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TSO and The20: a joyful collaboration

17 May 2024

TSO's 2024 season identity is one full of colour, emotion and intrigue. This captivating representation of the season is the result of a reignited relationship between TSO and design agency, The20.

We spoke with The20's Senior Graphic Designer, Angie Miller, to find out the inspiration behind the season identity and the ways TSO and The20 are kicking goals together in 2024.

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Thank you for joining us Angie.  Could you tell us a little about your role at The20?

I’m the Senior Graphic Designer at The20. I work to briefs that are informed by our clients, and sometimes strategy and research, that identify what the client needs to communicate and who to. I normally work within a creative team including a creative director and writer, to figure out how to communicate the message with the audience – how do we want them to feel, or what do we want them to do and how can we achieve this with images and words.

The20 started working with the TSO again in mid-2023. What's been the most exciting element of working with the TSO so far?

We are all so excited to have the TSO work back in the agency. Creating the Season 2024 identity has certainly been the highlight so far. We started with an inspiring and thorough briefing from Simon. He explained the TSO’s vision for the upcoming season and showed us examples of all the different TSO experiences so that we understood what we were talking about. Then the pressure was on for us to create an identity that cut though, communicated the creative vision and represented the orchestra.

It’s exciting to work for a creative organisation with such a great product. You’ve trusted us to do what we do and run with it. It’s a pleasure working with the team at the TSO.

Do you have a favourite TSO concert or experience that you've been to?

Last year I saw Obscura Machina with percussionist Claire Edwardes, the 6pm Series concert Fire and Water and the Federation Concert Hall performance with violinist Benjamin Beilman. It’s pretty hard to choose a favourite between those! They were just so different and all incredibly clever. But I really love the idea of the 6pm concerts, it works so well, you don’t have to be super-savvy and you can safely invite anyone and know they’ll get something out of it.

Congratulations on an eye-catching and inspiring design for the 2024 Season. What were your inspirations in designing the look and feel?

Thank you. The brief was all about Joy, as an antidote to the weird few years the world has had and the lingering effect that’s having on people. It’s about getting out there again and feeling something real.

So the design is based on a spectrum of colours like a rainbow, which is recognised as a symbol of joy, then each of the coloured beams of light represents a different TSO series, conveying the diversity of experiences the TSO has to offer. There’s the shiny, golden light of the Federation Concert Hall, they smokey blue of Obscura and the gritty red of Live Sessions.

We were aiming to retain the sophisticated confidence of the TSO but also to surprise with something slightly unexpected that might get the attention of new audiences.

I hear The20 has recently won some special awards for your work on the 2024 Season, could you tell us about these?

Yes, that was exciting. The Diemen Awards celebrate Tasmania’s creative industry. The TSO Season 2024 won for Brand Identity and Social Campaign, as well as the Grand Diemen for the design category overall.

Congratulations! Finally, what are you working on at the moment for the TSO?

Lately we’ve been working on social campaigns for Obscura and the 6pm Series, aiming to target some new audiences to join the existing loyal TSO crowd.

Thank you so much for talking with us Angie. We can't wait to see what's to come for our 2024 Season and beyond!

Check out the Come Closer campaign for the 6pm Series below (and don't forget to pick up 2 for 1 tickets to the next concert!).

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What the TSO Education team has been up to in Term 1

18 Apr 2024. Written by Jack Machin, TSO Learning and Community Projects Manager.

It's been a busy start to 2024 for the TSO Education team as we hit the road for our inaugural Northern Residency, launched two new initiatives for schools, participated in the 35th Residential Summer String Camp, and celebrated Samuel Hooper as our 2024 Rising Star.

TSO in the North!

On Thursday 8 Feb, the TSO hit the road for our inaugural Northern Residency. It was a fantastic three days starting with sold out family concerts in Georgetown and a day of schools’ concerts, and another Family Concert, generously hosted by Scotch Oakburn College.

Actor Jane Longhurst, conductor Gary Wain and the TSO musicians explored the world of dance music and the concert concluded with a mosh pit of kids busting out their best moves – perhaps to overwrite the memory of their parents and grandparents attempting the Can Can!

On Saturday we welcomed local musicians to instrument workshops which culminated in a scratch orchestra rehearsal conducted by myself (Jack Machin) and a Brass Ensemble led by TSO Principal Trombone, David Robins. TSO Principal Piccolo and Tutti Flute, Lloyd Hudson, wrangled the biggest task of the day – preparing a ‘flutter’ (collective noun for flutes!) of ten young flute players in a masterclass while the building vibrated to the sounds of strings, clarinets, brass, percussion and a small but excellent posse of double bass enthusiasts.

