Camerata’s Artistic Director shares his favourite places in the world and why he’d like to be a dance in another life.
1. Three pieces of music you love?
Michael Tippet’s Fantasia on a Theme of Corelli (I guess it fuses my interests in both modern and early repertoire, and it featured prominently in my early life in Camerata – Queensland’s Chamber Orchestra (then known as Camerata of St John’s.)
Schumann’s Rhenish Symphony. Schumann creates heart pangs for me at the best of times, but I love the nostalgia in this work and the intricate orchestration.
Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto. A remarkable and cornerstone work of the 20th century with the subtitle “To the Memory of an Angel”. It’s full of secret programmes and numerology and was completed in a state of delirium on Berg’s death bed.
Handel’s Op. 6 No 5 Concerto Grosso in A Major. Its been an ear worm for me for decades.
Camerata’s Artistic Director Brendan Joyce. Photo © Dylan Evans
2. Three recordings everyone should own?
When Time Stops by Camerata with music the by brilliant Australian, Iain Grandage. Remarkable and heartfelt music for Expressions Dance Company’s hit 2013 show by the same name in which Camerata featured on stage as part of the action.
Bach Solo Partitas and Sonatas by baroque violinist, Rachel Podger. A landmark and fairly recent recording on period violin.
Benjamin Britten and Mstislav Rostropich playing the Schubert Arpeggione Sonata in 1968. Britten was a remarkable pianist and apparently didn’t ever remember fingerings or any other special techniques about his playing. An inspired performer.
3. Three musical heroes?
Benjamin Britten. The Frank Bridge Variations features prominently throughout my chamber orchestra playing life and all the Britten I’ve played never ceases to amaze for being inspired, brilliantly crafted and fun to play.
Yehudi Menuhin. You can hear the man’s wonderful heart in his playing – he seemed to have the ability to transcend so many of life’s distractions and had a global conscience.
Lyn Darveniza, Joyce Crooks, Stephen Frewen-Lord, Elizabeth Morgan AM and Gerald Fischbach. These were all my music/violin teachers and mentors and I’m eternally grateful for their efforts, the three early ones working in regional Queensland in a fair degree of isolation. I’m from a family of many teachers and they are amongst our nation’s unsung heroes.
4. Three really underrated composers?
Zelenka (especially for the horn parts – so stunning)
Rameau (I had the privilege of moonlighting on Pinchgut Opera’s recent performance of Rameau’s Pygmalion – what utterly sublime music; I’m still floating after that).
Margaret Sutherland. Arguably our first great Australian compositional voice, albeit a very European centred one.
5. An overrated piece of music?
Not sure I can say – the composer is alive!
6. Three pieces of music you could happily never hear again?
Pachelbel’s Canon. Sorry! The gigue that follows it is great though!
Phantom of the Opera main theme.
Let it Go from Frozen. Please, let’s all let it go, once and for all!
7. Your greatest concert experience?
One of the most touching was on a Camerata tour to regional Queensland. We played in a nursing home in Yeppoon and we didn’t really know what to expect. The resident’s faces really brightened up and people were on cloud nine and so grateful that a group bothered to make the effort to play for them. Most notably, the staff couldn’t believe their eyes as a man who usually required a walker frame was wandering about the place chatting animatedly, and totally unaided. We’ve played at other ones since and had 94-year-olds up and dancing – these are the moments the rest of the world doesn’t know about but in a way they stand out prominently in a life full of concerts when you start reflecting on your life. Being able to make a difference counts for so much in the end.
Camerata also played a concert at the Australian Festival of Chamber Music in 2015 in which we performed Mozart with Piotr Andrzejewski. His sound was sublime, delicate, and the interpretation distinctive for its thoughtfulness and respect for style.
8. Three favourite films?
Babbette’s Feast – the food!
Peter Weir’s Witness and The Plumber (that latter is creepy and low budget but worth the watch!)
Warwick Thornton’s debut feature, Samson and Delilah from 2009. The film is gut-wrenching and it rightly won and APSA (Asia Pacific Screen Award).
