Monday, 27 February 2012

I believe in miracles

Women of Note was launched on Saturday night to a full house with people queuing outside the venue. It was the dream ending for this project which has consumed me for three years. But really it is the beginning. My book has been born, grown and has now moved out of home. Go well Book, be free! May you be enjoyed by countless readers.

I have included some photos of the amazing evening so you get a sense of the fascinating concert,

the composers who performed,

and the warmth and joy that surrounded the event (even when it threatened rain!).

Below is an edited version of my speech from the night.

Speech Notes: Launch of Women of Note

I believe in miracles.

When I started this project I thought it could potentially be a huge expensive waste of time. Then the Department of Culture and the Arts came on board with a project grant which funded my research and writing.

When I first contacted the composers I worried they would reject me outright. But they overwhelmed me with their encouragement and generosity.

When I first started looking for publishers I was terrified that all my hard work would never reach the shelves – then Fremantle Press said they were interested – very interested.

When it came time to promote the book I thought there wasn’t going to be a launch, but then the Perth Writer’sFestival and Tura New Music came on board.

The biggest miracle is that the jigsaw of Australia’s composing history has been completed. We now have something that more closely resembles the complete picture of how our composing scene has developed over the past century. I have peace about that now.

Thankyou Fremantle Press: Jane Fraser, Wendy Jenkins, Allyson Crimp, Claire Miller, Jenny Gillam. It has been a wonderful experience working with such a hardworking team. Especially as a freelancer, I have relished the chance to work alongside people and share the journey. I will never forget the past 12 months of working with you all. The end product is far better than I could have ever imagined. You have made a dream become reality –for me and for Australia’s women composers.

Gordon Kerry came onboard half way through as a consultant editor and his detailed comments as a composer and critic and industry expert have been so crucial to the historical accuracy and integrity of the book.

Stephen Bevis – my very sympathetic editor at the West Australian who has been very understanding with my workload and spoken such kind words tonight. It is an honour having you launch my book.

Thank you to my incredibly supportive husband Andrew, who has never let finance get in the way of fulfilment. Behind every successful woman is a strong partner and that is why this book is dedicated to you and our beautiful baby Matthew. We are a team and our little family is my greatest achievement and joy and foundation.

 I would like to acknowledge music – which has had its grip on me since I was very young. Music fuels me and inspires me and heals me and turns me again and again to my Maker who I acknowledge as the Source of all creativity.

Finally the composers – I thank them for their vulnerability, passion, tenacity. For their vibrant, eclectic and beautiful music. For modelling for me what it means to persevere, to love both your family and your work, to pursue excellence, to turn obstacles into opportunities. Thank you for changing the landscape of Australian composition. Thank you for making up 25% of our composers, more than almost any other country in the world.

Can you believe it: Australia!

Their lives are more tragic and their output more brilliant than the many celebrities and sports stars who steal the headlines. Long may their music be heard and celebrated. It is time to celebrate one of Australia’s best kept secrets.

Is it time for champagne??

Friday, 24 February 2012

Germaine Greer says we must clean our houses less. I am so relieved. Carmel Bird said the same thing in Dear Writer but only because domestic bliss is a distraction from writing. Germaine was speaking on Eco Feminism at the Perth Writer's Festival last night, rallying the troops to care for our environment, use less chemicals and let the bugs survive which are so necessary for developping the immune systems in our over-protected children.

Either way I was glad to hear I didn't need to clean my house before my dinner party. I didn't have time anyway! What a treat to host composers Betty Beath and Ann Carr-Boyd in my own home tonight. Such fashionable, warm and distinguished guests.

The photo doesn't do them justice (with writer David Cox and Matthew).

I wish I could have introduced them to William McInnes. At the same festival event as the Germaine Greer address William confessed he hadn't heard of any women composers.

RA: (feeling ballsy) Hi William. I was interviewed on RTR just after you today.
WM: What is your book about?
RA: Australia's women composers
WM: Who?
RA: Australia's women compsoers
WM: I know but who are they?
RA: Anne Boyd, Cat Hope, Margaret Sutherland, Elena Kats-Chernin...
WM: I haven't heard of any of them!
RA: Exactly.

Next time I'll be brave enough to invite him to my dinner party!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Women of Composure

This was in the West Australian newspaper today. For the online version click here. Unfortunately there is an error - Cat Hope was born in 1966 and is not yet in her fifties. But the photo is better this time and they left her bass guitar in the frame. It is not quite clear but Cathie is holding an accordion.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Wine Women and Song

Five sleeps till the launch of Women of Note!
The composers fly in on Thursday to start rehearsing for the concert. We already have 107 rsvps - it is going to be huge! I still need to write my speech and practice my autograph ;-p

Wine Women and Song
5pm Saturday 25th February
Dolphin Theatre, University of Western Australia
Featuring concert performances by Betty Beath, Ann Carr-Boyd, Cat Hope, Gail Priest and Cathie Travers
To be launched by Stephen Bevis, Arts Editor The West Australian
FREE! but RSVP essential

Friday, 17 February 2012

Beauty and Darkness

Review published by Opera Magazine (UK), the most broad reaching opera journal in the world, with critics filing from all corners of the globe. Including Perth!