Science and sound combine forces

Science and Sound is a new initiative for schools exploring high and low sounds, vibration, and resonance for students in Kindergarten to Year 4. We discover how the different instruments work and interweave this with several pieces suitable for young children.

Tim Jones (tuba) and Rachel Howie (flute) delivered 11 performances in schools across Greater Hobart, Orford and Triabunna. It was a way of engaging with almost 600 children in their natural habitat and this nimble module is a key strategic arm of performing live to every Tasmanian child.

If you would like any more information about having the TSO perform in your school, please contact schoolbookings@tso.com.au.

📸 Paul Costin for LYCO Launceston Youth & Community Orchestra Inc.
TSO heads to String Camp!

The 35th Residential Summer String Camp was held in Ulverstone in the second week of Jan. TSO musicians Emma McGrath, Yue-Hong Cha, Will Newbery, Jonathan Bekes and Matt McGrath were in attendance and worked with 180 musicians of all ages, spread across three large groups.

The camp is an important annual fixture for string players across the state, attracting mentors from as far as the USA. Camp Director and Founder Margaret Hoban said “we are so grateful for the support of the TSO in our activity – we could not do what we do to the level that we do without you!”

What a brilliant week; we can't wait to be back in future years.

📸 Paul Costin for LYCO Launceston Youth & Community Orchestra Inc.

Samuel Hooper
And the 2024 Rising Star is... Samuel Hooper ⭐️

On March 25, TSO had the pleasure of adjudicating the 2024 Rising Star competition. The candidature this year was outstanding, and all performers did themselves and their teachers proud.

The winner announced on 4th April, was a young violinist 14-year-old Samuel Hooper who displayed incredible virtuosity, maturity well beyond his years and a level of musicianship seldom witnessed in one so young.

His performance of Sarasate’s Caprice Basque had the panel absolutely captivated from the first note to the last. You can hear him perform with the TSO on Saturday 17 Aug at the Big Rehearsal (information coming soon).

Student conductors take to the stage

The brainchild of Eivind Aadland, TSO Chief Conductor and Artistic Director, 2024 has seen students from the Hutchins School participating in the TSO’s first school-based conducting program this year.

Under the expert teaching of Will Newbury, TSO violist and local conductor, the lucky boys have already learned the basics and been treated to sitting in on a rehearsal where they had a short masterclass with Eivind.

See our education program and resources, or get in touch with Jack Machin from the TSO Education team at machinj@tso.com.au

The TSO is proud to reach students and music lovers all across the state.  Please consider supporting our community and schools programs to help us increase our reach far and wide.

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Meet the Musicians: Andrew Seymour

16 Apr 2024

Meet Andrew Seymour, TSO Principal Clarinet and 2024 Season Soloist, as he talks about the process of bringing new composition Fire Music to life on stage at the recent 6pm Series concert.

TSO: How are you feeling post performance of Fire Music, a couple of weeks on? 

AS: Oh there’s many feelings that come after a performance like that but I guess looking back now I feel pleased that we were able to create something that really resonated with the audience. Which was always the intention of the music - through the story and the emotion in the music to create that connection. I’ve been told of so many emotional responses to the music which really means a lot to me to hear that people felt these deep emotions through the music.

TSO: How did you feel on the night on the performance?  

AS:  To be honest I actually felt pretty great! I was just really excited to finally get to perform what I think is such an incredible piece. I actually don't even recall any real nerves, the preparation and rehearsals had been excellent so I was able to enjoy the whole experience. 

Andrew Seymour
TSO: Has there been a particular bit of feedback that stood out to you from your performance?  

AS: I think everyone who has has spoken about having a personal experience of bushfire, hearing those stories and those responses to the music is really meaningful. 

TSO:  What story or feelings does this piece evoke for you personally?

AS: I find the narrative of the entire piece to be really powerful, whilst it is specifically about fire, there is also an underlying universality to it that speaks to human suffering or tragedy. But what I love is that the piece brings us through that moment of desolation to renewal, where there is hope and rejuvenation, finishing with an uplifting and joyous feeling.

TSO: Do you have a favourite section or moment in Fire Music? If so, what makes it stand out to you?

AS: Oh it’s hard to choose just one! When the clarinet enters in the 2nd movement (Fire) with energetic flourishes and high note screams like the bushfire is starting to roar out of control. Or the climax of the 3rd movement (Desolation) where the clarinet is playing at the top of the register letting out all of the emotion that has built up through the piece. 

TSO: What were some of the most challenging aspects of bringing this piece to life? Conversely, what aspects did you find most rewarding?

AS: There are quite a number of technical challenges in the piece that took significant work to learn and achieve a result I was happy with. One passage in the 2nd movement where the clarinet plays an extended series of fast, short articulated notes with large intervals was particularly challenging, then the music changes key from D minor to D# minor which makes the fingerings much more complicated!