9. The piece of music you most wish had been written for violin?
We fiddle players are well stocked with repertoire so I don’t tend to covet other instrument’s repertoire, but I sure do like the idea of having the sort of good old wallow that the Dvořák Cello concerto allows, or the Elgar for that matter. Most theft would be from the cello repertoire I think!
10. Three favourite places in the world?
Brisbane. Brisbane any day people – its even a hashtag now! #brisbaneanyday This city is alive, innovative and on fire with creativity. (And don’t pull the “Brisbane has really started to develop in the last ten years” nonsense. We’ve been at it since at least Expo ’88. Forget the recent boxing match – the art and culture here is nothing short of fantastic. Do I get the keys to the city now Lord Mayor Quirk?)
Wilson’s Promontory in Victoria (a truly glorious part of Australia).
Stradbroke Island. It’s a paradise and it’s right here in South East QLD, and the homeland of Oodgeroo Noonuccal (1920-1993).
11. Your proudest moment?
It’s a toss up between:
• Camerata and Expressions Dance Company came together to perform When Time Stops in 2013 with the group joining the dancers on stage, playing from memory and moving around as part of the choreographic narrative,
• Being awarded the Performance of the Year for our performances of that work in 2014.
• But there are also Camerata’s truly epic contributions to the Australian Festival of Chamber Music at many festivals.
• I’m also a little proud of being part of a trio that successfully nominated our friend, the string educator and Camerata Founder Elizabeth Morgan AM for an Australian Honours citation for her lifetime of contributions to Australia’s string music scene.
12. An embarrassing or awkward moment?
Camerata played for Queensland Music Festival in a show called “Classic Country” in Gladstone Queensland with Country Music artists, Melinda Schneider, Adam Harvey, Catherine Britt and Graeme Connors. My colleague Jonny Ng (violinist) and I played Devil Came Down to Georgia as part of the act and afterwards a very tipsy lady said to me how much she enjoyed it. I mentioned to her that I had totally forgotten to wear my devil’s horns that were supposed to be part of the act. Her (tipsy) response? “Don ya worry luv, ya horny enough as id is!”
13. What you do to relax?
Yoga. Can’t live without it; I feel like it has changed my life. 6am sessions 4 times a week (on a good week!). If anybody thinks I’m grumpy I was far worse before yoga!
14. Three guilty pleasures?
Breakfasts at cafés.
Espresso Martini’s at Fitz n Pots bar in Nundah, Brisbane (it’s great and was voted Brisbane’s best bar in the 2016 Eat and Drink awards).
Practising in my pyjamas till well into non PJ wearing time.
15. Three fictitious people you would like to meet in a bar?
Augustus Gloop (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)
Wonder Woman (I always wanted to be a pilot, the recent movie is great, and maybe with the right amount of woo-ing she’d offer me a free flight in an invisible plane?)
Mary Poppins. She just seemed like such a nice lady.
16. A historical person you’d like to go on a date with?
Clara Schumann – wouldn’t it be so interesting to hear her take on her two loves.
17. Two composers you’d like to see mud wrestling?
I don’t want to see anybody mud wrestling – yuck!
18. Six people (real or imaginary) you would most like to have round for dinner?
Barack Obama, the Mona Lisa, Dalai Lama, Eddie Mabo, Benjamin Law, Angela Merkel
19. Favourite foods?
The three C’s: Chocolate, Coffee, Cheese (blue vein, roaring 40’s).
20. If you weren’t a violinist, what job would you want?
Unquestionably I’d like to be a dancer in my next life. I love music but imagine being able to move to it the way a dancer can – suddenly playing violin feels physically restrictive when viewed through a dancer’s lense. I also think dancers tend be happy. Perhaps they are constantly high on endorphins?
Brendan Joyce leads Camerata in Sanctuary at QPAC July 13 and Empire Church Theatre Toowoomba July 14 as part of the Queensland Music Festival.