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Spotlight on Chamber Music

DESIGNED HISTORICALLY for formal, intimate gatherings, such as regency courts or cozy home settings, chamber music is small-scale classical music performed by up to 15 musicians with personal flair and expression.

By Kate Conway 

The inaugural Northern Territory Chamber Music Festival is a joint venture between Darwin Symphony Orchestra and the Arafura Music Collective that has been in the works since 2018, and is presented in the intimate setting of Brown’s Mart.

These days, the developing art form has evolved to be associated with all sorts of venues, and while the strong traditions remain, modern composers in the vibrant genre are experimenting and incorporating interesting cross cultural infusions and issues that represent society.

Curated by Arafura Music Collective Artistic Director Claire Kilgariff and Darwin Symphony Orchestra Artistic Director Jon Tooby, the pair has found a wide range of unique works to highlight the evolving genre and entrance the audience.

“We’ve got a wonderful program of fascinating and interesting works that I’m sure the audience will be completely delighted with,” says Kilgariff.

“From Telemann in the Baroque period, right through to a work by Ian Grandage that was composed recently, and an amazing work by Gavin Bryars, it will be completely astounding for the audience.”

A highlight of the program, Bryars’ experimental and highly evocative piece, Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet, incorporates vocals from a homeless man recorded in 1971 played on a loop accompanying the music.

Grandage’s Black Dogs is the program’s finale performed by a guitar and a string quartet, and is inspired by two friends’ struggles with mental health.

“I don’t like just doing a standard classical concert. I like to put some pieces that everyone knows and then mix it up. It is about exposing people to extraordinary music, and all the music that we are playing is incredibly interesting, evocative, and in a way, provocative,” says Tooby.

As well as the aforementioned thought provoking performances, the inaugural festival aims to encourage chamber music composition through the Young Artists Showcase, featuring school students and members of DSO’s Young Artists Program.

It also features the NT Composers Seminar, hosted by renowned NT composer Cathy Applegate and featuring NT composers Netanela Mizrahi, Nick Yates and Francis Diatschenko, each presenting a new work especially written for this event.

Lifting the curtain on inspiration and composition processes, audiences get down to the nitty gritty of what goes into creating a piece, the interactive style part of the ethos of the festival, explains Tooby.

“People should attend to enrich their lives, it will open new world doors that they would never have heard before. It’s not just a classical concert or going to see a symphony, it will be very engaging.”

NT Chamber Music Festival

Photos: Tim Nicol Photography

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