Another big challenge in the piece is stamina, all the playing in the extreme high register of the clarinet is really taxing on the embouchure and there are some very long passages where Jabra has basically given me nowhere to breathe! Then there's that extremely long held high note in the 3rd movement – so many people afterwards commented that they couldn't believe how long I sustained that note! I did experiment with circular breathing for that note but in the end decided against it and just planned some breathing strategies to get me through it. I do get huge reward out of overcoming those challenges and then seeing the piece come together as a whole.

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TSO: Going back to the start of where Fire Music came from - how does the collaboration process work with you and Jabra?

AS: Well Jabra composes and I figure out how on earth I'm going to play the ridiculously difficult things he has written!! No, I think actually there is a lot of trust between us, I trust Jabra's vision for the piece – that he doesn't just write difficult music without reason but there is a lot of time and thought and musical intention in everything he writes. And I think Jabra trusts me as a musician and performer to interpret his writing and bring to life his musical intentions. I try not to go back to Jabra with problems saying that this or that doesn't technically work on the instrument but I prefer to work out those difficulties and find a solution that captures the musical meaning.

TSO: Is there anything else you and Jabra are working on that we can look forward to?

AS: We recently recorded Fire Music in a version for Clarinet and String Quartet. We're working on some final edits on this recording so it should be ready for release very soon! We've got the album of Music for Clarinet & Piano which was released last year and I'm taking Fire Music in this version to the international Clarinet Festival later this year. Hopefully this will see Jabra's music picked up and performed by other clarinetists all over the world.

TSO: Which 3 concerts in Season 2024 would you put in your Create Your Own bundle?

AS: The next 6pm concert [Olivia Chindamo] looks to be a cracker, with Bernstein, Gershwin and I'm particularly excited to play Joe Chindamo's piece – Fantaskatto. Joe's music is colourful, energetic and very accessible.

Karin Schaupp: Scheherazade is such a great piece that only comes up occasionally for the TSO and the Guitar Concerto is again something we don't often hear live.

Beethoven’s Fifth with Mahler's Rückert Lieder with Soprano Camilla Tilling will be just beautiful. 

Create Your Own package of 2024 favourites here!

See Andrew playing the clarinet at an upcoming TSO concert in Federation Concert Hall or around the state.

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Meet the Musicians: Julian Leslie

16 Apr 2024

Meet Julian Leslie, TSO Horn player, as he talks about mentors, developing his sound concept, and the delicate balance of great frustration and immense joy the horn brings to his life.

1. You joined the orchestra just over a year ago in early 2023, what was it that most attracted you to the TSO and living in Tasmania?

I always pictured Tasmania as a place I would like to live. I enjoy cooler climates, and value having such easy access to so much beautiful nature. I also appreciate smaller cities like Hobart that offer plenty of good food and culture, but that allow for a more relaxed pace of life. The opportunity to have all of that and a full-time orchestral job in such a high-level ensemble is pretty special, and quite unique in Australia.

2. What influences inspire you in your life and music?

My first long term teacher, Campbell Barnes, could produce the most beautiful tone on the horn, and I think this really influenced my own sound concept. All my horn teachers throughout my professional training have given me invaluable lessons and inspiration, not only in terms of making music and honing my skills on the horn, but also in terms of life skills like confidence and perseverance. The same can easily be said of so many of my friends and colleagues.

Julian Leslie at nine years of age.
3. What first attracted you to the horn, and how has your relationship with the instrument changed over the years?

When I was almost 9 years old, I was apparently interested in brass instruments. I think this was partly to do with having some neighbourhood friends who were learning trumpet...though they told me I couldn't play trumpet because they did! So, my parents took me to a local brass teacher, and I got to hear and try the different instruments – I liked the sound of the horn when the teacher demonstrated it, and am told I could get a decent sound out of it myself. At that stage I was too small to hold it properly, but gradually grew into it, and music and playing the horn have been a constant in my life since then.

Over the years, the horn has directly and indirectly influenced just about all parts of my life, from the friends I have made, and meeting my wife, to the places I have visited and lived around the world. Through playing horn I have experienced both great frustration and intense joy and learned many valuable life lessons.

4. Can you share a work or song that really fires you up when you hear it!

The opening to the Finale of Bruckner's 8th Symphony.

5. Which 3 concerts in Season 2024 would you put in your Create Your Own bundle?

Being a horn player, I would definitely include Bruckner's Fourth Symphony (Nobuyuki Tsujii).

The Video Game music concert should also be a good one – some works will definitely be nostalgic for me, but there are some really great compositions in the video game world, which can certainly be enjoyed by non-gamers.

