Susan Ellis and Wyana Etherington, from the Griffyn Ensemble. Photo: Lindi Heap
The Griffyn Ensemble
Sunday, 3pm. TAMS Depot, Fyshwick.
Ready for a flight of music and ideas with Canberra's own Griffyn Ensemble? Their next concert, Air, on Sunday, October 20 will take place in an exciting new venue: the huge industrial hangar at the TAMS Depot in Fyshwick which artistic director, Michael Sollis, describes as having “a gritty but lush acoustic”.
The music will be all about transport, hinged together by Music for Airports, a work by Brian Eno, rock musician, composer and innovator of 'ambient music'. “He focused on sound and thinking of a way of actually making that artistic,” Sollis says. Over the years Eno worked with the likes of David Bowie, Paul Simon and Grace Jones and one of his best known collaborations was with the band, U2, Luciano Pavarotti and several others in a group called Passengers. Their album, Original Sound-tracks climbed the US Billboard charts and reached No. 12 on the UK charts. Sollis likes to describe Eno's work as "luminal - something that sits between two things”.
The New York-based contemporary classical music organisation, Bang on a Can, that's been described as “a major force in the presentation of new concert music” recorded Music for Air-ports in 1998. Robyn Archer knew the music and when she heard Griffyn Ensemble perform Southern Sky, the unique work created by Umas Sisask, at Mount Stromlo last year, the Eno work sprang to mind as a piece that would suit the eclectic repertoire of the group. She suggested that Music for Airports might be perfect for a Canberra Centenary concert.
“Everything will be amplified and plugged in,” Sollis says, “stage, wheel drums, all in a cavernous space. It'll be like working in an airport hangar – at times we'll sound like an engine. You'll be able to hear a plane take off.
"At other times you'll just be waiting at the airport.”
The audience will come back to earth with Griffyn's own take on music about other forms of transport. Bicycle Race written by Queen frontman, Eddie Mercury came to notice not only for the music but for its accompanying video of nude women cyclists.
Did you know that the famous Neapolitan song Funiculi Funicula was originally written to commemorate the opening of the first funicular cable car on Mount Vesuvius? It's claimed to be the first ever advertising jingle and Griffyn will perform it in an arrangement by Arnold Schoenberg, which was once used in an episode of the American sitcom, Seinfeld.
It's not a traditional folk song at all and two noted composers, Richard Strauss and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, ran foul of copyright laws when they incorporated it in their compositions.
The Great Train Race, a piece for solo flute by British flautist Ian Clarke, will showcase the extraordinary talent of Kiri Sollis.
Many of Clarke's works explore unconventional sounds that are a challenge to the player, requiring avant-garde techniques and a recognition of unfamiliar notation.
The story goes that a producer once told Clarke that his playing was “too pretty”. He wanted rock-inspired music. As he improvised, Clarke thought that the breathy tones he was producing sounded something like a steam train and so this piece was created.
“We're still workshopping some Swedish pieces that arose from our association with Water into Swine earlier this year,” Sollis says. “There are two works by Marie Samuelsson that fit with our travel theme. There's Some-body is learning how to fly which is a clarinet solo that Matt O'Keeffe will play – it really sounds as if someone is growing wings and learning to fly with them.” Of a recording of this piece by clarinettist Stefan Harg in 2012 the sound is described as “unearthly”. The other Samuelsson work, Air Drum, is full of fascinating effects with live electronics.
And there's more, including a nursery rhyme. “Every child will know this rhyme,” Sollis says, “but I'm not telling what it is.”
Veronica Bailey will again be the percussionist for this concert.
“She's great to work with,” Sollis says. Soprano Susan Ellis, harpist Meriel Owen and the all singing/dancing/playing Sollis will complete the group,
“We want people to really think about the kinds of sounds that you hear when you're travelling and also to think how sounds are different across the elements: in water, on earth, through the air.