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Scenes from Streeton

Scenes from Streeton

As a musical celebration of the 10th Anniversary of Melbourne Recital Centre, 10 composers have each created a new work to be performed at the Centre throughout 2019.

In October one of Australia’s most exciting young ensembles Arcadia Winds, known for its energetic, joyful and spontaneous performances, premieres English-born Australian composer Andrew Ford’s Scenes from Streeton. The composition is one of the 10 new works commemorating the Centre’s anniversary and we spoke with Andrew ahead of the world premiere to learn more.

Andrew Ford is a composer, writer and broadcaster and has won awards in all these capacities, including the 2004 Paul Lowin Prize for his song cycle Learning to Howl, a 2010 Victorian Green Room Award for his opera Rembrandt’s Wife and the 2012 Albert H Maggs Prize for his large ensemble piece, Rauha. He has been composer-in-residence for the Australian Chamber Orchestra, the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM) and the Australian Festival of Chamber Music. In 2014 he was Poynter Fellow and Visiting Composer at Yale University, in 2015 he became the Visiting Lecturer at the Shanghai Conservatory, and in 2018 he was recognised as an H.C. Coombs Creative Arts Fellow at ANU. Ford has written widely on all manner of music and published nine books, most recently The Memory of Music (Black Inc., 2017). Since 1995, he has presented The Music Show each weekend on ABC Radio National.

What is the new work about?

I looked at Arthur Streeton’s Victorian landscapes and wondered how the places had changed in the century since he painted them, so I asked some people who cultivate the land today: Eda Ritchie, Vivienne Ritchie and Gwenda and Ian Langford. I also spoke to writer Bruce Pascoe about how the landscape had already changed in the hundred years before Streeton. All these voices are in the piece, forming a counterpoint with each other and with the instruments of the wind quintet.

Where did you get your inspiration from?

Composing is my job, and usually all the inspiration I need is a commission. In this case, my inspiration was Marshall McGuire, asking me to write something for the Centre’s 10th birthday. In discussing the nature of the piece, it became clear I’d never written for wind quintet and always wanted to, so the commission became linked to Arcadia Winds. But there was also my memory of the Recital Centre’s opening on 7 February 2009. We broadcast The Music Show live from the foyer that Saturday morning and I remember emerging at midday into the terrible heat. I flew back to New South Wales and it was only the following morning I learnt about the fires that had killed so many people. I felt Scenes from Streeton had to commemorate them in some way, too. Talking about the landscape and the climate was a way to do that.

The selector's hut (Whelan on the log)

What musical styles influenced you when creating this piece?

Style is the outward trappings of music, and as a young composer I was obsessed by it. Now that I’m no longer young, I hardly think about at all. It must be there, but I’m oblivious to it.

However, there are two musical references in this piece. One is to birdsong and other sounds of nature, the other is to Ireland. The third of the five movements is a response to Streeton’s painting ‘The Selector’s Hut (Whelan on the Log)’ and I wanted to put in something Irish for Whelan. I tried a few things, but in the end, adapted a tune of my own, written just before Scenes from Streeton. It’s the setting of Yeats’s poem ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’ that ends my song cycle, Nature.

Arcadia Winds premieres Andrew's work Scenes from Streeton on Wednesday 9 October in the Primrose Potter Salon. The work was commissioned in celebration of Melbourne Recital Centre’s 10th Anniversary. Click here to learn more and to buy tickets.

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