5 May 2020

CSO and ANU musicians tune up for virtual performance

| Ian Bushnell
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The Side by Side Chamber Orchestra

The Side by Side Chamber Orchestra performs last May: their next collaboration will be online. Photo: Peter Hislop.

The Canberra Symphony Orchestra and the Australian National University are collaborating on a project in tune with the times.

While the COVID-19 restrictions have silenced Llewellyn Hall, the new project will bring CSO musicians and ANU School of Music students together for a virtual performance under the baton of Europe-based Chief Conductor and Artistic Director Nicholas Milton.

Part of the ANU’s Side by Side program in which CSO musicians join with ANU staff and students to foster emerging players, the project will have musicians record their individual parts remotely for editing into a single performance.

ANU musicians were to be involved in the Best of British concert on 20 June but, along with many other performances, it was cancelled, so some of the virtual project may be drawn from that, although the bill has yet to be finalised.

Head of the School of Music Associate Professor Kim Cunio says the School has been testing its recording systems in the past few weeks to ensure the best possible capture.

”There have been examples of people doing stuff in their bedrooms that has been quite good but we’d like to get it a bit better if we can,” he said.

The School had purchased high-level consumer-grade recording gear that regular people could use and set up a mobile studio so musicians could either record at home or at a specially set up space at the ANU.

Associate Professor Kim Cunio

Head of the ANU’s School of Music Associate Professor Kim Cunio. Photo: Genevieve Jacobs.

Associate Professor Cunio expects about 50 musicians to participate and the finished product to be posted on the CSO and ANU websites in July, and possibly as a bonus with CSO recordings on the ANU’s own label, ANU Press.

The key will be section leaders recording their tracks very carefully to Dr Milton’s filmed conducting for others to follow, ”then it’s not so different to playing along with the orchestra for anyone”.

Dr Milton would appear in the centre of the screen with musicians around him.

Associate Professor Cunio said the experience was a great opportunity for students and would add an extra string to the bow for the School as it develops new study and teaching methods in the future. But finding a way for students and musicians in general to continue collaborating was also essential.

”Each week that goes by, there’s been a bit more conscious care we’re having to do for some of the students,” he said.

This was echoed by CSO Chief Executive Rachel Thomas.

“Sustaining high-quality orchestral music in Canberra is a collaborative effort,” she said. “Finding ways to support both established and emerging musicians throughout this time is crucial.”

The Side by Side Orchestra brought School of Music staff and students together with CSO musicians for a number of successful performances over 2018-19 and this year the ANU Orchestra was launched due to a wave of interest in a new high-quality training orchestra.

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