It was late 2015. In that year, soprano Anna Fraser and the Acacia Quartet had premiered my song cycle The Man In The Other Room and soprano Ayse Goknur Shanal with Patrick Keith had premiered another song cycle, These Men. “You have written music for our children and for many others, but you’ve never written anything for me,” said my bride of (then) 36 years. Point taken.

Reflecting on my sin of omission, I had a ‘light-bulb’ moment and thought about creating a concert which would see two composers performing each other’s works – I would dedicate my composition to my aforesaid bride. I put this idea to Michael Lampard, noted Melbourne baritone and composer. We agreed to give it a shot with likely performances in Newcastle, Sydney and Melbourne.

In looking for texts that expressed something of the love and admiration I have for my bride, I found some beautiful poems by the late Australian poet, John Shaw Neilson. These express emotions which are romantic, whimsical, allegorical, contemplative and more, providing marvellous inspiration. Rejecting the idea of another narrative song cycle, I decided each song would tell its own story, naming the grouping Love Stories.

Ultimately, I set seven poems: Love’s Coming is gentle; Song In The Yellow is joyful and in Bulgarian rhythm; The Declaration is the centrepiece of the group and is by turns gentle and ardent; The Evening Is The Morning is full of bright whimsy; The Lover Sings is romantically descriptive; Show Me The Song is contemplative, soulful; and in Stony Town, a materialist society is overcome by the wonder of a girl “who shall shake with the cinnamon and the heat-wave in her hair”. This last is a substantial reworking of a piece I originally composed for The Song Company in the 1980s.

Throughout, the music is treated in ensemble; the piano does not ‘accompany’ but supports whilst charting its own course.

Premiered by Michael Lampard and myself in the forthcoming Newcastle Music Festival together with the premiere of Michael’s song cycle So Young and Fair, based on romantic texts of James Joyce, Love Stories will also be heard in Sydney on August 23 and later in Melbourne. Whimsically, our concert is called Love Notes: I’ll Sing Yours If You’ll Play Mine. Also on the bill: Bach, Beethoven, Verdi and Cole Porter. I do hope my darling bride loves Love Stories.

Ross Fiddes’ song cycle Love Stories premieres August 18 at the Newcastle Conservatorium as part of the Newcastle Music Festival


Correction: In the What’s On section of the August 2018 issue of Limelight Magazine, the prices listed for the Newcastle Music Festival, $100 – $140, were for Festival Passes only. Individual tickets for this concert are $25.00 for concession tickets, $35 for adult tickets and $80 for families.