Exclusive Interview with Elena Kats-Chernin

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This week debussycat had the chance to speak with Elena Kats-Chernin about her upcoming concert with the Strathfield Symphony Orchestra (tonight and tomorrow night at the Strathfield Town Hall – for more info click here). A household name in Australia, Elena Kats-Chernin is one of our nation’s most celebrated modern musicians and leading composers whose output includes orchestral works, operas, chamber and solo pieces, as well as music for dance, film, and theatre. The Strathfield Symphony Orchestra commissioned Kats-Chernin to compose the Redmyre Suite in 2009 to celebrate its 40th anniversary, and it has been revised for these concerts.

You can view the programme here and book tickets here.

Kats-Chernin on composing

It goes without saying that the life of a composer is intensely creative and solitary in some respects. Kats-Chernin tells me she spends days composing millions of little notes and making constant changes to her work. Requiring only her piano, her manuscript paper, a pen and her mind, Kats-Chernin’s compositions are highly original and spontaneous, reflecting her unique idiom and personal history. Once upon a time, she might have cited Ravel and Bach as influences, however these days she draws inspiration from just about anything, whether ‘a conversation, a story or even something she has eaten’.

I have to ask Kats-Chernin what it is like to be a composer in Australia. Did she ever consider moving elsewhere? Her answer is a resounding “no” – Australia is and always has been the place for her. She laughs and tells me that composers are not fond of change. Constantly busy with new compositions, Kats-Chernin is glad to be surrounded by friends and family here in Sydney.

The story behind the Redmyre Suite

During our interview, Kats-Chernin reveals a little of her thinking behind the Redmyre Suite. I am intrigued to find out that the Redmyre Suite, named after Redmyre Street (being the street on which the orchestra meets for rehearsal every week) is inspired by the Orchestra itself. Kats-Chernin seeks to pay tribute to its members past and present, as well as the noble sacrifice of amateur artists who meet and practice in their free time, all for the love of music.

A preview of the Redmyre Suite

In short, the Suite is a celebratory piece inspired by community and place. Tonight I will be listening for Kats-Chernin’s characteristic rhythmic pulsation and distinctive melodic/harmonic language as well as the celebratory brass chords that she tells me will open the final movement. She also tells me to listen for the sound of ‘trains hurtling along the tracks’, reminding the audience of Strathfield’s famous train station – a significant and central landmark for community members both within and without Strathfield.

Finally, whilst Kats-Chernin’s inspiration these days is very much the fruit of her own ideas and personal experiences, there are a handful of references to Chopin and Bach in the Redmyre Suite. Whilst the references to Bach are more overt, you will have to listen more closely for motifs inspired by Chopin’s Etude No. 3 in the opening movement.

Why Rowing for Rivendell?

The proceeds of the concert will be used to buy a rowing machine for Rivendell, Adolescent & Family Mental Health Services at Thomas Walker Hospital, Concord. For Elena Kats-Chernin, the cause is one close to her heart as her middle son Alex suffers from schizophrenia.

Rowing for Rivendell will be a unique opportunity to witness one of Australia’s most famous musicians perform and hear the much anticipated revised Redmyre Suite. Book now to experience Kats-Chernin’s celebrated music and contribute to a cause that is close to her heart.

© Sabina Chitty 2011, debussycat Sydney classical music guide

Strathfield Symphony Orchestra – Rowing for Rivendell

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Great music for a great cause! Elena Kats-Chernin performs with the Strathfield Symphony Orchestra

Strathfield Symphony presents Elena Kats-Chernin as soloist and Geoffrey Gartner conducting sensational music on 24 & 25 June at Strathfield Town Hall at 7pm (note early start). Book now!

Programme “Preludes”– Elena will open the concert with some of her best known pieces for solo keyboard in an informal setting at 7pm while you enjoy a
complimentary drink

Kats-Chernin “Redmyre Suite”- commissioned by the Orchestra in 2009 and revised for these concerts

Kats-Chernin “Mater” – arranged for full orchestra for these performances

Dvorak – Symphony No 6 in D major

Join us for a wonderful evening including an auction of some unique signed posters and manucripts.

The proceeds will be used to buy a rowing machine for Rivendell, Adolescent & Family Mental Health Services at Thomas Walker Hospital, Concord.



For sponsorships and donations (including entry by donation) please contact Bruce Lane brucelane@optusnet.com.au 0411 550 006

Would you like to be in the FIRST EIGHT? Join Elena and others as Principal Sponsors and meet Elena with refreshments at interval. Contact Bruce Lane for details.

Q&A with ChorusOz® soloist Warwick Fyfe

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ChorusOz is an exciting opportunity for choristers from across Australia and abroad to come together in an annual choral weekend and bring to life one of the greatest works in choral repertoire. The results are always spectacular. Bass Warwick Fyfe is a soloist who will be performing Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis with this year’s ChorusOz on Sunday 12 June 6pm at the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House.  To register to be a part of this year’s ChorusOZ click here. To book tickets click here.

Q&A with Warwick Fyfe

Q1) Have you performed this work before? If yes, which movements do you think the audience will enjoy the most? If no, what are your thoughts about doing this piece for the first time?

I have never performed this work though it has always loomed in my mind like a mighty, distant peak visible through the mists. Performing it for the first time will be an opportunity to immerse myself in a work which has daunted some great conductors as being almost too sublime to approach. I have had epiphanic, coup de foudre moments with great works when I’ve heard them, as a humble audience member, for the first time live, as distinct from on CD. Some works only reveal their treasures when one has abided with them for a good while. Be that as it may, having only ever listened to the Missa Solemnis on CD, I feel it is a work I’ve yet to experience properly.

Q2) What do you think about standing onstage with a chorus of 800 voices?

I expect it will be a mighty sound! I was in a similarly proportioned chorus in 1988 when I was involved in a Mahler 8 in Canberra.

Q3) From your perspective how does Beethoven stand in the context of full choral repertoire?

If he’d written nothing for concerted voices but the final movement of his 9th Symphony, it alone would have qualified him to be regarded as one of the Titans of choral writing. But then there’s the vastly proportioned testimony of the Missa Solemnis too. As a singer, I can see the justice of the criticism that his writing for voices is sometimes awkward, but the effect is sublime.

Q4) What are your impressions of the ChorusOz public choral training programme?

Based on the Mozart Requiem I was a soloist in a few years ago, I sense an enthusiasm from the participants so strong it bubbles over. Nothing could be more salutary for the health of society than such an intense engagement with high art.