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Katie Noonan is a ubiquitous name in the Australian music industry, not least because she’s touched upon almost every genre in her nearly 30-year career.

Whether you’re a fan of pop, rock, opera, jazz or anything in between, you’ve likely encountered the genre-defying artistry of Katie Noonan.

Ahead of the five-time ARIA Award-winning artist’s upcoming show, Love — An Act of Bravery, with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and the Melbourne Youth Orchestra at Hamer Hall on May 30, Katie discusses the limitless nature of music and love, along with the importance of music education and the power of mentorship.

Katie Noonan doesn’t accept the silos placed on music and instead thinks of it as a spectrum to be effortlessly traversed and fearlessly explored.

“I don’t really think of music in terms of genres. I just think of it as communicating and connecting to a beautiful source that is welcoming to all of us, but I must say classical music was probably the first music I ever heard. Certainly in utero, in April 1977, my mum was performing with the Australian Opera doing Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes and then not long after, she took my brother to see ABBA at the SCG. Therein lies probably my two main loves, which were classical music and great pop music,” Katie says.

There is clearly a lot to be said for musical indoctrination at a young age, as those pre-birth musical influences have carried through to her upcoming show with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. While ABBA doesn’t get a guernsey this time, Katie is set to perform music from Benjamin Britten’s song cycle, Les Illuminations, alongside songs from Leonard Berstein and Joni Mitchell, right through to Katie’s own compositions.

What does all this music have in common? The clue is in the name of the show, Love — An Act of Bravery is a concept Katie had been thinking about when deciding on the setlist and the influence of each of these songs on her own life.

“Love is an act of bravery, and you know, my partner and I are about to have our 25-year anniversary in a couple of weeks and 20 years married later in the year. As anyone who’s been in a relationship that long knows, it is an act of bravery and believing in something bigger than yourself… so I think across the program, there are little touch points to celebrate the act of loving yourself and loving another person,” she says.

This isn’t the veteran artist’s first rodeo performing in a symphonic setting, but the privilege of performing with an orchestra, not least, one as renowned as the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, is not lost on her and still leaves Katie brimming with wide-eyed enthusiasm of her younger years.

“There’s nothing like the magic of a symphony orchestra. Obviously, it’s one of the most wonderful palettes to work with and we’ll have a full symphony, which is really special and rare for me to get to perform with.

“It’s just the idea that there’s a collective of hearts and souls and minds all focused collectively and communally on making beautiful music. So just that sheer volume of people all dedicated and serving the music is a very special and rare privilege,” she adds.

As a founder of the Eumundi School of Music, a free music school for up-and-coming talent and a mentor to younger artists herself, the thing that excites her most about this upcoming show is that members of the Melbourne Youth Orchestra will be joining the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

“It’s that beautiful mentoring and sharing of skills; the teacher and the student sharing in music-making together. It’ll be very special to have the newcomers playing alongside the esteemed members of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra,” she enthuses.

Katie hopes the eclectic show might entice people who have never ventured into the world of orchestral music before, to take the leap and experience the uniquely rich soundscape it offers, made accessible through the universal theme of love as an act of bravery.

“I hope that they connect with the stories that we’re sharing… if classical music seems a little bit daunting, this would be a really special way to meet the orchestra.”

Words by Grace McCallum. First published by Beat.

2024 Katie Noonan x MSO 1200x800

Katie Noonan x MSO

Thursday 30 May 2024
Arts Centre Melbourne, Hamer Hall

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