Music

Sara Macliver shines in world premiere

10 Mar
by Into the Shimmer Heat, posted in Culture Australia, Music, Opera   |  No Comments

David Pye of the Nova Ensemble writes:

I was fortunate to be at the world premiere of Iain Grandage’s new song cycle – Life Stories – during the recent Perth International Arts Festival. It’s a significant addition to the repertoire, and Sara’s performance was immaculate.

sara macliver

Sara Macliver

Neville Cohn’s review in the West Australian is here

Sara’s understanding of music ranging from the baroque to contemporary is unparalleled in Perth – what an intelligent singer she is! I can’t wait to work with her in Nova Ensemble’s new opera into the SHIMMER HEAT in October at the new WA State Theatre Centre.

Our Percussionist Bangs it out with the All Stars

08 Mar
by Into the Shimmer Heat, posted in Culture Australia, Music   |  No Comments

Paul MacPhail – producer of into the SHIMMER HEAT writes

Last night I was lucky enough to attend the PIAF Concert of new music by the New York based Bang On A Can All-Stars at the Perth Concert Hall. One of their feature pieces was a composition by Steve Reich – 2 x5.

Paul Tanner from into the SHIMMER HEAT

 

Bang On A Can All-Stars

Bang On A Can All-Stars

Driving rhythms, waves of crashing guitars and a wonderful cacophony of noise. Fantastic! And into the SHIMMER HEAT‘s Paul Tanner was invited onstage for the final piece to showcase his wonderful vibraphone playing – and rightfully took his place for a standing ovation.

The Silent Opera

13 Dec
by Into the Shimmer Heat, posted in Culture Australia, Dance, Music, Opera, Puppetry   |  No Comments

David Pye, Phil Thomson and Lee Buddle

This from an article in the West Australian newspaper

Time will tell whether making a landmark WA opera about a teenager who can’t sing because she is mute will be a stroke of genius or madness. Perhaps the deaf, dumb and blind kid Tommy, who played a mean pinball in the Who’s 1970s rock opera, or Procne, whose tongue was cut out by her jealous husband in Richard Mills’ The Love of the Nightingale, guided the thinking of composers David Pye and Lee Buddle and librettist Phil Thomson in creating their new chamber opera Into the Shimmer Heat.

Or, perhaps not.

“It really comes out of the story-line,” says Pye of the central character, Nina, who will be played by a dancer. This production, which will have its world premiere in Perth late next year, has been brewing for 16 years. Into the Shimmer Heat has finally been given its chance to bubble into life through a large injection of cash from the State Government’s now-defunct Major Production Fund.

When it opens in the new Heath Ledger Theatre in October next year, 16-year-old Nina, rendered silent and sullen by the grief of her father’s death, will soar with her mother in a hot-air balloon above the heads of the audience. It will be a striking start to an opera about love, loss, life and the struggle of non-indigenous people to come to grips with Australia’s vast landscape.

Flying across the desert, Nina is glued to her iPod as her mother sings of her love for the huge, empty land below. But a storm strikes and her mother plummets to her death, leaving Nina trudging through the desert and hallucinating into existence a camel as her companion. Her mother’s ghost comes across a waterhole inhabited by other spirits.

Nina later arrives at the oasis but it is reserved for those who embraced the land before they died. She is cast out by spirits but rescued by her mother and father, who return her to health and encourage her to leave for good to live out the rest of her life

Nova Ensemble, the fine-music group led by Pye and Buddle, has received $390,000 from the MPF for Into the Shimmer Heat, which involves some of WA’s leading independent performing artists across music, theatre, dance, puppetry and design. Also on board is Opera Australia artistic director Lyndon Terracini in a mentoring role.

The two-year fund concluded last year after dispensing $2.1 million between six projects. They include Marrugeku’s 2009 Burning Daylight national tour, Yirra Yaakin’s Aboriginal musical Waltzing the Willara for the 2011 Perth International Arts Festival and a Thin Ice/WA Opera’s co-production of Richard Strauss’ Elektra in 2012.

Pye says the development and production costs for Into the Simmer Heat will be about $800,000, so half will need to come through sponsors, philanthropists and the box-office during its likely two-week season.

The announcement of the MPF in late 2007 came like drought-breaking rain for Pye, Buddle and Thomson after years of perseverance but diminishing expectations that the opera would be anything more than presented in concert version.

“I think it is an awesome, heaven-sent opportunity to make a bit of a splash and create something on a grander scale because there is the money to do something properly,” Pye says. “The whole concept of putting together a pot of money that the smaller companies can access to realise their vision is extraordinary.”

The project began in 1995 with a chat between Pye and Spare Parts Puppet founder Peter Wilson about the junk opera Shockheaded Peter. “We were just having a discussion about puppet operas generally and the lack thereof,” says Pye, who commissioned Thomson to write the libretto.

A series of music and puppetry workshops followed. “We came to the conclusion that we had a good opera but that singing puppets wasn’t the way to go,” Pye says. “They are very impersonal and tended to make people laugh rather than address the serious emotional message behind the opera.”

What they settled on were some small marionettes to alter the scale of characters walking across a distant sand dune and Philippe Genty-style manipulation of objects such as wicker, sticks and fabric from the wrecked balloon morphing into the hallucinatory camel.

Pye says the opera is intended to ask questions about how outsiders find a place in the ancient Australian landscape. “We all feel very strong that it is very important that non-indigenous people also find a relationship with the landscape . . . because a lot of people feel quite dislocated and many people in the city are afraid to go out into the bush. I think if we are truly going to look after the country we live in, we are going to have to find a way to form a relationship with the land.”

A young WA dancer, who is yet to be named, will play Nina with the other roles taken by soprano Sara Macliver, mezzo-sopranos Xiaojia Zhang and Fiona Campbell and baritone Robert Hofmann. The Nova Ensemble will perform in the pit, from which the spirits will rise up on to the stage aided by designer Alan Murphy, choreographer Danielle Micich and puppeteers Ian Tregonning and Joanne Foley.

“There are spectacular visual scenes, high emotion, love arias, death and so on and so forth,” Pye says. “We tried very deliberately to make it very approachable for the average person. We are not writing for ivory-tower listeners and we are certainly not aiming for just the opera public. We are trying to present a 21st century version of opera which tells stories that are relevant to us today as West Australians.”

‘A lot of people feel quite dislocated and many people in the city are afraid to go out into the bush.’

The Nova Ensemble will hold more workshops in the new Heath Ledger Theatre in December to test technical aspects of the venue.

Nova Ensemble

06 Dec
by Into the Shimmer Heat, posted in Culture Australia, Music   |  No Comments

Nova Ensemble is a contemporary music group based in Fremantle, Western Australia. The group’s music explores aspects of music technology, contemporary instrument design and building, cross-cultural music, collaborative composition and improvisation. The members of the group are all involved in creating repertoire for the group, and each brings a diverse range of skills to our performances.

David Pye

David Pye

David Pye is a composer, percussionist and conductor working principally in the areas of contemporary music and dance. In 1983 he founded Nova to perform the classical music of the twentieth century and has overseen the development of the group into a contemporary music organisation which commissions, writes, performs and records

music, principally by Western Australian composers. As Artistic Director of Nova, he has been responsible for commissioning and performing works by every major composer resident in Perth. David took up composition in 1989 with commissions since for Nova, Chrissie Parrott Dance Company, Festival of Perth, Independent New Choreographers, 2-Dance Plus, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, WA Academy of the Performing Arts School of Dance, Graduate College of Dance, Myth Maker Films, Mostly Baroque and the W.A Mandolin Orchestra.