A sense of occasion
Eric Avery has a compelling voice to which the group of thirty-two primary school children immediately pay close attention. The Indigenous composer, dancer and musician is teaching them the words to his song, Yananha in the language of his people, the Ngiyampaa Wangaaypuwan of New South Wales. Once learned, they will have the opportunity to perform Yananha with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra when we return to Horsham in October.
‘Ngathu’. He says, holding his hands crossed over his chest, ‘Ngathu’.
‘NGATHU!’ chime the small voices in response.
‘Ngathu means ‘I’‘ Eric explains and pats his chest. ‘Me, myself. I.’
He raises his arms in a sweeping arc over his head. ‘Wirriika. Open Country, wide country.’ Outside the classroom windows, the green grey of the lush Southern Grampian planes stretches into the distance from the tiny school’s front door. Eric gestures to the view and then walks his fingers gently through the air and the group all follow suit. ‘Yananhi. Walk.’
‘I walk, I journey, through this open country.’
Eric is joined by workshop leaders and MSO artists Nicholas Bochner (Assistant Principal cellist), Thea Rossen (casual percussionist and workshop leader) and Luke Carbon (casual clarinet/ saxophone). Together they will introduce this class to the instruments and sections of the orchestra, to compositional techniques including melody, harmony and rhythm. Most importantly, by the end of the workshop, the children will have created, orchestrated and performed their own, mini-compositions.
In October, when the full orchestra returns to Ballarat, Horsham, Hamilton and Warrnambool, the children will attend a special schools concert in which all they have learned will be brought to life with fifty-five instruments on stage and world-class soloists.
‘It just takes a little contact every now and then,‘ says teacher Brianna Kavanagh, ‘I can play all the recorded music I like to my students but seeing a cello up close is beyond anything I can give them. I can prepare them to get the most from the experience but the experience itself is what is priceless.’
While Australia’s oldest symphony orchestra has a long history of touring and performing across Victoria, this week represents an early step in the MSO’s new regional touring model which will ensure a long-term and sustainable presence beyond Melbourne. The chance to spend time in close contact with a range of audiences from young to old, those new to music and long-standing concertgoers, is extremely valuable.
‘When the MSO comes to town there’s a sense of occasion,‘ Heather, an audience member from Hamilton explains. ‘It’s something we look forward to and we are so grateful for the opportunity to hear the MSO. There’s that sense of anticipation; a feeling of mass emotion and excitement that you can’t get in any other form at all. It’s just something very special and I know when I go home, I can never fall asleep straight away, I’m still on a high.’
‘Hamilton is a hub‘ adds Angus Christie, founder and conductor of the Hamilton Symphony Orchestra. ‘We are fortunately placed geographically and people travel for hours to attend rehearsals and performances with HSO. There is no shortage of music-making in our town, however access to world-class musicianship, repertoire and soloists provides essential inspiration.’
October will see MSO return for dedicated schools concerts and An Evening with the MSO with internationally renowned clarinettist Michael Collins and ABC Young Musician of the Year (2015) Lloyd van’t Hoff. It will be an exhilarating week, so yananhi – come journey with us.