Metropolis Music Festival | Breathing new life into once forgotten instruments

The baroque period music left musicians everywhere with a parting gift of classic instruments – everything from the strings of viola, cello and double bass, to the organ or harpsichord, and wind instruments, the oboe to the flute. However, for all these instruments that lived on into the 21st century, there are lesser known instruments that died, left to haunt the halls of musical history.

Though time has made these instruments obsolete, they are no less legitimate, and no less capable of creating beautiful music.

Metropolis New Music Festival is resurrecting these classic instruments, breathing new life into the timbre of old, with a contemporary twist for these forgotten tools.

For more than twenty years the Metropolis New Music Festival has been bringing the best in Australian and International contemporary music to Melbourne music lovers. For the 2017 season, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and Melbourne Recital Centre are combining their musical forces to expand the musical palettes of Melburnians, through this intriguing marriage of contemporary and baroque influences.

Examining the innate differences between the old and new, and the harmony and balance of when they come together, the festival boasts a rich array of music and a vast lineup of exciting talent, incorporating the instruments of old into modern arrangements and a new generation of composers.

Kicking off the festivities, Katapult, a trio of acclaimed classical soloists, are coming to Melbourne for the first time for the festival, presenting their show Between Strings. The three focus on the classic, timbral sound of period instruments, and will be joined by two of the best from Melbourne’s continuo scene, Laura Moore and Peter de Jager, to perform compositions by Australian and New Zealand artists.

Anchoring the festivities is Metropolis #1 and Metropolis #2, each featuring the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra alongside a hugely impressive group of musicians showcasing the oud (a pear-shaped stringed instrument similar to the lute), harpsichord (a Baroque and Renaissance era piano-like instrument) and recorder (a wind instrument with a whistle mouthpiece).

Metropolis #1 will showcase the premiere of Ancient Letters – the work of the festival’s 2017 composer in residence, and one of Australia’s best, Elena Kats-Chernin. The composition is a truly ancient and personal works. While researching her Uzbekistan heritage, Kats-Chernin became inspired to write it by letters written in fourth century A.D. by the Sogdian people in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. The night will also see the world premiere of Metropolis oud player Joseph Tawadros’s Oud Concerto.

In their final show of the festival, Metropolis #2, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and their ancient accompaniments will showcase the Australian premiere of Anna Meredith’s Origami Songs, and a range of exciting performances direct from the Cybec 21st Century Composers Program. The night will exhibit the Australian premiere of Jeth’s Recorder Concerto, alongside the works of Bach, and Vivaldi.

For the first time, Resonant Bodies Festival will come to Melbourne, a night encouraging vocalists to challenge and transform their role as a vocalist. Since conception in 2013 in New York, Resonant Bodies has rapidly grown, with a hugely talented catalogue of participants and a huge fan base. Odeya Nini (US/Israel) will make her Australian debut for the show, alongside Melbourne’s own Carolyn Connors and range of vocalists seeking to expose and expand their talents, selected by Australian sopranos Jane Sheldon and Jessica Aszodi.

Baroque trio Latitude 37, were brought together by their passion for 16th, 17th, and 18th century music, and in The Things that Blind Us, they take this passion to the stage. Running with the festival’s theme of old and new, the show focuses on the passage of time. The three-piece will tackle works by Maria Huld Markan Sigfusdottir, David Chisholm and more, exploring that which they believe brings all humans together: music.

Acclaimed musician Alicia Crossley will showcase highlights of her two albums Addicted to Bass and Alchemy for Fragments, a demonstration of her talent as a recorder virtuoso. Far from the shrill squeak of a primary school music class, pieces from Debussy, Bach, and Mark Oliveiro to name a few, combine recorder with electronica for a fiery, unique experience to wrap up the festival for another year, and usher in excitement for what 2018 will bring.

Originally published in Beat Magazine.

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