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Claire Cowan (1983 - ) Violin Concerto “Stark”
David Long, (1965 - ) “I’ll Just Hum the First Few Bars…”
Gustav Holst (1874 - 1934) The Planets, Op. 32

David Long, Guitar
David Downes, Visuals
Jim Murphy, Mechatronics

Marc Taddei, Conductor
Amalia Hall, Violin
Orpheus Choir

Orchestra Wellington’s final subscription concert for 2016 will excite the eyes as much as the ears, thanks to a collaboration with Space Place.

Their performance of Holst’s suite The Planets will be accompanied by a video created especially for the concert. We’re living a golden age of space exploration, and Space Place has curated stunning recently acquired images to enhance Holst’s evocative score. Some of the images projected behind the orchestra include the icy majesty of the outer planets, with their swirling cloud-forms, and the white-knuckle descent of the Curiosity probe to the Martian surface, visible in exquisite detail.

Space Place curator Dr Claire Bretherton says she assembled the images in accord with the astrological character Holst gave each planet. “So for Saturn, “bringer of old age”, I chose images that rotate and repeat, reflecting the cyclical nature of Time,” Bretherton says. “For Uranus, the Magician, I showed it through different wavelengths as we approach, so its colours transform, to suggest the magician. For Mercury, the Winged Messenger, we fly over its surface.”

The concert’s strong visual aspect begins with composer-in-residence David Long’s “I’ll Hum the First Few Bars”, an original work for small orchestra, guitar and two electro-mechanical instruments performing alongside the orchestra. The performance is accompanied by visuals from composer David Downes. The electro-mechanical instruments have been created by Victoria University robotics whizz, Jim Murphy.

Claire Cowan’s violin concerto is highly visual too, with soloist Amalia Hall elevated on a platform above the stage, enhanced by theatrical lighting, painted gold and wearing a golden costume created by WOW designer Elizabeth Whiting. Claire says her concerto is based on the idea of “starkness”, a word with many different meanings. “We wanted to combine powerful imagery of the NZ landscape - the black land, the white sky, the west coast - and also the dual fragility and strength of the feminine,” Cowan says. “It’s also inspired loosely by Freda Stark, an exotic dancer from the 1940's who danced in Auckland’s Civic Theatre during WWII.” Freda Stark would often dance wearing nothing more than a g-string, gold paint and some feathers. Much of Amalia Hall’s costume is also designed to be sloughed off as her performance progresses.

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