In an eclectic ARCO 2018 season, the period band will be exploring the idea that all music is connected and all music was once new.

ARCO, Season 2018, Richard Gill

The Australian Romantic and Classical Orchestra (formerly known as orchestraseventeen88), will, in 2018, be entering its fifth year as a working ensemble. Earlier this year, at Santa Sabina College, Strathfield, NSW, members of the orchestra directed a specialist Music Camp for high school students concentrating on Mozart’s Haffner Symphony, performed in full at the end of the week.

Obviously, the concentration was on historically informed performance practices (HIP), initially resisted by some of the students at the start of the week. By the end of the week all students were completely on board and begging to be notified about the next such venture. The feedback from the students was overwhelmingly positive, manifesting itself in the phrase: “Can we come next year, even if we aren’t at school?”

ARCO, Richard GillRichard Gill conducting the Australian Romantic and Classical Orchestra. Photo © Nick Gilbert

The orchestra is very serious about education and well aware of the dangers of tokenism and playing down to children. Beginning in March 2018, we are presenting a series called: Richard Gill presents – a Voyage of Musical Discovery. I decided that we should try to present a range of music to children, including early music and contemporary music, by sharing the stage with existing Australian ensembles who specialise almost exclusively in new music. Three ensembles jumped out at once. James Greening’s Jazz Quartet: The World According to James, Claire Edwardes’ Ensemble Offspring, and Matthew Manchester’s Camerata Antica, an ensemble using ancient instruments playing ancient and new music.

Each programme in the series of three concerts has a particular compositional focus. The first programme, Motivic Development, pitches Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, movements I and IV, against a series of jazz works in which motifs abound and are improvised upon and developed.

The second programme, called Texture and Timbre, deals with these difficult concepts by contrasting a 19th-century chamber work – an octet by Peter von Winter (1754-1825) – with four works written by Australian composers within the last 25 years including Holly Harrison’s Vibe Rant, Thomas Meadowcroft’s Medieval Rococo, Bree van Reyk’s Light for the First Time and Cassie To’s Avialae.

The final programme, called Voices and Instruments, deals with the concept of cantabile, the singing line, a line available to almost all instruments and obviously voices. ARCO will play Josephus van Bree’s Allegro for Four String Quartets. Van Bree (1801-1857) is considered to be the first Dutch composer to have embraced the German Classical style, as reflected particularly in this work.

Richard Gill, ARCORichard Gill launching ARCO’s 2018 season at City Recital Hall, Sydney. Photo © Nick Gilbert

Monteverdi’s madrigal, O Come Sei Gentile (O how kind/gentle you are), reminds us all of where the concept of cantabile originated. The vocal music from this incredibly rich period of Italian music continues to influence composers today and those voices are represented by Alice Chance’s Ode to Melancholy and Elena Kats-Chernin’s Black Tie.

The inclusion of five women’s voices in the programme is a strong message to all young women who want to compose. The crumbling of the ancient male bastion is slow but exceeding sure. Women are now occupying their rightful place as potent, imaginative and vital contributors to a slowly growing culture of new music.

Instead of pre-concert talks, there will be pre-concert singing for 15 minutes before each programme. Introducing the music from the stage, as I will, with live musicians helping to explain aspects of the compositional process using examples, dispenses with the need to talk before the concert. It seemed a good idea, therefore, to involve the audience in some music-making and set the tone of the event with the music which began all music, namely, singing.

In 2019, although I can’t reveal the treats in store at this stage, I can say that there will be a student composition component where new works, from members of the audience, will be played by the musicians on stage. In programming this way, highlighting the concept that all music is somehow connected and that all music was once new, audience members can see that music is not a series of isolated compartments but a great and wonderful continuum.

Please join us for this Voyage of Musical Discovery on March 27, May 15 and August 21 at City Recital Hall, and be prepared for the return of the Babies Proms, led by the grandfather himself. It’s all happening in 2018.

For more information on Richard Gill’s A Voyage of Musical Discovery click here. Bookings are currently available for school groups, tickets will be available for the public from December 1.

For the Australian Romantic and Classical Orchestra’s full 2018 season click here.