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ANAM student and pianist, Gladys Chua, was recently invited to perform at the Australian Festival of Chamber Music in Townsville this year. Here is part one of her adventures!

Last week I returned from ten sun-drenched days Townsville. Why Townsville? I hear you ask. Well, every year, the Australian Festival of Chamber Music (AFCM) is held there; international and Australian artists convene to make music together for a dedicated audience of those who have travelled from all around Australia to enjoy the intense nature of a festival. How I came to be at the festival is a long, but exciting story, so bear with me (or skip ahead a paragraph or two…)

On Good Friday, I received an email from Piers Lane, who is the Artistic Director of AFCM, and a wonderful Australian pianist who is based in London. I first met Piers two years ago when I went as a trio member as part of the AFCM Advanced Winterschool (an education arm of the AFCM offering students masterclasses and the like). I was introduced to him again last year by my former piano teacher from my university, when we were both at the Port Fairy Spring Music Festival, where I was a member of a piano and wind quintet (lead by Paul Dean, our esteemed ANAM Artistic Director). At that time, I’m pretty sure I was sitting with my former teacher’s two children, watching some DVDs and being snuggled up to. Irrelevant, though fun, facts! In time, Piers had talked to Paul about the possibility of one of the pianists from ANAM coming to the festival to page-turn for artists (as sometimes Winterschool students, who have done so in previous years, are inexperienced and make artists a bit nervy, particularly as most of the concerts are live broadcast), and to also play for the Winterschool students who come as instrumental soloists. Paul had mentioned me and that was all good.

Earlier this year, the first of ANAM’s Australian Voices series at the Melbourne Recital Centre featured the music of Nigel Westlake. The program was curated by Matthew Hoy (an ANAM staff member) and also a fine cellist himself; Michael Kieran Harvey also played the piano sonata of Westlake, which was astonishing (for many reasons, including that it is very difficult!). I played in an ensemble piece called Rare Sugar, scored for clarinet solo, string quartet, double bass and piano. This was a highly enjoyable experience, and a lot of work went into its preparation as it is quite a tightly written score, and rhythmically very groovy and interlocking. Only one day before the performance did I manage to start letting go and enjoying myself, instead of only concentrating on counting to five, or seven, or feeling the two-and-a-half. I usually do not care much for reviews, though nice ones are always pleasant, and in a few days, there was a review in The Age of the Westlake concert, which was fairly complimentary. I was referred to by name, and as “sprightly” which I think is quite a positive term.

Incidentally, the day that this review came out was the day that Piers Lane was in Melbourne, launching the AFCM. The featured composer for AFCM 2012 was actually Nigel Westlake himself, and some of his works had been programmed for the Festival. Upon the recommendation of Festival artists Cathy McCorkill (clarinet) and the Goldner String Quartet, for whom the piece was written, Rare Sugar was programmed for the Festival. However, it was only when the program notes were being written was it noted that the piece also required a double bass and piano. That’s ok, the double bass part could be covered by another artist at the festival this year, Max McBride. However, the pianists at the festival had heaps of stuff and repertoire to do and Piers couldn’t think of who might be able to play this part. Until he saw the review in the paper. And it all clicked. The person to come to the festival to do these things was me!

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