Ensemble Offspring and Ironwood rehearse for Broken Consorts

Broken Consorts Tour Blog: February 2015

In February 2015, Ensemble Offspring hit the road for our first concert series of 2015. Broken Consorts, a collaboration with historically informed performance ensemble Ironwood, is a sonic encounter of new and old. Bringing music from Elizabethan and Tudor England together with music by Australian composers Damien Ricketson and Mary Finisterer, the show also features a new commission from Felicity Wilcox for period and contemporary instruments, Uncovered Ground, that will received its world premiere in Hobart on 20th February.

Follow our travels as new and old collide, with daily updates from members of Ensemble Offspring. We will kick off with an insight from pianist Zubin Kanga.

Hobart rehearsals: Zubin Kanga // Hobart premiere: Claire Edwardes
// Burnie road-trip: Lamorna Nightingale // Playing at fortyfivedownstairs: Jason Noble
// Sydney Concerts Damien Ricketson

Hobart rehearsals: Zubin Kanga

Thursday 19th February 2015

After arriving in Hobart on Wednesday evening, Thursday was our first chance to rehearse the whole program together and the morning was spent rehearsing Felicity Wilcox’s colourful and rhapsodic new work for us, Uncovered Ground, allowing me the nerdy joys of exploring how to blend my prepared piano and harmonic glissandi (using a glass bottle) with the rest of the ensemble.

Our first major tour drama occurred while rehearsing our arrangements of two Fantasies by the 17th century English composer, William Lawes. The florid six-part counterpoint was rudely interrupted by the crash of breaking glass. After ducking for cover, we looked up from our below ground practice room to see the front of a car that had punched through a high window. Had the driver gone just a bit faster, we may have ended up with a lot more glass, and perhaps even the car, coming down on our heads! Despite the shock, the ensemble trooped on, dusting bits of glass off our scores and instrument cases—no time to count our luck when there’s a pile of music to rehearse.

Broken Consorts in rehearsal: UTAS, Hobart

Hobart premiere: Claire Edwardes

Friday 20th February 2015
Ironwood and Ensemble Offspring at the Baha'i Centre Hobart
L-R: Danny Yeadon, Felicity Wilcox, Claire Edwardes, Lamorna Nightingale, Damien Ricketson, Jason Noble, Veronique Serret, Delia Bartle, Zubin Kanga, Nicole Forsyth

Our first concert of the Broken Consorts tour was last night in Hobart at the beautiful and very unique Baha’i Temple. It was a triumph (if I do say so myself)! With almost 100 audience members in attendance we were chuffed at the love in the room, especially considering it was EO’s first ever concert in Tassie. The world premiere on the program by Felicity Wilcox went better than any of us could have foreseen (given the extremely intense rehearsal days we had all put in, in the lead up) and having the composer there, as always, made for a very special and almost teary event. She was wrapped in our performance, and as I said to her, it can only get better from here. Our vocal debut (which I will not divulge any more details about for those coming to future shows) wowed the audience and my colourful desk bell Sarabande went down a treat. Can’t wait for the next iteration in Burnie tomorrow (Sat 21st Feb)—a 4-hour car trip crammed next to a vibraphone, drums and cymbals awaits. BYE!

Ensemble Offspring and Ironwood performing at Baha'i Centre Hobart
Roof Baha'i Centre Hobart

Burnie road-trip: Lamorna Nightingale

Saturday 21st February 2015

No cars crashing through windows or world premieres to report today! After a BIG drive, lots of coffee, a quick sound check and some tasty snacks we were ready to give it our all at the Burnie Arts and Function Centre. Despite some concern about Zubin’s ping-pong balls in their treasured piano, the Broken Consorts program seemed to be just the right amount of ‘out-there-ness’ for the Burnie audience. Before heading on to Launceston we had fish and chips that I’m sure will be in the running for best meal of the tour!

Scenic shots on the road from Hobart to Burnie
On the road from Hobart to Burnie (images courtesy Ironwood)

Playing at fortyfivedownstairs: Jason Noble

Monday 23rd February 2015

A rather exhausted EO arrived in Melbourne for a Monday evening performance at fortyfivedownstairs, Flinders Lane. A tempting array of shopping and wine bars surrounds us, but that will have to wait ’til after the gig. The venue’s edgy basement vibe belies the fact that the sound is warm and luminous. Certainly the right acoustic for Mary Finsterer’s Silva.

Moments before taking the stage there is definitely a buzz, not many empty seats for sure. We have started a rather odd improvised dance routine backstage to the first Ironwood set. It seems to help us relax, but it Is certainly not for public consumption.

Great to see so many friends and colleagues in the audience (a few famous ones too—you know who you are!). Afterwards we deservedly retire to one of those wine bars for a post gig debrief and a catchup with a few ACO buddies who have just finished their gig too. Look out Sydney, here we come…Jason.

Ensemble Offspring rehearse at fortyfivedownstairs Melbourne

Sydney Concerts: Damien Ricketson

Broken Consorts in the Utzon Room, Sydney Opera House

At last! Time to present our two Broken Consorts gigs in Sydney. Having already done the program three times this should be a breeze – right? Wrong! Our violinist Julia Fredersdorff is sick and can’t get here from Tassie. Luckily Anna McMichael is available and we scramble to stretch a brief soundcheck into a rehearsal. Despite the fresh adrenaline kick, the performances come across as surprisingly natural. Well—maybe with just a hint of edgy energy.

Presented in the unique Utzon Room at the Sydney Opera House to the beautiful backdrop of the harbour, both houses are full and warmly received by our hometown audiences. The Wilcox premiere Uncovered Ground attracts an especially rousing response. Other highlights of the day included being given the SOH boardroom as our change room (what a view) and arriving at stage door in a forklift. On Sunday we play our last Broken Consorts performance in Newcastle. This is a really exceptional program that you are unlikely to hear again for a long time. Centuries perhaps.

Thanks Sydney for the glowing reception. Get well soon Julia! And thank you to crack rescue violinist Anna.

Broken Consorts Sydney Opera House, arrival by forklift (Left) and Harbour Bridge views from change room (Right)
Left: Arrival by forklift, Right: views from our change room

Broken Consorts in Newcastle, performing in Newcastle Museum (left) and final lunch with the crew (right)
Left: Performing in Newcastle Museum, Right: Final lunch with the crew (L-R) Zubin Kanga, Veronique Serret, Jason Noble, Claire Edwardes, Danny Yeadon, Lamorna Nightingale, Anna McMichael, Nicole Forsyth

The Broken Consorts tour started on Friday 20th February 2015 in Hobart, before touring to Burnie (TAS), Melbourne, Sydney and Newcastle. Find out more about the performance here.