OPERA review – Elektra
WA Opera

Beauty and darkness collided in the WEST AUSTRALIAN OPERA’S production of Elektra. The ambitious production involved collaboration between OPERA AUSTRALIA, WA OPERA, the Perth International Arts Festival and ThinIce. Director Matthew Lutton made an impressive opera debut. He framed the story through the eyes of the revenge-ravaged Elektra whose obsession with her father Agamemnon was played out visually with the King’s ghost inhabiting the stage just as the Agamemnon motiv haunts the score. Black-painted actor James Berlyn was a constant shadowy presence miming and manipulating events onstage. Black was the theme for the creative team with dark castle walls looming ominously behind the drab-clothed cast (set and costumes Zoe Atkinson). The only respite from the gloom came at the end when LED globes floated down from the roof and sprinklers emerged washing the walls clean. This happened while Elektra celebrated her revenge and as she sang the figure of Agamemnon sunk into a pool of inky water, his shadow dissolving as Elektra’s revenge is absolved. It was the most impressive use of a trapdoor I’ve seen.

In the hands of conductor Richard Mills the strangled melody and bleak exultation of Strauss’ score was delineated but also kept well in check. On February 11th the reduced West Australian Symphony Orchestra (woodwind, brass and percussion pared back to fit in the pit) played with an energy that made Strauss’ score feel modern and fresh all over again.

The highlight was hearing today’s greatest Elektra, Eva Johansson, whose splendid sound made even this darkest of productions a thing of beauty. Yes she was sullen, brutal and grief-stricken, but never at the expense of clean, soaring singing. The pairing with Orla Boylan (Chrysothemis) could not have been better; Boylan’s Ich kann nicht sitzen was powerful and pitiful and the friction between the sisters was tangible. A bald Klytamnestra – who first arrived onstage to scalp a servant – was sung by Elizabeth Campbell who was every inch the decrepit tyrant. Daniel Sumegi was a resonant Orest and Richard Greager a foppish Aegisth.


Wednesday, 15 February 2012


Here's what appeared in the Fremantle Gazette on the weekend. Now anxiously awaiting my piece in the West Australian on Tuesday. I've never been published in the 'literary pages' before :) And all the photo shoots - I much prefer publishing words because at least you can edit them until you're happy!

Thursday, 9 February 2012


The first thing I knew about Elektra was that there were a whopping eight clarinets in the orchestra. At uni we named our 8-piece clarinet ensemble Elektrasize.

The next time I came across the opera was at National Music Camp in 2000 when I learned that although the opera was the first of many collaborations between composer Richard Strauss and playwright Hugo von Hofmannsthal, it was the last the composer wrote in such extremely chromatic language. He was about to execute a huge musical U-turn and backtrack away from modernism.

At National Music Camp I attended a performance of Elektra at the Capitol Theatre in Sydney, conducted by Simone Young, and learned the consequences of speaking my mind. I thought the tenor was weak and wobbly as Aegisthus. I was shouted down by the local Sydneysiders who took offence at the criticism levelled at a singer who was currently reigning favourite in Sydney. I was from Perth and had no idea about the hierarchies involved. I was horrified at my ‘misjudgement’ until our tutor suggested that perhaps Hoffmann’s voice was in fact past its prime, and it required the ears of an outsider to notice.

This week a new production of Elektra has opened in Perth – WA Opera’s first performance of a Strauss opera. Admittedly they have trimmed the orchestra back a bit to fit in the pit – there aren’t eight clarinets after all – but at least it is getting an airing. The co-production with ThinIce features hot young director Matt Lutton and a sensational cast of singers. The ancient Greek story is proving a winner: all three performances at His Maj are SOLD OUT.

I can’t wait to hear Eva Johansson as Elektra. Watch this space for my review of Saturday’s performance...

Monday, 6 February 2012

(from Latin gerere)
1. The period of carrying in the womb.
2. The conception and development of a plan or an idea in the mind.

Matthew turns one today, and in a few weeks time my first book will be launched. They shared the same gestation period. Of course I only carried Matthew for nine months whereas the book has taken three years to research, write and publish. Both arrived late! Matthew was meant to come in January and I was hoping Women of Note would make it to the shelves in 2011.

But we don’t really have control over the timing of these kinds of creative miracles. They come when they are ready and not before. And that ends up being the perfect time.

As it turns out February is a much better time to have a book launch, and not just because summer is the perfect time for champagne sundowners! February is also the host of the Perth Writer’s Festival. What better time to launch my book baby than when the eyes of the national and international media are on Perth? Couldn’t have planned it better if I’d tried!

Matthew may be feeling neglected at the moment with his mum so enthralled by her work. But not for much longer; the book will be grown up and moving out soon – set free on the shelves to live its own life. Matthew and I will be entwined for many more years to come.

Thursday, 2 February 2012


In This Garden

Spider draws in finest line,
Always radial his design,
Delicate against the skies,
Jewelled by dew, darked by flies.
Does spider set himself apart
As one supported by his art?

 Linking branches, linking trees,
Quite still amidst his masterpiece,
He sits and waits, so patiently
For someone passing by to see his art;
But then his work is often brought
By passers by again to nought.

These words come from the song cycle In This Garden by BettyBeath. The poetry (by her husband David Cox) is set to a rippling piano accompaniment with a lyrical, questioning soprano line. It is interesting to observe that this artistic couple, at the height of their careers, were questioning their calling and its impermanence.

The transient nature of music has been a challenge to the documentation of music history. Artists leave paintings to admire, writers leave books as a tangible legacy of their efforts, composers have only a score which needs to be performed in order to live. It is so much harder to leave a footprint.

Hooray for youtube!!!

Here is Betty on piano performing In This Garden with soprano Susan Lorette Dunn.  David has done the illustrations.

This piece will be performed LIVE by the composer in Perth at the launch of Women of Note
5pm Sat 25th Feb Dolphin Theatre UWA.