Susie Bishop

The Marais Project – an early music ensemble – is releasing  a brilliant and typically eclectic new album this month: AUSTRALIAN MONODY. And it will celebrate the launch with a concert PRECIOUS COLOURS at the Independent Theatre North Sydney this Saturday afternoon 7 May!

Performers include Russell Harcourt, countertenor; Susie Bishop, voice & violin; Jennifer Eriksson, viola da gamba; Catherine Upex, viola da gamba; and Tommie Andersson, theorbo, 9 course lute & 9-string classical-era guitar.

The repertoire for Australian Monody spans from greats of the past – Henry Purcell, John Dowland, Marin Marais and colonial composer, Isaac Nathan – to works by living composers Carl Vine, Gordon Kerry, Alice Chance, and Michael Nyman. Marais Project singer, Susie Bishop, also contributes an original song. In all, there are three world premieres including a new movement written by music director and viola da gambist Jenny Eriksson – composed to close the Marais suite.

“For an ensemble that tends to play early music, this album really did come from a different place”, says Eriksson, the founding force behind the ensemble.

The initial inspiration came from composer Gordon Kerry. He contacted Eriksson to say he had financial support from the late Marena Manzoufas to write a piece for the Marais Project which he titled ‘Christchurch Monody’, referring to the massacre in Christchurch, New Zealand. The ensemble already had ‘The Aboriginal Mother’ by colonial composer, Isaac Nathan, in their repertoire. This song explores a similar scenario: the infamous 1838 Myall Creek Massacre of people from the Wirraayaraay clan.

Gradually the idea formed for a whole album of Australian songs, plus a sprinkling from overseas – all sung by Australians. 

As the production journey continued, Eriksson realised that an underlying theme was emerging. “All the music reflects on light and darkness, love and loss. Carl Vine and John Dowland, for example, write beautifully about the tenderness and melancholy of love, while Purcell, Gordon Kerry and Isaac Nathan reflect on human tragedy.” 

A welcome guest on Australian Monody is leading countertenor, Russell Harcourt who contributes several solos and duets with soprano, Susie Bishop. Historically, the rich sounds of the viols have blended especially well with the countertenor voice, and Australian Monody is no exception. Alice Chance rearranged her choir work ‘Precious Colours’ for the ensemble with Harcourt in mind, as did Eriksson and Tommie Andersson in the original arrangements they made for the release. 

Alongside conventional options, the album will also soon be available in a special Dolby ATMOS mix, the first time The Marais Project has made use of this new recording technology. 

The Marais Project presents “Precious Colours” – celebrating the release of its new Australian Monody album
Saturday 7 May 3.00pm at The Independent Theatre 269 Miller Street, North Sydney Tickets $25/50.


The album is available from MOVE Records, Buywell Music, iTunes, and streaming platforms including Spotify, Apple Music, Dolby ATMOS (via Apple Music) and Spotify

Sydney Arts Guide has 3 copies of their new compact disc AUSTRALIAN MONODY to give away. Email with MARAIS PROMOTION in the subject heading and your postal address in the body of your email. Winners will be advised by email.

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