Trio's 1913 art songs for Centenary will captivate

Charisma is a rare thing but husband and wife team Alan Hicks and Christina Wilson have that amazing ability to captivate an audience.

At Art Song Canberra's first 2013 concert at Wesley Music Centre on Sunday they'll join with one of Australia's most revered violists, Robert Harris, to present a program of music specially chosen to celebrate Canberra's Centenary.

From left: Robert Harris (violin), Christina Wilson (mezzo-soprano), Alan Hicks (piano) are presenting a Canberra ...
From left: Robert Harris (violin), Christina Wilson (mezzo-soprano), Alan Hicks (piano) are presenting a Canberra Centenary music program. 

''When we knew that we were opening the 2013 series I really wanted to do something connected to the Centenary,'' Wilson says. ''When you go to a concert you're putting yourself into the artists' hands, and as a programmer you have to think of the whole musical journey - what's it going to be like for the audience?''

This year Hicks and Wilson have begun a new venture: teaching at the University of Canberra.

Wilson is teaching community-based music, ''completely different from my other voice classes'', she says.

Hicks is working as a vocal coach and teaching performance classes.

''We're looking to the future: to enrich the musical life at the University of Canberra whose stated mission is 'To serve Canberra','' Hicks says and Wilson adds, ''We're doing what we do well: performing and teaching.''

But this busy couple have much more on their agenda.

Wilson will be a star attraction when she sings at Canberra Symphony's Prom Concert at Government House on February 16 and she and Hicks will give the ABC's first Sunday Live concert for 2013 to be broadcast from Llewellyn Hall on Sunday, March 3.

''It has a lovely autumnal theme,'' Wilson says.

Hicks has just been in Sydney accompanying soprano Karen Fitzgibbon in a studio recording for the ABC. Fitz-gibbon, who trained at the ANU School of Music, has recently been studying with the famed Barbara Bonney in Salzburg.

The Art Song program begins with an exploration of the musical world of 1913. ''I chose some works that were all written in 1913 by European composers,'' Wilson says.

During this brilliant era works such as Stravinsky's Rite of Spring ballet amazed audiences.

Both the French composers Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy wrote songs with words from the texts of poems by Stephane Mallarme and Wilson will sing the two contrasting Soupir pieces.

There will be three songs by Erich Korngold: Schneeglockchen, Liebesbriefchen and Sommer.

It is for his vocal works that the Austrian composer Joseph Marx is best known and his Durch Einsamkeit will feature the trio of piano, viola and voice.

The trio will also perform two of the songs of the impressionistic composer Charles Martin Tornov Loeffler: La cloche felee and Dansons la gigue!

Loeffler was born in France to German parents but moved to the United States in 1881 where he was made a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in recognition of his broad scope of composition.

The French composer of Venezuelan origin, Reynaldo Hahn, had a pleasant voice and often used to accompany himself on the piano at concerts and soirees in fashionable salons.

At this concert Wilson will have her husband to provide the piano accompaniment as she sings Hahn's Le rossignol des lilas and A Chloris.

The second half of the concert features music of Australian composers.

''I searched in the catalogues at the National Library,'' Wilson says, ''and found pieces by the Australian composers Septimus Kelly and Roy Agnew.''

She will sing two songs by Kelly: The Sages Dance and Music When Soft Voices Die and two songs for medium voice and piano by Agnew: O moonlight deep and tender and Beloved stoop down thro' the clinging dark.

Then there are works by contemporary composers with a Canberra connection. Some of Peter Sculthorpe's lyrical Shakespeare Songs were written for Canberra Repertory Society's 1956 production of Twelfth Night and Wilson will sing four of these with piano accompaniment.

She will also sing Larry Sitsky's Seven Zen Songs with viola accompaniment by Robert Harris and then Hicks and Harris will play an arrangement of Sitsky's Sonatina.

You may remember Louise Page's lovely performance of Peter J. Casey's song, Beautiful, written in memory of the 2003 bushfires.

To end the concert the three performers will give a special arrangement of this evocative piece for piano, viola and voice.

''Working with Robert Harris is always a great joy,'' Hicks says, and on this occasion the audience will be able to look forward to a whole concert of great joy as a celebration of Canberra's Centenary.

Art Song Canberra presents Centenary in Song at Wesley Music Centre, Sunday at 3.00pm.

  • Tickets available only at the door. Inquiries: Oliver Raymond oraymo1@gmail.com or 6286 7373.