Doretta Balkizas, one of our fantastic 2013 Emerging Artists has written in on her tenure with ACO2. She and her 2013 cohort concluded their stint at the Vasse Felix festival in the Margaret River wine region.
Whilst sitting around the table in Seabird, watching my fellow EAs bond over a rather competitive game of Speed Scrabble, one reflects on how uniquely special the Emerging Artist Program has been in providing the common ground for friendship between six musicians Australia-wide. Discussions prior were of a sentimental nature, where we ruminated upon the wonderful experiences of our EA year. I have somehow also managed to dodge the writing of this blog, and now that it has been imparted upon me to conclude the 2013-blog-year I feel slightly uneasy in trying to separate what I know should be a rather practical summary of the most recent ACO2 tour (with a few comedic indents) and my own disposition towards not only the Vasse Felix Festival but also the year. I feel that these last concerts, where we performed three entirely different musical-programs in front of an expectant but highly attentive and appreciative audience, would not have been nearly as plausible without the culmination of experiences from the previous tours. In many ways, these last three days in Margaret River were perhaps the most challenging in the sense that we had a very short amount of time to prepare a mammoth amount of repertoire with which many of us had no previous experience.
We were led by the fantastic Dale Barltrop who was a modest master of the violin and an ingenious chamber musician; a constant inspiration to us young emerging musicians. Of course the same has to be said for our ACO mentors on this tour; Veronique, Zoe, Caroline and Danny who have been a constant source of encouragement and wisdom throughout the year, Zoe having led my first ever ACO2 tour. And what a contrast between April 2013 where tentativeness was especially prevalent and now, where we reside in ease beside the sea of Western Australia, celebrating a year of music and friendship.
Vasse Felix was a magical place situated in the Wilyabrup sub-region of Margaret River. We performed in the art gallery of the Vasse Felix Winery, with an acoustic that was beautiful to play in once the fervent audience filled the room. We performed three nights in a row, excluding the concert in the Utzon room in Sydney a couple of days before and had the chance to meet our audience members after each performance – something that is incredibly valuable. One night, over an extraordinary dinner, we met with guests of the festival discussing the several favourite pieces of repertoire and their own personal history with the ACO. There were a considerable amount of things that struck me: the first was the absolute love of music and how it can bring friends together – I was seated on a table that seated six old friends who have not only attended the Vasse Felix festival together for consecutive years but also ACO subscription concerts. The second was the applause that was directed towards the staff (including the chefs and kitchen hand) at the end of this dinner, where we were able to show our appreciation to the other creatives; a great example of the altruistic character of the attendees.
The programming was challenging but creative and varied, where the repertoire ranged from Vivaldi to Lerdahl; Bizet to Schubert. The first concert consisted of repertoire by Mozart, Golijov, Lerdahl, Cowell and Mendelssohn. The date (7 December) is worth making note of as the milestone event of Mr. Nelson Mandela’s passing marked it. The Cowell was dedicated in commemoration, a minute passing in silence until the Mendelssohn String Symphony broke the silence.
The next concert was a ‘Violin Showcase’ where a Hindson duo opened the concert, followed by: Bizet’s Carmen (arranged by Milone for four violins and bass); Schubert Rondo (arranged for string orchestra and solo violin by Dale); Beethoven String Quartet in D major Op.18; Geminani ‘La Follia'; and an encore by Purcell.
The final concert was a program where concentration levels were at peak with the Vivaldi ‘Alla Rustica’ Concerto; Stravinsky Concerto in D; Beamish starring the wonderful Caroline Henbest; Prokofiev Sonata for two violins; and the Dvorak Serenade. Many core pieces from the Chamber Orchestra repertory.
I know that I do not speak alone when reflecting that this year as an ACO Emerging Artist has been a highlight. The Australian Chamber Orchestra is an enlivening and innovative ensemble, where everyone is totally committed to what they say creatively – transferring their own energy to a collective. In a way we had no choice but to emulate that energy, as this joy for music and learning is infectious. The Vasse Felix festival of chamber music (whether it be in the form of a chamber orchestra or a smaller ensemble) was the pinnacle of the year partly due, in conjunction with the excellent mentors and atmosphere, to the timing. Because of the natural course of development through accumulated experiences, the six individuals were no longer just independent bodies of Emerging Artists, but friends and completely unified by something great; ACO2.
We are now taking applications for our 2015 Emerging Artist program. For more details, follow the link.