The Penny Quartet had a two week residency with the Four Winds Festival in Bermagui, which involved professional development, pop-ups shows, workshops and culminated in a recital at the Birdsong Pavilion, Four Winds.
The Penny Quartet are:
ANAM alumni: Madeleine Jevons (violin), Amy Brookman (violin)
ANAM musicians: Elliot O’Brien (viola) Gemma Tomlinson (cello)
They kept a journal of their time there and we are lucky enough to have our hands on it!
Saturday 21st March –
- Familiarise ourselves with Thubbul and its surrounds
- Food shopping
- Welcome dinner
We arrived on Friday evening, a little later than we had hoped but it was a joy to wake up and discover the incredible place we’d slept!
We were thrilled to discover there was plenty of room at Thubbul to practice and rehearse, and the welcome dinner was incredible. It was wonderful to meet everyone so early on and get to know exactly who we were working with – a true luxury and we felt incredibly lucky.
Monday 23rd March –
- First day at Windsong Pavilion
- Meet with Narelle from the preschool
- Teach and rehearse with the orchestra in Bega
We fell in love with the Windsong Pavilion [at the Four Winds Festival site in Bermagui]. The acoustic is perfect for a quartet and we resolved to rehearse there as much as possible. It was great to have people there to show us around and explain the venue.
Meeting with professional child-care worker, Narelle was lovely. She had a useful printout of things to consider in working with preschool aged kids and was very positive about our already well-organised session. It was great to get confirmation from a professional childcare worker that our plan was solid!
Travelling to Bega was straightforward – Amy and Gemma get carsick so they shared the driving while Elliot and Mads sat in the back causing mischief. Bega Primary School had good facilities and the rooms were all organised and booked in advance which was perfect.
Tuesday 24th March –
- Bermagui Library story time
- Little Yuin preschool story time
- Rehearsal at Four Winds
The Bermagui Library staff were so supportive and helpful in setting up and preparing for the session. The energy in the room was so positive and excited and it really made it a fun and easy process. The positive feedback from parents and kids continued for days after in shops and in the street!
Little Yuin was wonderful – we loved that the teachers had set up picnic rugs and there were teddies everywhere! The kids were so responsive and tactile, which we really enjoyed.
We were really exhausted after these sessions, but managed to get some rehearsal done at Four Winds – it’s a blessing it’s on the way home! Everyone was great at acknowledging how tired we were and therefore not pushing too hard for magic results – really important thing for us to remember always.
Wednesday 25th March –
- Bega Library session
- Interview with journalist
- Pop up show
The Bega Library staff were again, great in helping us get ready – we loved the little picnic setup in the corner! It was actually great having a room specifically for the activity – as opposed to the open space of the Bermagui Library. We felt this increased focus and gave us access to kids up the back and front equally. We felt more comfortable this time around, although we’re still working on how to keep kids calm when we ask them for answers/suggestions!
Albie the journalist from the Bega District News was lovely and efficient and we had a lovely time chatting to him.
Teaching at Bega Primary was great, rooms all booked for us again and the students were excellent and easy to work with.
The pop up at the bookshop was lovely and easy.
Thursday 26th March –
- ABC radio interview
- Financial planning session
- Professional Development with Moira Scollay (Deputy Chair, Four Winds Festival) and Sheena Boughen (Chair, Four Winds Festival)
Tim Holt (ABC radio host) was such an excellent interviewer he directed the questions very specifically to different people, so we felt very looked after. He made sure all our information got out there and seemed genuinely interested in what we had to say – a really positive experience.
The financial planning session was great, a couple of us (mainly Mads let’s face it), were a bit scared about talking numbers and tax, but John (financial planner) was very clear, assertive and friendly, making daunting things seem like no big deal and taking the time to explain when we (Mads) were clearly a little lost.
The session with Moira and Sheena was a highlight. As a chamber group, emotions often run high and we relished the chance to hear some strategies for dealing with these situations and to talk about different personality types and why people act, react and communicate in certain ways. It was lovely to have a safe open space to discuss personal matters with two wonderfully sensitive people with experience in pretty much everything.
