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Trans-Tasman orchestras' simultaneous Anzac premieres

Trans-Tasman orchestras mark Anzac centenary with simultaneous world premieres

9 JULY 2014 – Media Release

The Sydney Symphony Orchestra and New Zealand Symphony Orchestra join forces to commemorate the centenary of the Gallipoli landings with simultaneous concerts featuring two world premieres by Australian and New Zealand composers.

The SSO has commissioned Perth composer James Ledger to write a piece for choir and orchestra titled War Music, featuring words by Australian musician and storyteller Paul Kelly, while the NZSO has commissioned celebrated New Zealand composer Michael Williams to write a new piece Letters from the Front.

Sharing the Anzac spirit across the Tasman, the orchestras will perform these works at virtually the same time on 22 April 2015, ahead of Anzac Day on 25 April 2015. The SSO concert with the Gondwana Chorale will take place at the Sydney Opera House while the NZSO will perform with the New Zealand Youth Choir at the Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington.

The singers in the Australian and New Zealand choirs will be around the same age as the soldiers who fought in Gallipoli, acting as a poignant reminder of the nature of war.

Australia’s Minister for the Arts, Senator the Hon George Brandis QC, said the Anzac Centenary is a milestone of special significance to all Australians and New Zealanders.

“Through the power of music and the grace of the Gondwana Chorale, the performance of War Music will make an outstanding and important contribution to the Anzac commemorations as we reflect on the service and sacrifice of so many brave servicemen and women.”

Sydney Symphony Orchestra Managing Director Rory Jeffes said the orchestra is honoured to be marking the centenary with this significant commission.

“Anzac Day is such an important day of remembrance for all Australians and is part of our collective identity. We are honoured to be paying our respects to those who fought in Gallipoli in this trans-Tasman collaboration with our neighbours at the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra,” Mr Jeffes said.

“We are grateful to the Federal Government through its ANZAC Centenary Arts and Culture Fund for supporting the commission of this new work by James Ledger to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Anzac landings at Gallipoli,” he added.

New Zealand’s Minister for Culture and Heritage, Christopher Finlayson, said that this musical event is a landmark in next year’s Anzac centenary calendar.

“In the hands of talented musicians from New Zealand and Australia, these two world premieres are fitting tributes to the alliances, comradery, and memory of this nation-defining legacy. I look forward to hearing this unique programme featuring works by Kiwi, Australian, American and English composers and bringing together the music of countries united by the memorable events that took place almost 100 years ago.”

Ledger and Kelly collaborated together last year on the music project Conversations With Ghosts, in which they co-wrote a song cycle drawing on the words of famous poets. When Kelly heard Ledger was writing a piece for the Anzac Centenary for the SSO he offered to write some text for the occasion.

War Music will be divided in two parts; the first half will be purely orchestral while the second half featuring Kelly’s text will be performed by orchestra and choir.

“The idea is the whole piece will form an arch,” Ledger said. “The first half is going to be war-like. It’s going to be very violent and aggressive. The second half will reflect back on the travesty of war.”

New Zealand born composer Michael Williams’ Letters from the Front is a symphony composed specifically for the 100 year anniversary of the battle of Gallipoli in WWI where many New Zealand soldiers fought and died. It will also touch on other WWI events such as the battles in France andBelgium.

“My great grandfather Arthur Major was killed in the 3rd battle of Passendale on 31 August 1917,” Williams said. “I will be using some of the letters that he wrote and sent back to his family as the basis for the role of the narrator in this work. I’m also looking for other ‘Letters from the Front’ from New Zealand, German, English and Turkish soldiers to include.”

CONCERT INFORMATION:

Sydney Symphony Orchestra

Sydney Opera House, Concert Hall

22 and 24 April 2015

(Tickets on sale from 12 August 2014)

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington
22 and 23 April 2015

PROGRAM:

COPLAND Fanfare for the Common Man

MICHAEL WILLIAMS Letters from the Front WORLD PREMIERE

-interval-

VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis

JAMES LEDGER War Music WORLD PREMIERE

ABOUT THE COMPOSERS:

JAMES LEDGER

James Ledger's (b.1966) orchestral music is well known to Australian concert-goers. His first work in the genre, Indian Pacific (1996), is still regularly performed around Australia. Ledger has been resident composer with many orchestras and institutions including the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and West Australian Symphony Orchestra.

Ledger has written much instrumental music and "has established an impressive reputation as a symphonic composer" (the Australian). In 2011, the SSO gave the world premiere of Ledger’s bassoon concerto with SSO principal bassoonist Matthew Wilkie. Ledger has been commissioned by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, Australian Chamber Orchestra, Southern Cross Soloists and the Australian String Quartet.

He has been a lecturer in composition at the University of Western Australia since 2005, and in 2008 a Churchill Fellowship enabled him to research contemporary compositional practice in Europe.

MICHAEL WILLIAMS

New Zealand born composer Michael Williams’ (b.1962) music covers a wide range of genres including chamber music, orchestral, concerti and opera. He has received substantial commissions from most of New Zealand’s major musical institutions including the NZSO, New Zealand Opera and Chamber Music New Zealand.

His opera The Juniper Passion based on the battle of Montecassino in WWII was premiered in Italy in 2013 to critical acclaim in four different venues. Michael records with the Atoll label and his works are on a number of CDs including the release of his opera The Juniper Passion in 2012 in a 2-CD set.

In 2005, the NZSO commissioned Piercing the Vault for oboe and orchestra, which was recently performed in Vietnam with the HBSO under the baton of Colin Metters. Described as a “Landmark in New Zealand composition”, his Triple Concerto for piano trio and orchestra Convergencepremiered in 2008 and his Chamber Opera The Prodigal Child has enjoyed great success.

Polystylistic in his approach to composition, many influences can be heard in his music from Gregorian chant to the use of pitch class sets to his interest in the digital manipulation of acoustic instruments.

Michael teaches across a number of areas including composition, orchestration, computer music, aesthetics and harmony and counterpoint. He is co-founder and artistic director of the University of Waikato contemporary performance ensemble Okta.


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