Wonder by National Capital Orchestra and the Canberra Choral Society
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Wonder by National Capital Orchestra and the Canberra Choral Society

Wonder: a celebration of contemporary Australian music by Carl Vine, Graeme Koehne and Matthew Hindson. National Capital Orchestra and the Canberra Choral Society, conducted by Leonard Weiss. Pre-concert talk 6.30 to 7pm, concert at 7.30pm on Saturday June 3 at Llewellyn Hall. Bookings: ticketek.com.au.

This year's concert by the National Capital Orchestra and the Canberra Choral Society, conducted by Leonard Weiss is a celebration of contemporary Australian music by notable Australian composers Carl Vine, Graeme Koehne and Matthew Hindson. This is an opportunity for the Canberra audience to experience contemporary music from living Australian composers. Central to the feature is Vine's presence in Canberra, both to work with the orchestra and choir and to give a pre-concert talk at Llewellyn Hall.

Composer Carl Vine will give a pre-concert talk at Llewellyn Hall.

Composer Carl Vine will give a pre-concert talk at Llewellyn Hall. Credit:Keith Saunders

Koehne's Tivoli Dances will open the concert with evocation of the big band-era. Koehne has developed a reputation for merging the techniques of classical music and popular music.

This will be followed by Vine's Symphony No.6, for choir and orchestra. The composer writes that he wanted this composition "to revel in the power of human community … and the text should relate to our basic need for religion without being overtly religious. To focus on this 'inner' humanity, I selected four hymns from religions long-dead, in languages that have not been spoken for thousands of years."

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After the interval a more secular offering will be performed in the shape of Hindson's It is better to be feared than loved, also for orchestra and choir, based on writings by Niccolo Machiavelli. It was written for the Sydney Philharmonia Festival Chorus and the Sydney Youth Orchestra, premiered in the Sydney Opera House in 2014. Hindson took his inspiration from the relevance of Machiavelli's 500-year-old writings to contemporary Australian politics – in particular such quotations as: "It is better to be feared than loved [if one cannot be both]", "Politics have no relation to morals" and "The promise given was a necessity of the past, the broken promise is a necessity of the present".

It is better to be feared than loved deals with contemporary politics of governments, politicians and the pursuit of power. As such, it is often musically bombastic and overblown. Hindson says it was tremendous fun to write.

The final work is by Vine. Wonders, based on a text by Walt Whitman, will feature soloists soprano Penelope Mills and baritone Christopher Hillier, who premiered the work in 2014. Vine writes: "I was drawn to it for its manifest humanism, its tangible though irreligious spirituality and its powerful expression of communal inclusivity. Although the text functions largely as a soliloquy, its message is meant equally for all, and so in my setting is passed between the soloists and the collective consciousness of the two choirs – large and small."

Whitman's words celebrate the ordinary miracles of life:

Is it wonderful that I should be immortal? as every one is immortal;

I know it is wonderful – but my eyesight is equally wonderful, and how I was

conceived in my mother's womb is equally wonderful;

And that my Soul embraces you this hour, and we affect each other without

ever seeing each other, and never perhaps to see each other, is

every bit as wonderful.

With the exception of the choral symphony all the works are being presented in Canberra for the first time and this promises to be a memorable concert celebrating the rich diversity of Australian contemporary music.

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