BY STEPHANIE ESLAKE
Jazz or opera? Say yes to both, and sort it out later.
That’s the philosophy of young singer Georgina Darvidis, who is making her way across a variety of performance genres without discrimination.
Since completing studies in improvisation through her Victorian College of the Arts degree, the Melbourne artist has made her way from theatre company to big band. She’s performed with the Australian Art Orchestra, Rubiks Collective, Penny String Quartet, Victorian Opera and Melbourne Theatre Company, among others. And this week, she teams up with the new ATM15 Big Band, under the direction of composer Andrew Murray and with Britain’s Joshua Kyle sharing the stage.
Hi Georgina, thanks for the chat! How did you get involved with ATM15?
I met Andrew Murray whist working at the Australian Institute of Music couple of years ago, and quickly realised we were both on the same page, musically. I was lucky enough to have Andrew offer to arrange a couple of my compositions for ATM and the Bird’s Basement big band last year. I adore Andrew’s arrangement, and getting the opportunity to sing with such an incredible large ensemble was a definite 2016 highlight for me.
You’ve performed with Victorian Opera and now wrestle with jazz. What does the concept of genre mean to you?
The only reason I have been given opportunities within varied music and art scenes in Melbourne is because I just say yes to everything and figure it out later. When I was 16, I wanted to audition for the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School, and knew that they generally take more classical singers than contemporary singers. I learnt a few pieces from the classical catalogue and hoped for the best. That major shot in the dark led to some great things. What a fluke!
As far as the concept of genre; different music accesses different corners of your imagination when you hear it or dance to it. It does a similar thing when you sing it. You just have to be prepared for what comes out of your mouth to be a surprise, and embrace a potentially new sound for you as an individual.
What’s it like to perform outside the bounds of strict rules, as you might find on the stages of a large opera production, and embrace improvisation?
Most of the projects in the last few years have been based in improvisation, with some entirely improvised with artists I have never met, let alone rehearsed with. Having an element of improvisation helps me keep melodies alive; real-time interpretation forces me to sing with honesty.
As an actor as well as singer, how does your ability to adopt different characters and personalities find its way into your musical performance?
Outside of music I have a drag alter-ego called Edie Centric. I love the art of lip syncing and drag culture. I even got to lecture in lip syncing at RMIT last year. Performing as Edie has brought out a fearlessness in me that I didn’t have before. I highly recommend [trying drag]!
How have you found the differences in musical culture among people working across different areas of the industry?
I like that I can have more creative input in smaller jazz projects – that’s a huge plus. Theatre and opera companies that have more money tend to be more organised, which is a nice treat. I am very lucky to be able to experience different artistic workplaces; everything feels like a holiday!
For other young singers entering their careers, would you recommend perfecting one style of performance, or moving across the industry to build a broader portfolio like you have done?
Compose your own music. Learn how to write it down and talk to musicians to get what you want out of the things you make. Learn how to record yourself, how to make your own film clips, how to rely on as few people as possible so you can work at your own pace and get what you want without having to explain or fight for it.
Dedicating yourself to one path works for many people, and would probably work well for me, too. But you don’t have to – just say yes to everything and figure it out later!
See the multi-skilled Georgina Darvidis in ATM15 Big Band at the Hawthorn Arts Centre on 9 June at 8pm, with tickets available online.