A young Canberra composer has melded last summer’s bushfires with the coronavirus shut down to create a poignant musical statement about our year of anxiety. The work will be premiered on the Canberra Symphony Orchestra’s online Australian MiniSeries this month.
The innovative MiniSeries’ first concert kicks off on the CSO YouTube channel on Friday night with the premiere performance of a Ross Edwards composition, but 24-year-old ANU School of Music alumna Chloe Sinclair’s piece for clarinet, Waiting for Summer to Come, will feature in the second concert on 24 July.
Co-curated by Matthew Hindson and Jessica Cottis, the MiniSeries is a digital response to the COVID-19 shutdown that has commissioned established and emerging composers to produce short works for solo instruments, each to be premiered online by a CSO musician.
CSO Principal Clarinet Alan Vivian will perform Waiting for Summer to Come which, Chloe says, asks the question: what if, after all the waiting of the coronavirus hiatus, summer arrives, only to be like the season of disaster the region and the country endured last time?
Chloe says it’s a breathy reminder of the visceral experience of the bushfire smoke that enveloped Canberra, where she spent most of last summer, and can still recall the taste in the air.
A strings player and singer, Chloe chose the clarinet as a challenge and found it perfectly suited to evoking that challenging time.
”The clarinet is a wind instrument so we already have that element of breath in the sound and there are moments in the piece where the clarinet will do some vibrato and there’s that raspiness of the tone,” she said.
”There’s that connection to breath, particularly in the end, which is this reflective moment of the piece going ‘wait, summer’s coming’ and that could be a moment again for us, a blink of the breath.”
The other challenge is the time limit of two minutes, which is not long to develop ideas.
”Writing short pieces is a really fun challenge because you’ve got to really solidly condense your one idea and stick with it. You can’t soar off in all different directions,” she said.
Chloe workshopped the piece with Alan from Sydney, where she is studying for her Masters in Composition at the Sydney Conservatorium, using Facetime.
”It’s amazing that you can do that, we didn’t have to be in same space,” she said.
After the workshop, she edited the score, sent it back to Alan and a week later he was recording it at the CSO studio.
Chloe will see the performance for the first time like everybody else, on YouTube.
She is grateful that the CSO provided an opportunity to be creative again after COVID-19 knocked out all her gigs and commissions she had lined up for the year.
”It’s a project I got to work on. It gave me something to actually do again,” Chloe said.
Alan Vivian’s performance of Waiting for Summer to Come can be viewed at 7:30 pm on Friday 24 July.
On Friday night at 7:30 pm, CSO Concertmaster Kirsten Williams will perform Ross Edwards’ Little Waltz for Kirsten. To watch, visit the CSO’s YouTube channel.