I would also include the Beethoven's Fifth concertBeethoven 5 is of course great, but mainly because Mahler's Rückert Lieder will be sublime.

Create Your Own package of 2024 favourites here!

6. What do you want to tell all first-time concert goers?

Leave all your daily concerns at the door, as well as any expectations or preconceptions for the concert, and simply be open to an experience.

Julian Leslie
Julian Leslie performing at Live Sessions in New Norfolk, 2023.

See Julian playing the horn at an upcoming TSO concert in Federation Concert Hall or around the state.

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Samuel Hooper announced as TSO's 2024 Rising Star!

4 Apr 2024

Our TSO 2024 Rising Star is Samuel Hooper!

Samuel, a student of TSO Concertmaster Emma McGrath, is a violin player with a great passion for music.

14 year old Samuel displayed incredible virtuosity, maturity well beyond his years and a level of musicianship seldom witnessed in one so young. His performance of Sarasate’s Caprice Basque had the panel absolutely captivated from the first note to the last. He is indeed a very worthy winner.

The candidature this year was outstanding, and all the students represented themselves incredibly, doing themselves and their teachers proud. Huge thanks to the teachers of the students, both instrumental teachers and classroom teachers and to the collaborative pianists on the Audition Day, Karen Smithies, Jen Marten-Smith, Dianne Legg and Alexey Yemstov.

Samuel will receive the Rising Star prize package including:

  • The Tim Bugg AM Prize worth $2500 to further the winner’s musical education.
  • The opportunity to perform as a soloist with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra and Tasmanian Youth Orchestra.
  • Publicity opportunities as the 2024 Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra Rising Star.

Find out more about the annual Rising Star Competition here.

Samuel Hooper

Samuel Hooper, photo by Toby Frost.

About Samuel Hooper

Samuel Hooper is 14 years old and has a passion for music. He studied violin for 10 years with local teacher Dan Evans and now studies with Emma McGrath, Concertmaster of the TSO.

Samuel completed his AMEB 8th grade violin exam in 2022 and, for this, was awarded the Australian Strings Association (AUSTA) Tasmania Prize for the most outstanding candidate in strings.

At both the 2022 and 2023 Hobart Eisteddfods, Samuel was awarded the Celeste Thomsen (Quinn) Trophy and Memorial Award for the most outstanding string performer aged 16 years & under. At the Sydney Eisteddfod in 2022, Samuel was the inaugural recipient of the Most Promising Young String Player Award. In 2023 at the Sydney Eisteddfod, Samuel was awarded second place in the Open Age String Sonata section and also performed in the 90th Anniversary Gala Concert in the alumni orchestra. Samuel has been accepted into the 2024 Australian Youth Orchestra Young Symphonists program.

He would like to be a soloist and chamber musician and to teach violin.

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Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra joins global symphonic video streaming platform Symphony.live

22 Mar 2024

Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra is pleased to announce an Australian-first partnership with the global symphonic video streaming platform Symphony.live.

Under this partnership, the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra will stream a range of concerts on Symphony.live, providing audiences around the globe with their own seat in the house at Federation Concert Hall. Through Symphony.live's applications and user-friendly interface, music enthusiasts can enjoy the TSO’s unique sound worlds across the repertoire spectrum with a unique and intimate birds-eye view.

With Symphony.live, the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra is taking another bold step towards audience growth and participation. The ability to enjoy the TSO is no longer limited by the number of seats in the concert hall or by our geography. The TSO can be enjoyed anywhere in the world at any time and Symphony.live's innovative platform will support the TSO in generating new sales income from its outstanding musical content.

On joining Symphony.live, TSO joins a stable of top international orchestras including Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, The Cleveland Orchestra, Czech Philharmonic, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra and Budapest Festival Orchestra.

Caroline Sharpen, CEO of Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, expressed enthusiasm about the collaboration, stating, "Joining Symphony.live is a really important moment for us. We are so excited to bring global audiences to our island at the southern reaches of the world - and to provide a glimpse into the music making that happens here. From the landmarks of the canon to music emanating from the most inspiring Australian creators – we can’t wait to share our music and demonstrate what it means to be an orchestra connected to our place and our people”.

Symphony.live CEO’s, Maarten Walraven and Jeroen van Egmond, added, "We are delighted to welcome the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra to the Symphony.live family. Their commitment to artistic excellence aligns seamlessly with our mission to make classical music accessible to audiences worldwide. Through Symphony.live, we provide a unique platform for orchestras to showcase their talent and connect with enthusiasts, while also offering a sustainable way to monetize their extraordinary performances."

The collaboration between the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra and Symphony.live is set to bring a new dimension to the classical music landscape, fostering global connections and ensuring the reach and continued growth of TSO.