Friday 27th March –
- Sleep in
We really needed some R&R time by this point, and the sunshine and beach were perfect. We made a very strict schedule for rehearsing (11-1, 2-4) and stuck to it, fitting in private practice before and after this time. We find this a really useful tactic for streamlining rehearsals and measuring productivity. It was really important we made time to enjoy Thubbul and it’s beach, too! A bit of a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Saturday 28th March –
- Private practice/rehearsal
- Laundromat visit
Again we stuck to our 11-1, 2-4 schedule, which means everyone has time to fit in their private practice and is in a calmer, more productive headspace because of it. We also found in this set of three days to ourselves gave us great momentum to work with and build on.
We like that there is a bar next to the Laundromat.
Sunday 29th March –
- Private practice/rehearsal
Having the Windsong Pavilion at our disposal is a great luxury and we enjoyed rehearsing there so much!
Monday 30th March –
- Bermagui Primary School session
- Gemma private lesson x 1
- Bega primary teaching/orchestra
The Bermagui Primary School session was a very scary prospect! 200 kids between the ages of 4-12 is a massive undertaking. We produced a workshop that broke down two pieces, the Haydn and the Prokofiev, to their bare bones. We played a little, asked questions, demonstrated some of the storytelling in the music and got the kids up and moving in the middle. Originally it was to be a 50/50 presentation by Amy and Mads, but Amy came down with a cold and could barely speak, so Mads ran the session with occasional speaking from the others. It seems like a smart idea to have one person be the focus for the kids, so that person can gain and keep the respect and attention of everyone.
It was immensely rewarding, the kids seemed to love it and they all wanted to try the instruments after – even the really cool kids 😉
Gemma taught in a room kindly provided by the school. She really enjoyed teaching a mature aged student (Eva, 69 years old), and found the experience rewarding and enriching. As someone who is just starting the teaching aspect of her career, this session was an incredibly positive step for Gemma.
Tuesday 31st March –
- Move to Moira’s house
We were all packed up and ready to go when Sheena came to help us at 9am. It was great we had her to show us where to go, and it was lovely to catch up for a coffee/tea. Sheena even made a doctor’s appointment for Amy, who was in need of antibiotics. We felt very looked after.
The new house was absolutely lovely, and it was actually really nice to be in town after being so isolated for a week and a half. Elliot enjoyed his early morning walks to get coffee and Honor Bread. (mmm Honor Bread)…
We went to the shops again to cater for the rest of our meals, and stopped by the ABC cheese factory, which was a bit of a pick-me-up!
Then another tired/sick rehearsal, with perhaps a little more tension today. Everyone was exhausted but positive overall, and we were still getting things done, at the end of the day. This is always a tricky point in the rehearsal process, when you know the pieces have so far to go but you will still have to perform them in a few days as they are. We got them to a standard we are proud of after two weeks of rehearsal, and look forward to working with them more post-performance.
Thursday 2nd April –
- Private rehearsal/production meeting
- Performance at Thubbul
We met with the production crew who were wonderfully helpful in organising the running of the concert.
We had some friends in town who came to hear part of our rehearsal in the morning, they loved the space and were blown away, which gave us a lovely boost.
The performance at Thubbul was to a surprisingly large crowd (!) but everyone was so supportive and enthusiastic, and we were grateful for the chance to perform before our big recital.
Friday 3rd April –
- Concert day!
The concert itself ran beautifully, the stage crew were super efficient and we had no worries at all except our actual performance, which is ideal. We felt the concert was a success, measured by the warmth and appreciation of the wonderful audience and the kids from the orchestra. These reactions were a massive thrill for us, and reminds us that even if we don’t play exactly how we wished we would, that’s not really the point of it all.
We cannot thank the Four Winds team enough for all their planning and support over these two weeks. We learned so much and will treasure and remember all these experiences wherever we go and whomever we’re playing with. Not to mention the educational workshops, which we will continue to build on and use in the future. We are a much stronger group for having done this residency – even when tensions were running a little high, it was always good, important work and life experience. Learning how to live and work together is a huge part of quartet playing, and we couldn’t have asked for a better place to learn.