2016 AYO National Music Camp: Blog 4
Posted by Antonia Zappia
Monday 11th January, 2016
Credit: Dyan Hallworth


The dryers are humming. A percussionist, a little confused, mistakes the dryer for a washing machine. As they rescue their clothes, I talk them through how it all works and we chat about the year ahead. Their smiling, bright eyes are grateful. It’s Sunday, the after-concert free day and, unfortunately, it’s 34 degrees outside. Many people seem dazed. It’s a perfect time to rest, practise and, of course, recalibrate the brain for the day-to-day domestic chores such as washing.

As I walk through the corridors to my room I hear a violinist patiently pacing through technical work. Their sound is even and their tuning balanced. A flautist and a violist throw flourishes of notes outside their windows, much like two neighbours shaking dust from a rug. I have returned to my desk and, headphones on, my mind turns over the dark, brooding sounds of my next piece for programming – Schoenberg’s Pelleas and Melisande. I ruminate on the last 24 hours, two concerts and a trip to the National Gallery of Australia.

On Saturday everyone seemed lost in their own gallery of sounds. Orchestral managers moved swiftly between rehearsal rooms and Llewellyn Hall, retracing the musicians’ entries and exits for the evening concerts. Some musicians folded back in their dining chairs at lunch, letting melodies float atop their heads. At 4pm, at Burton and Garran Hall, one musician waited breathless for a lift to the hall – it was much too hot to walk.


There were highlights from both concerts, each presenting colourful and fascinating works. In Veress’s Four Transylvanian Dances, the Smalley Chamber Orchestra led us cantering through a densely grown forest, shards of light seeming to peer through with every pizzicato. My heart leapt with surprise as they stamped their feet at the end of phrases to catch their breath. Ravel took us to Spain, as the violins shimmered in hues of fuchsia and hyacinth, forming a warm and inviting sunset for the Prélude á la nuit. The Alexander Orchestra’s  fourth movement of Schumman’s Rhenish was sombre and reflective. 

I fretted as I searched for a door to let me into the top tier of seats for the second concert at 8pm. A tutor, sensing my confusion at a maze of locked passages, kindly helped me find a way in. A bird’s eye view is perfect for watching orchestral changes unfold; musicians become like beads of water, rolling on and off stage with grace.

My most treasured memories of this concert came from the surprises in interpretation. The Smalley Chamber Orchestra powered through Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro, stopping for a complete second before they bounded through the final repeat of one of its earlier themes. James Crabb conducted the Bishop Orchestra from his accordion. His physicality perfectly synched with the swaying and parading Piazzolla. Short Ride in a Fast Machine was an adrenalin rollercoaster – you think your stomach won’t churn with exhilaration and yet it always does. Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe began in fog, the horn and clarinet wading through creepily for the Nocturne.

On Sunday, I am followed around by these musical watercolours as I look upon the works of Tom Roberts and Ken and Julia Yonetani. Roberts’ painting reminded me of the Prélude á la nuit of Ravel’s Rapsodie espagnole – the moon is a pinprick on a pinkish wash backdrop. Ken and Julia Yonetani’s crystal chandeliers brought back memories of the electric hum of the Adams.

I walk back to the accommodation in a meditative haze. The heat is sending me to sleep but, for others, it is inspiring singing. Behind me I hear cackling laughter and a roaring rendition of the beginning of Beethoven’s Symphony No.7. It seems the musicians are excited for new repertoire and so am I. 

Image credits: Dyan Hallworth