BY LUCY RASH
Soprano Justine Anderson is a 2015 Fellow at the Australian National Academy of Music. Her second project for the year ‘Giving Voice – Eternal Mystery’ takes place this Tuesday (Nov 10) and features a number of ANAM musicians and guest artists. CutCommon chats with with Justine about her journey as an artist and programmer.
Thanks for taking the time to speak with CutCommon about your project ‘Giving Voice – Eternal Mystery’. Can you tell us a little about your formative training and musical background?
I started out on piano, did my AMEB exams and then got into the final intake at Latrobe University for their Bachelor of Music. Latrobe sparked a life-long interest in contemporary classical/new music. In 2006 I went back to study and did a Postgraduate Diploma in Voice at the Victorian College of the Arts, then went on to do a Masters of Music Performance in Voice at the Victorian College of the Arts in 2007/08. For the past six years, I’ve also had private lessons with Opera Australia director Julie Edwardson, who is fabulous!
What inspired you when you set about programming this concert?
I was interested in looking at the extremes of dark and light in our human experience. Opposites are dramatic and I loved the idea of doing Ligeti’s soprano aria ‘Mysteries of the Macabre’ alongside the angelic Messiaen ‘Resurrection’ and Crumb’s ‘Lux Aeterna’. Lucas Foss’ ‘Time Cycle’ is somewhere in the middle. Using the words of Auden, Kafka, Nietzche and Housman, Foss explores how we feel about life and its inevitable conclusion.
Can you tell us about your experience of the programming process?
I always think that good programming is about having a good idea and then hanging the remaining pieces off that; almost as if you were designing a room, and had a particular shape and window into which to fit things. Once you have a narrative, pieces seem to fall into place.
What nuance can the audience expect as a result of your collaboration with Barking Spider Visual Theatre?
Presenting a concert in a theatrical, communicative way is important to me. I feel that often music from the 20th and 21st centuries can be so complex that it is understandably presented in quite a dry way, with musicians staring with intense concentration at their scores. I have tried to break this mould by presenting each concert with a clear narrative idea, and with some colour, movement, and drama.
Working with Penelope from Barking Spider Visual Theatre has been terrific! I’ve worked with opera directors before, but not a theatre director as such. Penelope has an incredible eye for detail and is always challenging me about the purpose and story behind every movement, decision and costume. It is these artistic choices that help make such an impact when singing this music.
What factors help you measure the success of a concert?
Audience enjoyment, the power of a concert on the audience’s emotions/senses, and quality of performance, including accuracy and my personal enjoyment and the enjoyment of my fellow musicians.
How does this concert fit within the broader trajectory of your journey as an ANAM Fellow?
I had some repertoire in mind from the post-WWII, 20th Century canon that I’ve always wanted to perform, which I felt would fit well into the requirements of the Fellowship projects, but which needed the support of a large, resourced organisation such an ANAM. From here, I then created a thematic idea around each program.
Most of the Fellowship works are enormously challenging for me, as both a performer and a musician. Technically, I’ve chosen pieces at the extremes of my vocal, dynamic and theatrical range. I chose pieces that are rarely performed in Australia and which extend me as a performer. The Ligeti in this program is particularly challenging. It is very high in range and requires strength, control and stamina. It has forced me to iron out some inconsistencies in my vocal technique. Terrific – I can now sing in a way I couldn’t before!
Do you have any advice for aspiring concert programmers?
Be bold. Do lots of listening and dreaming. I reckon it’s very important to have a narrative idea or theme, too – something that you personally relate to and with which you and the audience can connect.
How can CutCommon readers purchase tickets for ‘Giving Voice – Eternal Mystery’?
There will be tickets available at the door. The hall is big and I’d love to fill it, so please come along!
Head to the South Melbourne Town Hall for Justine Anderson’s Fellowship project. This Tuesday, 6pm, tickets $15.