A Career Of Note

Illawarra Mercury

Saturday July 5, 2008


Celebrated composer Ann Carr-Boyd has written a new piano concerto to mark her 70th birthday. LOUISE TURK reports.

Several weeks ago, key figures from the WIN Wollongong Symphony Orchestra met in the Moss Vale home of Australian composer Ann Carr-Boyd.

The gathering marked the first time the musicians had heard a new composition, Carr-Boyd's Piano Concerto No.2, played in entirety by pianist Evan Streater.

During one of the parts of the first movement, orchestra manager Julie Pinazza, looked out the window, and remarked how the music seemed to connect with Carr-Boyd's expansive semi-rural vista.

"It is a gorgeous view in winter," says Carr-Boyd, who moved to the Southern Highlands 12 years ago after living in Sydney and London.

"You can't really see the horizon in Sydney unless you pay about $3 million to live near the waterfront. But if you come further out you can see the horizon, which I think is just great. In winter, the sun just sets there and you can actually see it going down, dipping down, which is really exciting."

Carr-Boyd's Piano Concerto No.2 will receive its world premiere at the WWSO's Memorable Horizons concert tonight at Anita's Theatre, Thirroul, from 7.30pm. The concert will also be performed at the Clubbe Hall, Frensham, Mittagong, tomorrow at 2pm.

The piece, commissioned to celebrate Carr-Boyd's 70th birthday this year, was written in the seclusion of her Moss Vale home over a 12-month period.

The three movements are romantic in style and grew out of Carr-Boyd's desire to write a piano concerto that featured some of the grand gestures of the much-loved orchestral form.

WWSO principal conductor Carlos Alvarado and Pinazza agreed to feature the concerto in their 2008 concert series, before hearing its completed version, based on Carr-Boyd's esteemed standing as a composer.

"It was a leap of faith on their part and I was incredibly honoured that they should do this," says Carr-Boyd.

"I've been to lots of their (WWSO) concerts and I've loved them all. They are so full of life and vitality, and so personal in a way. You feel that the audience is like a huge family. It's very friendly."

Carr-Boyd was commissioned to write the concerto by Father Arthur Bridge, a parish priest at St Patrick's Blacktown who commissions musical works. Bridge's first commission in 1996, a concerto for harp and orchestra written by Carr-Boyd, was performed at Penrith's Joan Sutherland Centre. This first foray into creating new music prompted Bridge to set up the organisation, Ars Musica Australis, to encourage young Australian artists.

Carr-Boyd is an energetic and effusive personality, who has an endearing habit of giggling when she talks. She has a full plate of musical commitments, including teaching piano, visiting schools to conduct masterclasses in composition, and being active on the concert schedule.

The mother-of-three is a foundation board member of the Southern Highlands International Piano Competition and was commissioned to write a work for the Australian component of the first competition, held in September and October last year. Composing and performances of her music have also led to extensive travel in Australia and overseas.

With a father and grandfather who were composers, Carr-Boyd has been surrounded by music her whole life. She graduated from the University of Sydney in 1960 with first class honours, and went on to complete a Master of Arts in 1963 with first class honours. The same year she went to London as winner of the Sydney Moss Scholarship and studied composition with Peter Racine Fricker and Alexander Goehr.

Later this month, a concert at the State Library of NSW in Sydney will celebrate four generations of professional music in Carr-Boyd's family. It will include performances of music written by Carr-Boyd's late father Norbert Wentzel and her grandfather Albert Wentzel, and a performance by Carr-Boyd's daughter Xanthe.

Producer Robert Allworth who has worked with Carr-Boyd during her recordings for JADE compact discs regards the composer as one of the greats of contemporary Australian classical music.

"I've just been listening to something she wrote a few years back and it struck me how fresh and original it sounded," Allworth says of Carr-Boyd.

"Her compositions are poetic and elegant. I really do feel that she has come up with such a quantity of significant music to contribute to Australia's classical output. She is one of our outstanding achievers and I'm thrilled to be associated with her 70th birthday celebrations."

Carr-Boyd has been composing since the age of 24 yet still finds fascination in the creative process of writing music and then hearing it interpreted by other musicians. She is interested in the composition's journey from initial idea, developed in solitude, to its realisation in public.

"The contrasts are amazing," she ponders. "You have to write your music by yourself and you have to go somewhere without distractions and write. It's just you and your music and that's really tough. That's the hardest bit.

"And then, particularly with a concerto, many people become involved. It suddenly takes off with a life of its own. I suppose that's the incredible thing about writing music; that something that was just in your head is suddenly out there."

Carr-Boyd is eagerly anticipating Memorable Horizons because, she explains, she has confidence in the musical abilities of Streater, Alvarado, and the orchestra.

"I'm very happy to know all these people associated with the orchestra," she says. "The only thing I'm really nervous about is my own music. Is it going to be okay?"

Surely the butterflies would have gone by now? "Every composition is your first one," Carr-Boyd answers.

The WIN Wollongong Symphony Orchestra will present 2008 Concert Series Memorable Horizons tonight at Anita's Theatre, Thirroul, at 7.30pm.

© 2008 Illawarra Mercury

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