For more information visit TSO on Symphony.live

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Meet another member of the Wolfe Pack: Gavin Wolfe

8 April 2024

Gavin at work

This April, The TSO is presenting our premiere performances with Tassie local legends, Nick and Tom Wolfe, more famously known as The Wolfe Brothers, in Hobart and Launceston. However, we have another member of the Wolfe family working in the heart of the TSO! Gavin Wolfe works in the TSO production team as Production and Venue Assistant. We were interested to know how much further the musical connection goes for Gav and his experience in working with and growing up with Nick and Tom. Gav generously spent some time chatting to us about how deep his musical connection goes, and what it is like working with Nick and Tom on stage.

Gav, tell us about your connection with The Wolfe Brothers.

My dad and their dad (my uncle) were partners in the family berry farm. We grew up together on the farm, and we played music together while also learning about farming with our dads.

What was it like spending time with them while you were growing up?

We’ve always been close. I’ve been lucky to tour with them working as a stagehand, selling merch in Queenstown, the list goes on! I’ve worked with Nick and Tom moving P.A.s and backline since the pub cover band days over 12 years ago. There are so many great memories and some pretty funny moments over the years doing what we love to do together.

Would you say that music runs in the blood of the Wolfe family? Is it a great connector for you all, or are your outliers?

The Wolfe family, since the inception of the family farm (four generations ago,) have been farmers and musicians. From my great-grand father George Wolfe to my grandfather Ernie, my dad and Tom and Nick’s dad Malcolm, they’ve all played music. They’ve played in bands, some played at the Theatre Royal, some even played alongside ACDC at City Hall! Also, my sister and mum Emily are both music teachers. Emily plays in her own bands and plays fiddle on our great grandfather’s violin. We’ve all had a lot of fun together at Christmas, birthdays, anytime we’re together someone starts playing something!

We heard you were instrumental in introducing The Wolfe Brothers to the TSO. What happened?

I believe the discussions may have already begun but there was a great moment one afternoon where I needed to drop something into work, Tom was with me and got to meet Simon [Rogers, Director Artistic Identity]. They had a chat and the rest is history!

Are you and your family looking forward to this concert?

We are all really looking forward to it, both family and friends of the family will be there and I think it will be a very special moment.

Finally, is there anything else we might like to know about the brothers?

Gardening fans might recognise Nick as he was in the pilot series of Gardening Australia along with Peter Cundall talking about Gooseberries! The footage of this was recently rediscovered when were again featured on gardening Australia last year.

Thank you so much for your insights Gav. We can’t wait to see you all up there onstage together!

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Are you the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra’s next Rising Star?

4 March 2024, by Steph Eslake

For a young musician, the chance to perform solo with a world-class orchestra is the ultimate dream. And in a highly competitive music industry that requires years of training and dedication, the dream might feel distant to those who are still paving their way.

Then again, an opportunity could be just around the corner. And it could be tailored to suit young musicians themselves. It could be designed to give them an experience not only with one orchestra, but with the potential to help launch a solo career and play with other orchestras around the world in the years to come.

Sonya Pigot playing the piano

Sonya Pigot was just 17 years old when she won the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra’s 2014 Rising Star competition. A decade on, she has developed an extraordinary career in music that spans Australia to the United Kingdom – and ranges from solo performance to founding her own business.

“After performing with an orchestra like the TSO, this can put you in a position to get other opportunities with orchestras of international standing that I have been lucky enough to get over the years,” Sonya says. One of the opportunities she is quick to highlight is working in Italy with conductor Marius Stravinsky – a relative of famous composer Igor Stravinsky.

The TSO’s annual Rising Star Competition is now open for entries, providing a rare opportunity for one classical vocalist or orchestral instrumentalist up to the age of 22 years. Entrants will audition for the role of Rising Star – following in the footsteps of artists like Sonya – and will prepare to perform a movement from a concerto or similarly structured solo for orchestra.

The Rising Star will also win the Tim Bugg AM Prize worth $2500, which will help support their music education.

When she entered Rising Star, Sonya was “on the cusp” of leaving Australia to commence her music degree at the Royal College of Music. The competition gave her a memorable send-off: her own performance of the Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto No.2 with the TSO.

“The TSO is an orchestra with such a depth of sound and intelligence that it was a beautiful moment to be on stage with them,” Sonya remembers.

Showing what's possible for Rising Stars

Sonya has since graduated from her Bachelor of Music (Honours), and studied her Masters of Performance at the Royal College of Music too. She used her Rising Star achievement to help launch a successful international performance career, winning competitions and giving recitals in venues such as Wigmore Hall, the Royal Albert Hall, and Steinway Hall – not to mention those in Spain, Hong Kong, Germany and beyond.

