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New Music Festival Celebrates Inspirations And Challenges Of Lockdown

Aotearoa New Zealand musicians who composed new work during lockdown are delighted to be able to play their music together at University of Canterbury’s (UC) mini-festival of Unexpected Musical Celebrations on 8 and 9 December.

San Diego New Music will also broadcast the three concerts, which will be recorded in the Great Hall of Te Matatiki Toi Ora Christchurch Arts Centre, for its 2021 Digital Doses series, giving young local composers the additional bonus of an international audience.

UC performance (oboe) and composition student Luka Reardon is delighted to have her new work oscen (korimako) on the programme for concert 3, Fireworks

“It’s really an incredible experience to have your piece go from being a concept in your head to a genuine performance that performers not only understand but apply their own interpretation to,” she says.

“It’s nerve-wracking - in the same way as it is to perform yourself. But I’m looking forward to just hearing how it will interact with the space it’s performed in - the acoustics change a lot with my piece so it’s exciting to see the nature it’ll take on!”

Lockdown provided the inspiration for her composition, Reardon says.

“I wouldn’t have written the piece at all if not for lockdown, as it led me to start walking around the Port Hills. On one walk I noticed the bellbirds calling to one another from across the valley I was in. The acoustic environment created by that birdsong was fascinating and left me pondering the nature of those melodic fragments and how they interacted with each other, repeating and echoing through space.

“Once I got back from that walk I got right to work, notating a small fragment of bellbird song to create a motif, and then the first draft came surprisingly quickly as I treated the violinist and pianist as two voices repeating that motif to each other.”

Reardon workshopped her piece at the Nelson Composers’ Workshop, with mentors Simon Eastwood, Reuben de Lautour (UC faculty), and Rakuto Kurano (UC student). “We ended up transposing the piece to D major, which opened it up to a variety of timbral variation that was just what it needed.”

Music student Micah Thompson is also pleased to be back amongst musicians. "The central challenge of composing during the lockdown for me has been the absence of real world musical relationships,” he says. “While composing is often a reclusive art form, collaborative musical relationships are what often stimulates creativity the most. It has been such a joy to work with musicians and friends in the last few months."

Violinist Nathaniel Otley from Dunedin, agrees that lockdown was a mixed experience. “Composing for me in 2020 has been a surreal and at times difficult experience. I think it has forced many of us in the music community to reflect on our practice and its role and importance to the community which, while undoubtedly an important thing, can be confronting.”

UC School of Music helped students through a tough year, Reardon says. “Becoming part of the School of Music community is one of the best decisions I’ve made - it’s the first place I’ve found where I can express myself how I like, and everyone, students and teachers alike, are so accepting and inspiring. Everyone here is so creative that there’s never a dull day in class, and I really feel at home here.”

The challenges of 2020 have not dampened the students’ enthusiasm or the quality of their creative output, UC Head of Music Performance Professor Mark Menzies says. “Unprecedented circumstances have created more time for practising and composing, so the unexpected result is that we have a rich menu of new work for our end of year showcases.

“In our School of Music we live and breathe new and experimental work. Our lecturers and students produce exciting compositions every year and this year we feel particularly privileged to be able to share our new work with our Christchurch music community in a series of live concerts, when that’s not possible in much of the rest of the world,” he says.

The concert programmes feature New Zealand premieres by international composers, new works from Australasian composers and new works by UC students and music lecturers, performed by musicians and composers from UC’s highly regarded School of Music and from around the country.

Wellington PhD graduate pianist Gabriela Glapska, who will tour with Chamber Music New Zealand in 2021, joins the first concert Garlands, Otago musician Ihlara McIndoe brings her performance skills and a preview of work composed in Antarctica earlier this year to the second concert Bauble, and Adjunct Professor Chris Cree joins the third concert Fireworks.

The UC School of Music presents three concerts in collaboration with The Arts Centre Te Matatiki Toi Ora, in the Great Hall, on 8 December at 1.10pm and 9 December at 1.10pm and 3pm.

Concert 1: GARLANDS A celebration of new works and New Zealand works - 8 December at 1.10pm

Mark Menzies - Violin

Gabriela Glapska - piano

David McGregor - clarinet

Music by Witold Roman Lutosławski, Tristan Murail, Micah Thompson

Concert 2: BAUBLES New works - 9 December at 1.10pm

Mark Menzies - violin

Nathaniel Otley - violin

Ihlara McIndoe - piano

Featuring compositions by the performers and others

Concert 3: FIREWORKS Experimental Music from New Zealand and beyond - 9 December at 3pm

Mark Menzies – Violin

Joined by staff and students of UC School of Music and assorted guests

Featuring compositions by Mark Menzies, Adjunct Chris Cree Brown, Luka Reardon and others.

Tickets for each concert are $20 / $10 unwaged or attend all three for $50 / $25 unwaged, available through the Arts Centre website.

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