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‘Only a mad person would organise a tour like this…’

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Ensemble Offspring’s Artistic Director and percussionist, Claire Edwardes, reflects on the group’s recent 8 show, 4 country tour across Europe.

Almost home now, writing from the economy class middle seat of a Singapore Airlines flight from Singapore to Sydney, while my colleagues galavant around Europe for a few more weeks!

This tour was the longest one Ensemble Offspring has ever embarked on – it feels like I have been away forever and I can’t wait to get back to my family and ‘normal’ everyday life. Basically I have been away for 3 weeks and in that time we had 3 distinct projects – firstly in Berlin, our Sydney Festival project from earlier this year with Ensemble Adapter and International Contemporary Ensemble – then Gaudeamus Muziekweek where we presented a concert of our own repertoire (by Holly Harrison, Kate Moore, Ned McGowan and Gaudeamus music pioneer Nicholas Morrish) as well as the premiere of Genevieve Murphy’s new 45 minute work called ‘They Move Differently Here‘. Then it was onto Belfast for my birthday, followed by Glasgow where Jane Stanley joined us for her world premiere, then Edinburgh and finally Aberdeen. Epic!

Ensemble Offspring performing in Berlin

We were blessed with the weather all round – that first week in Berlin was stinking hot (literally) and because it so rarely gets that hot in Berlin our sold-out concert venue at Radialsystem was an actual sauna that final night. We are no strangers to hot performances so we probably coped better than the Europeans and the Americans! Then in Holland, it only rained a small handful of times. I was so excited to ‘get back on my bike’ in Utrecht and relive my old Dutch lifestyle during our week there – so easy and good for the environment too. The weather in the UK was probably the most surprisingly good – yesterday walking around Aberdeen I was amazed by yet another blue sky and a summery vibe – not what we were necessarily expecting in September.

Claire, Lamorna & Zubin in the UK.

For me, the overall highlight of the tour was the people we got to collaborate with as well as the members of Ensemble Offspring being such great sports and awesome colleagues and friends. When Lamorna and I were saying goodbye yesterday she told me I was mad. She said ‘only a mad person would organise a tour like the one we just did’. Maybe she was right but I can’t thank my amazing colleagues enough for being on board with my ‘crae-crae’ touring schedule!

Ensemble Offspring members with composer/host Matthew Whiteside (centre) and sound engineer Timothy Cooper (second from the right) from The Night With…

And then there were our collaborators in Berlin, the totally gorgeous Ensemble Adapter members (who are mostly from Iceland, with only one member from Germany). These people are the ‘bee’s knees’ of musicians and human beings and were the best hosts anyone could have asked for. Likewise, the members of ICE from New York were mostly new friends and collaborators who were a pleasure and a joy to make music with and get to know. Then there was the wonderful Australian composer Natasha Anderson whose collaboration with us on ‘Cleave‘ has finally and sadly come to an end. In Holland, the lovely David Dramm hosted us so generously at Splendor, an independent collective arts hub and venue in Amsterdam. And then in Utrecht, we were treated to the wacky musical ideas of Scottish composer Genevieve Murphy and Dutch-based American composer Ned McGowan’s Soundbrenner experiments with ‘Sydney Polypulse‘. In the UK our extremely generous hosts from The Night With… composer Matthew Whiteside and sound engineer Timothy Cooper worked tirelessly to get us around Ireland and Scotland with all the gear, lugging vibraphones upstairs and sourcing tiles for me. The generosity of spirit and sincerity of these people we worked with while in Europe was so deeply appreciated by all, and we can’t wait to return again soon with Ensemble Offspring’s unique brand of engaging new music-making.

Here are a few of our favourite quotes:

“Ensemble Offspring just oozes personality. A lot of groups can play at a high level. What makes Offspring really special is that after a concert, you feel like you know each and every one of them personally. They are a real band.” David Dramm (composer)

“Rarely do you hear an ensemble that knows how to create a piece so pure, so tight and with such an incredible sense of timing”. NMZ Online (Berlin)

See the Solitude page for the full European schedule.