AYO String Quartet: Blog 2
What a tour! Our week in Townsville was a whirlwind of rehearsals, local radio interviews, school workshops and concerts, and we thoroughly enjoyed it! Yesterday felt very strange indeed, after having landed back in Brisbane the night before to sleep in our own beds, then turning up at 4MBS Studios in the morning to record the fruits of our labour! It’s hard to believe that it was over a week ago that we arrived in Townsville and made our way to Umbrella Studio for Contemporary Arts, where director Vicki made us feel very welcome – after a brief media call for the Townsville Bulletin, it was straight into rehearsal and getting a feel for the venue. The gallery was a beautifully intimate performance space, and the concert the following evening was packed out – it made for a wonderful first concert of the tour!
Unusual performance spaces were a theme for the tour – it would be hard to pick a favourite! The highly atmospheric lighting and initially baffling acoustic of C2 in the Townsville Civic Theatre? The charmingly laid-back Magnetic Island RSL? The poster-covered walls of the Burdekin Theatre, cataloguing the hosts of entertainers who had graced the stage before us? (From the Kransky Sisters to the Sensitive New Age Cowpersons!) It was a valuable experience for us to learn how to adjust to the acoustics of each venue, and we also had the opportunity to experiment with different layouts: sitting, standing, cello inside or outside – the jury is still out on what works best, and I suspect it will always vary depending on the players, the repertoire and the venue!
Some of the most memorable moments of the program came from working with the students of the local schools in workshops – for someone who has had relatively little experience in teaching young aspiring musicians, I found the opportunity to workshop and perform for the students challenging, humbling and immensely rewarding. I was a little stunned by the Mundingburra State School’s string quartets – I’m quite certain that my ensemble skills at that age were at nowhere near that level! Question time was always fun; the students wanted to know all sorts of things, from how much we practiced a day (roughly three to four hours) to how long we’d been playing together (about a week!) to why our strings didn’t break when we played the second movement of Ravel’s string quartet (we don’t know!). Taking part in the Pimlico State High School Symphony Orchestra’s Annual Benefit Concert was another highlight. I felt a big rush of nostalgia watching them have such a great time performing repertoire that had been part of my own earliest symphony orchestra experiences!
It was a sad moment when we finished recording and had to farewell our amazing AYO Program Administrator and Tour Manager Extraordinaire Meredith Potts. Thanks must go to the AYO team for their infallible organisation, our tutors Michele Walsh and Patricia Pollett for their words of wisdom, the music teachers in Townsville for facilitating the school workshops, and of course the beautiful audiences who were so appreciative of the music that we shared with them. It’s quite hard to accept that the tour is over and we must throw ourselves into preparations for our respective end of year recitals! I think we’re all incorporating as much chamber music into our recital programs as possible, which will hopefully include getting the band back together – after all, why would anyone perform alone when they could perform with friends?
Flora Wong, violin