All posts by Philip Pogson

Philip Pogson originally trained as a music teacher and classical guitarist at Sydney Conservatorium before undertaking post graduate studies in classical guitar in Europe. For nearly two decades he has worked as a senior business advisor, consultant and company director. He has maintained an active interest in music and the arts as the co-managing director of early music ensembles, “The Marais Project” and “Sounds Baroque”, and “Elysian Fields”, Australia’s first electric viola da gamba improvised music ensemble. Along with his wife Jennifer Eriksson he has co-commissioned more than 20 new Australian works for viola da gamba and electric viola da gamba and acted as executive producer for a number of highly regarded CDs. He enjoys reading, attending concerts and gigs and occasional outings on bass guitar.


Swedish roots

Although populated by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders for at least 50,000 years, post 1788 Australia is a nation of immigrants. My family is no exception. Knut Axel Eriksson, our Swedish grandfather, was a working-class merchant seaman from Stockholm. He stepped off a ship in Melbourne in the 1920s where he met and married my cockney English grandmother. He never went back to Sweden.

My grandmother was a milliner (hat maker) by trade, and an amateur pianist in her spare time. She loved Chopin, English music hall songs and much more! My grandfather played the harmonica, perhaps learned during the long weeks at sea. Music was in my blood.

In developing my career as a viola da gambist I had not thought much about my Swedish musical heritage until about 8-10 years ago. Swedish-Australian lutenist and guitarist, Tommie Andersson, has been a friend and a member of my early music ensemble, The Marais Project, since its inception in 2000. We talked for years about doing a concert of Swedish music until we finally got our act together. This led to a CD of Swedish baroque, folk and jazz music titled ‘Smörgåsbord.’ This off the beaten track recording was an unlikely hit, spending 3 months on the Australian Top 20 classical charts. It was even launched by the Swedish ambassador and featured on Swedish national radio.

Scandinavia and the electric viola da gamba

After Smörgåsbord I thought I had exhausted my Swedish musical roots, but it was not to be so. In 2015 I formed ‘Elysian Fields’, Australia’s only electric viola da gamba ensemble. Members included leading jazz musicians, classically trained musicians like me, and others with deep experience of world and folk music. We also span different generations. I have somehow ended up being the oldest, an achievement I do not particularly want to celebrate. Two of the founding members were in their 20s and another in their early 30s.

Soon I became aware that most of us had links to Sweden. Singer/violinist Susie Bishop’s partner is Swedish. She speaks Swedish and visits the country regularly. Our young bass player Siebe Pogson has Swedish heritage and saxophonist Matt Keegan spent a year studying in Sweden. As to the others, we have made them honorary Vikings!

Jenny Eriksson – image by Glen Ravo

Scandinavian music started creeping into our set list. In 2018 Elysian Fields launched a Scandinavian Project at Sydney’s Foundry616 jazz club. In January 2020 we hit the studio to record the most interesting and beautiful of the Swedish and Scandinavian music we had arranged and composed.

Iso hits hard

As we moved into post-production in February, the world was already under the grim shadow of Covid – including the shut down and isolation of whole sections of our society. Complete industries came to a halt. Our gigs started to get cancelled. The music industry joined tourism and hospitality in ‘falling off a cliff.’ Venues closed, tours were put off, cashflow dried up. I personally have had 60 performances cancelled or postponed. Our Producer/sax player Matt Keegan expected our CD project to be suspended or cancelled. Instead, I made decision to dig deep financially and finish the job. That is what artists do – we make art, even in a crisis. Even when money is tight and the future unknown.

Fika – more than a coffee break

The CD was always going to be titled Fika (pron. ‘fee-ka’). What, many will ask, is fika? Fika is a Swedish term that is often translated in English as a coffee break. In reality, it means more than that. Fika is about making time for friends and family, to share a cup of coffee or tea and a bite to eat. You cannot do fika alone although ironically, as I write this, many people remain isolated or separated from those they love. Melbourne has just closed down for a second time. Long before the current crisis Elysian Fields wanted to create a beautiful recording that would bring people together, as fika does. This is our offering to a world in turmoil.

Blurring the lines – is it classical, is it jazz or is it world music? (And who cares…)

Genres help us name things, to categorise what we see, hear, and do. Order is a good thing. It is also a bad thing. In art, being given a label, or not being easy to label, being allocated or not allocated to a genre, can accelerate, or slow down your career. If critics and audiences do not know how to categorise an artist, or struggle to describe what they are doing in conventional ways of thinking, they sometimes leave you alone. Worse still, they write you off by putting you in an awkward box.

As an ensemble we have never explicitly tried to be anything specific genre-wise, we have just written and arranged materials, played them, and worked to refine what we do. Although we fuse disparate musical elements together in new ways – including the sound of the rarely heard electric viola da gamba – we are not a ‘fusion’ band.