But perhaps the most unique of her professional experiences since Rising Star is her role as founder of Fearless Silk – an agency that provides garment design and tailoring for classical musicians who need to look and feel their best while performing.

Having developed Fearless Silk since 2020, Sonya says her business is “focused on connecting concert pianists with designers to allow the individual personality of the performer to be expressed through what they wear on stage”.

“I can't emphasise enough the importance of diversifying your abilities to produce multiple streams of income,” Sonya says about her dual career as soloist and entrepreneur.

“Every musician, no matter how successful, has to think of the longevity of a career and not just what their lives will look like their 20s. We are essentially entrepreneurs, and we have to market ourselves and act as such.”

Reaching for the stars

Flautist Kara Thorpe won the Rising Star Competition in 2023. She was studying her second year of a Bachelor of Music Performance at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

“As a young musician, I had really looked up to the previous Rising Star winners, and it always had been a goal of mine to play with the TSO,” Kara says.

It took her a few auditions – and then she made the cut, and enjoyed “an amazing experience performing with the TSO” as its Rising Star.

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“I love the feeling of connection and musical conversation when playing with an orchestra, and the TSO brought the concerto to life with so much colour,” she shares.

“I feel really privileged to have been able to play with the musicians from the TSO who have been inspiring and important mentors for me throughout my musical journey.”

This year, Kara continues her studies and since Rising Star has also participated in the career-shaping Australian Youth Orchestra National Music Camp, which often involves an intense period of rehearsals culminating in a professional-level performance.

“Playing with the TSO was a great learning experience to prepare me for future performances, and gives me a lot of confidence approaching other solo performances.”

Like Sonya, Kara plans to undertake further study in Europe – and has big dreams to play flute in a professional orchestra.

"An amazing opportunity"

The annual Rising Star Competition is now open for entries, with audition dates scheduled on the TSO website.

Looking back on her experience, Sonya understands the way “competitions play a part in building the visibility of a musician’s profile, which is the most important thing when building a career”.

But it’s only the beginning of the story – and after an achievement like Rising Star, Sonya believes a career in music becomes a “culmination of networking, marketing, likability, the ability to learn things quickly, perform consistently, and all added together with a dollop of good luck for good measure”.

For Kara, the rare experience of playing with the TSO was a “musical highlight in 2023”.

“It is such an amazing opportunity to be able to play with a professional orchestra as a young musician, and I would really encourage anyone interested in applying to go for it!”

Learn more about the Rising Star Competition and past winners on the TSO website.
Entries close 5pm, Friday 15 March 2024.

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Meg Washington: Playing with an orchestra is "like catching a wave. You have to surrender to the energy of it."

Reuniting with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra for the first time since 2017, the ARIA Award-winning songwriter reflects on change, constancy, and keeping it simple. 

By Hugh Robertson, adapted with permission from author.

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man.”

The same could be said of music, especially when performed live: the listener is somewhat changed at every performance, but so too is the performer, depending on their moods and the seasons of their life. Think Glenn Gould’s two Goldberg Variations recorded 35 years apart, or Joni Mitchell’s two versions of ‘Both Sides Now’ with a similar gap between them.

Meg Washington is a firm believer that the best songs are malleable, changeable, susceptible to the passage of time just as humans are. That question is on the ARIA Award-winning singer/songwriter’s mind as she looks ahead to her upcoming performance with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra at Wrest Point on 30 January, more than six years after she made her debut with the Orchestra, and considers what has changed for her in the years since.

'The question is, as an artist, do you see yourself as a brand that has to be maintained and represented,' says Meg, 'Or do you see yourself as a being, evolving, changing, and, well, being?'

'I think life is much easier as an artist if you live in the second camp. Because the idea of trying to stay the same…age can make a huge impact on how a song relates to you.'

Much has happened in Meg's life in the past few years that may have changed how she approaches the world, and her music. She has released two albums, with another on the way in 2024, written a musical, and written and produced a feature film – the latter an adaptation of Paul Kelly’s beloved song ‘How to Make Gravy’ that Washington has made alongside her husband, Nick Waterman. The couple also have a child born in late 2017, mere weeks after she performed with the Orchestra.

If nothing else, Meg is enjoying how different her songs sound when she has full lung capacity.

Meg Washington performing with the TSO.
Meg Washington performing with the TSO.

‘The last symphony orchestra show that I did, I was eight months pregnant with my son,’ she recalls with a smile. ‘So my phrases were very short and I was in a really different head space because I was just trying to breathe at all. And now I feel like I'm feeling really good in my instrument and in my body.’

‘It feels like a delicious idea to take on the task of singing with the symphony orchestra.’

