Day Five: Tuesday May 5

Kate Moore on wuthering Stromlo and turbulent Russians

Not even Roland Peelman, who knows a thing or two about staging, could tame the wind on Mt Stromlo yesterday for the second event in the aptly named Sounds on Site series. The uninvited guest almost drowned out the subtle pattering of Bree van Reyk’s snare drum in Rain, by CIMF composer-in-residence Kate Moore. On the other hand, the wind added a blustering ostinato to the repeated pattern of broken chords in her Dolorosa, performed by Kate on cello, Bree on marimba, and Pete Harden on electric guitar in the burnt-out shell of the Oddie Telescope. The high-tension electricity wires were moaning nearby. It was eery, post-apocalyptic. I’m sure that many of us would have recalled the grief we felt when the Stromlo Observatory was lost to the flames on January 18th, 2003. Thanks to the music and the physical setting, those new to Canberra would also have understood. The Director’s House has been spruced up on the outside to look deceptively like the family home it once was, but within it is empty, a monument to absence. Professor Brian Schmidt pointed out the dining room and told me that he’d had Thanksgiving dinner there many times. The YAFF wind players walked slowly through the building, adding solemn layers to Kate’s trademark broken chords, played again by Pete on electric guitar, an instrument that sounded just right to my ears. Kate Moore and pianist Lisa Moore – they’re unrelated – both have Irish heritage, and that is what was explored on the Steinway in the shell of the Yale-Columbia Telescope. It was strange to see bright blue sky above and people’s hair blowing about as Lisa played and sang. Afterwards Professor Schmidt gave a nimble and entertaining talk that ranged from humanity’s shared stories about the stars to the end of the universe.

Whenever I go to a ‘classical music’ concert, I overhear someone comment on the discrepancy between the age of the audience and the age of the performers. Of course we all wish that more young people could and would attend concerts, but that’s another story. CIMF has always tried to give up-and-coming musicians opportunities to perform, and at the Russian Masters concert last night, there was some lovely playing in the Stravinsky from the ANAM wind and string students. Two young ANAM pianists, Adam McMillan and Andrew Leathwick, charmed us with dance rhythms in the duet ‘Trois pièces faciles’. Young voices were added to The Song Company for the Rachmaninov vesper, ‘Blessed is the Man’ (Opus 37). When the group sang softly in that resonant space, I think I forgot to breathe, so intense was the sound. That same coiled energy was evident in the calm piano passages in the Shostakovich Piano Quintet in G Minor. Pianist Daniel de Borah teamed up with Tinalley String Quartet for the much-loved chamber work. The result was utterly thrilling.

Concert 12 was supported by Bev and Don Aitkin, and Concert 13 by Gail Ford.

– Diana Brown