compositions was heart-warming. Our Australian style seemed very compatible with the Scottish sensibility and we hope to return there some day soon.
Thanks to everyone who helped make this tour so successful including our 'men' on the ground in the various European cities, Kate Moore, Matthew Shlomowitz, Davina van Belle, Jane Stanley - and of course the wonderful EO musicians who went above and beyond the call of duty. That instrument lugging in the rain was not for the faint-hearted and at times it felt more like something a twenty-something-year-old should be attempting rather than a late thirty-something-year-old. But being an exponent of new music is not for the faint-hearted either, so if anyone was up for the challenge, we were!
Ensemble Offspring's tour received funding from the International Pathways initiative by the Australia Council for the Arts.
© Australian Music Centre (2013) — Permission must be obtained from the AMC if you wish to reproduce this article either online or in print.
Claire Edwardes is a percussionist and co-artistic director of the Sydney-based Ensemble Offspring, a recent addition to the Australia Council's group of Key Organisations. On New Year's Eve 2013, Edwardes will be performing her solo show ONE as part of the Peninsula Summer Music Festival in Victoria.
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