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Classical treatment delivers silver screen gold

AS A child in the 1980s, Amy Dickson had no idea what the song she always heard on 2UE was. She just knew she liked it. Then, about three years ago, she heard it again and decided to track it down.

She phoned a friend who worked in a record shop and whistled the melody down the line. The answer came back: it was Going Home, the haunting theme written by Dire Straits lead guitarist Mark Knopfler for the film Local Hero.

Three years later, Dickson's childhood earworm has, with Knopfler's blessing, become a full-blown concerto for saxophone, orchestra and rock band. The three-movement work, arranged by Australian composer Jessica Wells, is on Dickson's new CD, Catch Me if You Can.

The disc also features Escapades, film composer John Williams's arrangement of his soundtrack to Steven Spielberg's Catch Me if You Can. Tracking down good repertoire for her chosen instrument - the saxophone is not exactly a mainstream classical instrument - is all in a day's work for Dickson. The third work on her new disc is American composer Michael Kamen's saxophone concerto.

Kamen died in 2003 from multiple sclerosis and the concerto was unpublished at the time of his death.

Dickson contacted the family and, with the help of Kamen's youngest daughter, found two dusty boxes in the attic containing a handwritten score and orchestral parts.


Getting the work ready for recording involved painstaking work checking every note against the original recording. However, with the help of its original dedicatee, the legendary saxophonist David Sanborn, Dickson salvaged the lost work, and will perform it across Europe this year.

The winner of the ABC Symphony Australia Young Performer Award in 2004, Dickson, who lives in London, has a flourishing international solo career. It doesn't hurt that she is tall and slender and dressed by Armani. But behind the glamour is an artist who is committed to the serious end of the classical music spectrum.

''I practise a lot. It's a very physical instrument. You have to have the stamina to get through a concert. If I'm practising for less than six hours a day, I feel like I don't have the sound I want to have.''

While she adores her relationship with Armani - she calls their showroom, where she gets to choose from racks and racks of matching dresses, shoes and accessories, her ''little heaven'' - she is dismissive of the trend for female classical musicians to be styled like fashion models.

''I think if you're just doing well-known songs that don't require a lot of thought, you can dress up and be an actress. But when you're playing contemporary classical music you have to think hard and practise for eight hours a day.

''Besides, men don't do that, do they?''

Catch Me If You Can is out on ABC Classics.