By Andrew Swainston, Albert Park College
The audience in the South Melbourne Town Hall falls silent, as internationally renowned composer Fraser Trainer whispers intently to the Albert Park College orchestra. 1,2,3,4! It is the final product from a week of daily 3-hour intensive music making sessions with this guest artist (Composer in residence with the Australian National Academy of Music), who has had his compositions performed by the BBC orchestra and the Berlin Philharmonic to name but two.
Over the course of these workshops Albert Park College (APC) students had been rehearsing and creating music together as a whole and in orchestral instrument sections. They had been led by some of the Australia’s finest young musicians from ANAM. With their help, students practiced and wrote their own musical parts to add to the sound of this world premier piece. A complex composition with non-western time signatures of 7/8, this work was a highly ambitious concept to be performed by school students. But with high engagement and focus the APC students pulled off a fantastic performance of this modern work. With no written music for any aid, the students relied on their memories and Fraser’s expert instructions and cues from rehearsals to perform the exciting 15-minute work. Each section of the orchestra took its turn to feature, and have their moment in the limelight. Akira Crews-Low lightly tapped a syncopated rhythm to a silent hall of focused audience members to start the piece, also appearing later in the piece taking a xylophone solo. Sophie Nixon also featured in the concert playing a beautifully Arabian sounding clarinet solo with musical maturity beyond her years.
For APC students the experience had been transformative affirming their identity as musicians, as well as their group identity as a Big Band. Their view of music had been challenged and expanded and they had learnt some new ways in which composers and musicians can work together.
The whole concert was a great success, bringing APC and ANAM’s working relationship even closer.