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Hearts and strings attached

Seventeenth-century harp and fiddle airs will meet contemporary guitar fireworks when the Heartstring Quartet plays the Arts Centre's Fairfax Studio on May 31. Individually, Nollaig Casey, Maire Ni Chathasaigh, Arty McGlynn and Chris Newman have chalked up decades with Van Morrison, Elvis Costello, Alison Krauss, Planxty and more at various ends of the folk-roots spectrum. As a handy combo of two sisters and husbands, ''the music is traditional Irish [with] forays into improvised music with elements of blues, jazz and bluegrass,'' Casey says. But ''everyone gets to do a party piece''.

Philharmonic plumbs the depths

The Royal Melbourne Philharmonic will sink to new depths with its 2014 season premiere on Sunday at Melbourne Town Hall courtesy of contralto Liane Keegan, whose rare operatic lower register will ring through Edward Elgar's Sea Pictures. The song cycle of five poems, including Adam Lindsay Gordon's The Swimmer, premiered in the UK in 1899 with Dame Clara Butt in a mermaid suit. Smart concert attire will suffice for the RMP program, which includes Elgar's The Music Makers and Ralph Vaughan Williams' setting of Walt Whitman's poetry, Toward the Unknown Region.

Orchestra in collaborative effort

Ancient spirits of Arnhem Land will pass through Melbourne next week as the Australian Art Orchestra launches its second collaboration with the indigenous song men of Ngukurr. Crossing Roper Bar Volume 2: The Ghost Dances follows the award-winning jazz fusion album of 2010, since performed to high acclaim in Paris, London and Cambridge. The AAO will unveil the new work at Bennetts Lane on May 27 with Roper River musicians David and Daniel Wilfred, who will also present a workshop on May 29 at Moreland City Band Hall in Brunswick.