Despite Meg's excitement at these concerts there is also some trepidation about the size of the musical forces waiting for her.

‘It feels like catching a wave,’ she says of performing with the Orchestra. ‘It’s a bit scary at first because it is so big,’ says Meg. ‘Once it is moving, you can’t change it. You have to surrender to the energy of it.’

Another challenge has been thinking about her music in a very different way to normal, and particularly think about it so far in advance.

'Because I have a jazz background, I'm pretty allergic to structure and routine,’ she says with a laugh. ‘I love to just call songs on the day and I love when my band just knows things. So a show like this is a real challenge for me because I had to decide a long time ago what I'm going sing in the future.’

A big part of these concerts involves adapting and arranging Meg's songs for symphony orchestra. It isn’t as simple as simply adding more instruments – it has to be done sensitively, with a deep knowledge of the families of instruments and how they work together, and a constant tension between the original material and how to make it sound good at scale. It is a delicate art, but Meg is excited about the results that have come back from her collaborators.

‘There were a few arrangers that I have come to know over the past couple of years who I was keen to work with,’ Meg explains. ‘And of course the arrangers come back with their own very unique take on everything. Some of the songs are completely transformed.’

‘There's a song called 'Cement', from my first record, that is now unrecognisable – it sounds like it is from some kind of cinematic James Bond universe. I'm actually a bit intimidated to sing it because it's taken on a sound that's completely new for me.’

(As a case in point, listen to the recording of ‘Catherine Wheel’ from those 2017 concerts, released on streaming platforms late last year. The original, from Meg's 2020 album Batflowers, is a lovelorn ballad played on piano, wistful and weary and worn-out like the relationship it depicts. The 2017 performance, arranged for orchestra by Paul Hankinson, opens with Meg accompanied by a quiet salvo from the horns before the strings begin to swell under the second verse, culminating in a grand brass crescendo. It is grander, certainly, but that just seems to make the subject matter all the more crushing.)

One of the arrangers Meg has worked with for many years is Ross Irwin, who was a member of Meg's first band, formed back in 2008, and has worked with Australian acts including The Cat Empire and The Bamboos.

‘Ross is amazing. His arrangements are so good because they're totally familiar, but full of simple changes that have a huge effect. So his arrangements are really exciting because for me, anything that injects new energy and novelty into the music is really attractive.’

‘But I love the idea of treating my repertoire like standards,’ Meg continues. ‘Being able to do them this way or that way: Latin, bossa nova, swing them or play them with a big band or with a symphony orchestra. I love the idea that if a song is written well enough, it can be robust enough to handle that much interrogation and still and still sound good and feel good.’

It is interesting to hear Meg talk about standards and the great bodies of work that term suggests, names like Cole Porter, the Gershwins, Rodgers & Hart and Harold Arlen. Back in 2017, in an interview published in the concert guide for her performances with the Sydney Symphony, Meg was adamant that those shows not be seen as a career retrospective. ‘I made a very deliberate decision because it was way too early for a ‘best of’, she said at the time.

But for these 2024 concerts, with her own songbook greatly expanded, she has taken the opposite path.

‘With this show I really wanted to present the most shining gems from across my catalogue,’ she explains. ‘I didn't want to complicate anything. Last time I did this, I had this whole album that I had arranged and it ended up like never coming out. So this time I was like just apply the KISS principle: keep it simple, stupid. I just am doing the songs that were singles and are singles, and other things that are my favourites.’

‘I think about it sort of like arranging beads on a string,’ she continues. ‘It has to be an interesting sequence of events that is unfolding and surprising, hopefully.’

*Adapted with the author’s permission from an article originally published on www.sydneysymphony.com

Meg

Don't miss Meg Washington

Reuniting with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra for the first time since 2017, Meg Washington performs at Wrest Point Entertainment Centre, nipaluna / Hobart on Tuesday 30 Jan 2024.

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News

Could the TSO’s newest concerto be a “future masterpiece”?

Written by Stephanie Eslake, December 2023

In October 2023, the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra presented the world premiere of a piece that was commissioned by a local music lover, composed by a Melbourne artist, and performed by an expert soloist who has long made this island her home.

Could their music be a “future masterpiece” in the making?

TSO Concertmaster Emma McGrath says the only way we’ll know is if we keep exploring and showcasing new music. And considering the standing ovation she received when she played the solo in this work – Joe Chindamo’s original Violin Concerto – it may one day become an Australian staple for her instrument.

“All orchestras need to take risks and perform new music, otherwise we will never discover the future masterpieces,” Emma says.

“Australian orchestras need to support new Australian compositions to further solidify our classical music identity, and continue to give it a future.”

