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Female musicians supporting female composers

Female musicians supporting female composers

Natasha Conrau of Solstice Trio tells us why female representation is important in music. 

Back in 2015, Steph, Georgi and I got together to have dinner, a glass of wine, and play some piano trios. 

After delving into some spectacular repertoire by Vasks, Glass and Adams for our first concert, we were left with a strong feeling that we needed to do something differently. We loved those pieces of music and felt privileged to perform them - but what do they have to do with us, three young females living in Australia? And haven’t those guys got enough advocates around the world playing their music every day?  

Though we never set out to be a trio dedicated to championing female composers, being females and being feminists, it was inevitable we’d go in this direction. For our second concert, Xani Kolac wrote us a suite of miniatures infused with her brand of energetic pop with some 80s techno thrown in - we’d never played anything like it. Nat Bartsch wrote us a beautifully nostalgic work called For Mary, dedicated to a family who had recently lost their daughter to suicide. The response from our audience was overwhelming - “when can we hear this kind of music again?”

Over the last few years as we’ve continued to look for music written by women, I’ve realised that despite the diverse musical upbringing we each had, female composers were nearly entirely absent from our education. This fact, with 30 years of hindsight, is shocking given the breadth and richness of female composition that has always existed, in the shadows of their male counterparts. 

It is so very important for females to see themselves reflected in the art that they’re consuming. 

As music educators ourselves, teaching the next generations of musicians, we want our female students to feel seen, heard, and empowered to put forth their creative voice, and know that their voice is important. As a trio, we strive to give people that same feeling with our concerts - to see their identities and experiences reflected in the music that we perform.

Over the past five years we’ve commissioned music by many high calibre female musicians. Sound artist Nat Grant wrote us Aviette, using our individual personalities as the basis for each movement. Andrea Keller wrote us Flicker #1, a mesmerising piece about childhood canyoning trips that enthrals audiences every time we perform it. Our cellist Steph wrote These Tender Threads - interviews with our maternal grandmothers woven into a soundscape, with improvisation and moments of speech melody. In 2019 Louisa Trewartha wrote us Things We Carry, a highly personal work about her identity as a queer person growing up in country Victoria, that sparks conversation after every performance. Each commission has exceeded our expectations enormously - always complex, beautiful, personal, and instilled with activism and purpose. 

Championing works by females gives us new music to listen to, new ways of listening, new perspectives, and new stories. 

But also old perspectives that have been waiting to be heard for thousands of years. Our musical landscape will only become richer for having heard them.

Solstice in the Primrose Potter Salon

About Solstice Trio

Solstice are a contemporary piano trio based in Melbourne. The trio formed in 2015, drawn together by a mutual desire to break the piano trio out of its classical music traditions with new repertoire, new performance venues, and a new audience.

Click here to discover more.

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