Royal Work. A commission for the Queens 90th Birthday.

Risks are good. They help break conventions and skulls. Professionally, in music, the breaking of conventions is a necessary hazard. It’s how people know you’re there. Otherwise you’re wallpaper.

This year, for Her majesty the Queens 90th birthday celebrations, Government House in Hobart took one such risk. They asked me to produce something for the occasion that would be new yet referential, risky yet respectful. I used the opportunity to engage two people I’d wanted to create with for sometime; Kelly Ottaway and Julius Schwing, and we discussed the concept. Truth be told, I think it was Kelly who first spake the idea of God Save the Queen – Theme and Variations. Well, that is what it was called in the end. Initially, the ideas ‘Meditation upon… or GSTQ Re-arranged… were bandied about, but they presented too much fog around the idea and not enough clarity of meaning for a traditional occasion.

And so…

Kelly, Julius and I began to explore phrases from GSTQ and its closest friend, the Hymn Jerusalem. What became of it was a 45 minute concert composed equally by the three of us for string quartet, brass quartet, piano, guitar, samples and taped excerpts of the coronation.

The risk factor rung on in the minds of the Governor and staff so that right up until my baton went down for the first time, everyone was a little on the edge. What was this going to sound like? How kooky were the variations going to be? Would the Queen be offended? One month earlier, I had been called into the Governor’s office and asked this question directly. They wanted to avoid any unpleasant complications given the gravity of the occasion. I played them a freshly composed example from my laptop of a brass quartet piece with the working title God Save the Brass Quartet, which I had penned not two days earlier (phew!). They liked it, (phew!) and we went on…cautiously.

 

Did it work? Did we vary too much? Was there anything left of the regal theme and its potency? The Governor and staff seemed overjoyed with the result (phew!). So much so the next night a camera crew was employed to film it and send it to Buckingham Palace the following day in time for London’s celebrations for the Queen in the Mall. Did the Queen see it? Not sure. Haven’t heard yet. But, personally, I couldn’t be happier with the process, the outcome and the story to tell.

 

The concert is linked below. Enjoy.

http://www.govhouse.tas.gov.au/vice-regal-news-and-photos/8-june-2016

 

 

Spiders = orchestra and Australian pop diva. What?

As mentioned in earlier posts, I was fortunate to be asked by the Bookend Trust to compose music for their up-coming film Sixteen Legs; a film on the Tasmanian Cave Spider featuring a host of marvellous people including the narration of Neil Gaiman and the beautiful sounds of Kate Miller-Heidke. I waited for a long while for the crews to come in with enough footage to begin assembling, and when they did…whoah! So this spider is amazing and really, really big. The footage by Joe Shemesh is in 4K, award winning and shockingly beautiful. He’s caught the spider doing a lot of things including eating crickets and…yes…having sex. That’s the big one. Never caught quite like it before. Kooky, I know. And there are caves under Tassie that will put the most grand cathedrals to shame.

I had the deep privilege of recording much of the score with the wonderful Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Gary Wain (what a legend!) and then to Melbourne to add the extraordinary voice of Kate Miller-Heidke. What Kate did to the music is to be heard to be believed. I simply can’t do it justice by describing it here. Kate was a wonderful, gentle, utterly professional soul to work with and I can’t wait for you to hear it.

 

Keep a look out in late 2016 for Sixteen Legs. Here’s a preview of Joe’s award winning shots of the spiders in habitat.