This concerto commission was initiated by Parker – husband of the orchestra’s CEO Caroline Sharpen – because he “wanted to do something to support the TSO, and to help the TSO continue its fine tradition of championing Australian music”.

The architect and driving force behind the commission grew up attending orchestral concerts in Sydney. He says classical music has been with him for five decades, during which time he also became a loyal listener to the TSO through its recordings and live concert broadcasts on ABC Classic FM.

“The feeling of being able to contribute to the development of Australian music after having listened to it for so long is wonderful,” Andrew says.

Although he provided generous backing that would enable this piece of music to come to life, Andrew speaks candidly about his own role in the project. He knew that to make it work, he needed to trust the experts, “get out of the way, and enjoy seeing what emerged”.

Joe Chindamo and Emma McGrath.
Emma McGrath performing Chindamo.

That’s where the orchestra’s artistic team came in, and Andrew says TSO Director Artistic Identity Simon Rogers picked just the right talent for the commission: Australian composer-pianist Joe Chindamo OAM.

“My hope was that Joe could write a work that he was proud of, that showed off Emma’s virtuosity, and that was consistent with Joe’s canon,” Andrew says. And with this team locked in, he had no doubt the result would be “technically significant, exciting, and with sufficient appeal that it could become a cornerstone of the Australian literature”.

But while Andrew was humble enough to let the creative team get stuck into the practical side of the project, he certainly wasn’t passive throughout the process. He observed the concert preparation with Emma and conductor Otto Tausk as they analysed and played through the score, and he listened to the full orchestral rehearsals that he describes as “an absolute highlight”.

“I was made to feel incredibly welcome and part of the process. The sense of involvement was very powerful and exhausting at the same time because everyone gives their all physically and emotionally.”

Emma describes a similar experience: she felt the music was a journey through “the gamut of human emotion”.

“It is engaging throughout and has wonderful architecture,” Emma shares. “It all builds towards the end, which is astonishingly exciting. It’s like watching a movie with a great plot and wonderful actors – you couldn’t wish for anything more.” 

Emma and Joe spent plenty of time planning how the score would turn out, and she told the composer to “go for it and to not hold back”. He had familiarised himself with her unique style of playing through listening to recordings and having heard her in past performances. Emma says she hoped he would write to the strengths of her instrument, and as there were “no egos and there was no tension whatsoever”, they were able to forge a successful collaboration throughout the composition process.

“We have the same goals: to create and recreate beautiful music that makes a difference in today’s world,” Emma recalls.

It wasn’t Joe’s first time working with the TSO, either: the string section has recorded his music for an ABC Classics release, and performed his music in the Obscura series. In 2021, the TSO also premiered their commission of his Concerto for Orchestra. So it’s no surprise that as soon as he had his first meeting with Emma, Joe knew this project “would be special”.

“She is so open-minded and excited by a wide spectrum of music-making,” Joe remarks.

“From the outset, I was made to feel so comfortable about creating a concerto for her that the piece almost wrote itself.”

To inspire “outside-the-square thinking”, he asked Emma if there was a concerto she’d love to play – but hasn’t yet been written. This gave him a feel for the types of music she’d be passionate about, which he combined with his own voice as a composer to ensure the music would sound “authentic, honest, and fresh”.

But when asked to break down the music, Joe is hesitant to describe the building blocks. Instead, he takes pride in the way the smallest musical elements are combined to share a story that in the concert precis he described as both a “nod to the great tradition to its adherence to time-honoured conventions” and a work that “reflects the pulse of our own time – that is alive to and speaks of the spirit of the day”.

Otto Tausk conducting.
Emma McGrath performing a violin solo.

He feels that spirit was captured by the performer who “embodies all the great qualities that I look for in a contemporary musician”.

“Emma is a classical virtuoso with all the sensibilities and skills that entails, plus a cool sense of rhythm one expects from a top-tier jazz musician coupled with the wild-child attitude of a rock ‘n’ roll maverick,” Joe praises.

“She is the perfect modern violinist, and it was a joy to write for her. This sense of modernity and ability to embrace new music with a great degree of natural ease is also a quality I love about TSO,” he says.

“When can we please do this again? I can’t wait!”

Commissions come in all shapes and sizes. If you are interested in helping create more Australian stories through music, please contact philanthropy@tso.com.au

Emma McGrath

Coming up in 2024

Emma McGrath steps into the spotlight as soloist in the third and final violin concerto by French composer Camille Saint-Saëns. Dedicated to Spanish virtuoso Pablo de Sarasate – one of the most lauded of violinists – the Third Violin Concerto will dazzle and delight.

Saturday 12 Oct 2024 7:30pm,
Federation Concert Hall, nipaluna / Hobart

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