Matt Keegan & Dave Goodman

The great thing about the group is that as musical equals we each bring who we are to the table and don’t apologise for what we are not. This enables wonderful things to happen. For example, I am a viola da gambist specialising in French baroque music. I am most at home in the music of the Court of the French king, Louis XIV. I am not a jazz musician, but I am playing with some of the best jazz musicians in the country. This could and should be incredibly intimidating. I just don’t have ‘the chops’ that they do. I cannot improvise like they can. But rather than focussing on what I cannot do, I contribute classical music’s discipline, attention to detail, phrasing, and clarity of texture.

Matt Keegan, Matt McMahon and Siebe Pogson bring to the band what to me are exotic jazz harmonies, an amazing sense of rhythm and adventure, along with a freedom to adapt and respond in the moment. They also have a great capacity for nuance and subtlety in chord voicings and melodic line.

Drummer Dave Goodman – ‘Dr Dave’ (he holds a PhD in drumming) – is as much a musical colourist as a keeper of the beat. His subtle washes of sound define the mood of many of our songs.

Photo from northern Norway

Susie Bishop, a classically trained singer and violinist, has a Masters degree in opera, but is equally well-known on the national folk and world music scenes from bands such as the Aria-nominated ‘Chaika’. She is an electrifying performer who can literally bring a room to a standstill by the sheer beauty of her voice. When Susie sings a folk ballad, my heart stops. When she does so in Swedish – and you can hear her on Fika – I’m in tears.

We all contribute music for the ensemble, that is one of our strengths. Fika features several stunning arrangements of Swedish folk songs by Susie Bishop and Matt McMahon, original works inspired by Scandinavia composed by Matt Keegan and Siebe Pogson, and arrangements of music by Norwegian jazz composer and pianist, Jan Gunnar Hoff, and Swedish jazz greats, e.s.t., that I have completed.

Musical milestone

CD cover – painting ‘Pink Lake’ by Nils Gunnar Zander

I see Fika as one of the most important musical milestones in my life. It represents both a journey and a destination. We have created a kind of virtual pathway between the Northern and Southern hemispheres. We have also done this through art. The CD booklet features paintings by my friend Nils Gunnar Zander, a Swedish artist who for 25 years has moved between Sweden and Australia while painting the Australian outback. Of collaborating on the CD project Nils Gunnar Zander wrote the following:

‘Five years ago, an Australian musician with a Swedish background searching for Swedish music in Stockholm met a Swedish artist who had spent twenty-five years living in Australia searching for Australian landscapes to paint in an abstract way. Now we meet at FIKA! In Swedish culture, this means we have a coffee break together. Our music and our art have also come together which makes me so happy!’ (Nils Gunnar Zander)

I hope this recording project brings people together and acts to lift listeners’ spirits. That is what fika does, and not just for Vikings.

Jenny Eriksson

Founder, Elysian Fields; July 2020

Fika is released on the MOVE Records label. It is available from MOVE Records, Buywell Music and Bandcamp. Stream or download on Bandcamp, iTunes, Spotify, or Apple Music. High Resolution download via High Res Audio.



What an extraordinary few weeks we’ve had!

Sally. Pic by Bill Crew

As individuals, organisations and as a society, how do we best move forward in world where so much has stopped or slowed almost to a standstill? I am particularly concerned for the arts community, its practitioners, technical experts and other professionals who have suddenly lost their livelihoods and reason for being. I am also concerned for our audiences, those who find nourishment, entertainment and enlightenment through the arts. My thoughts below are formulated not as some kind of universal panacea, but as principles to guide our everyday lives in the months to come.

Unprecedented times

Elysian Fields (Photo – Philip Pogson)

The times really are almost unprecedented. I suspect we have to go back to World War II (WWII) to find a parallel to the kind of national and international disruption, pain and suffering we are facing at the moment. Both my parents were born in 1931. Their early childhood years were thus at the tail end of the Great Depression. They entered their teens in the midst of a global war of awful violence and human misery. It was hard. There was rationing and the possibility of invasion. Brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers went off to war or were seconded to work in war industries. My dad is the youngest in his family and one of his brothers, my uncle, fought in the Pacific and survived. The point is, they came through as did the greater majority of Australians of that generation. We are their heirs. We will also come through and rebuild on the other side. Some reflections follow that I hope are encouraging.

Lead when and as we are able

Whatever our role and status, now is the time for us to exercise leadership in any way we are able. I don’t necessarily mean “Big L” Leadership: few of us will be called to be a Premier, Prime Minister or a CEO. I am referring to the leadership opportunities that come our way in everyday life. Over the next weeks and months we will need people right across our community who can acknowledge uncertainty but think clearly, respond with compassion and remain task focused. As a business advisor, company director and school Chair, I see teachers, business people, University staff, health experts, friends, artists and family acting this way already. On the flip side, these are stressful times. Our way of life has changed with a violent lurch and we are not sure where we are lurching to. For myself, I am working on being aware of, and not ignoring, my own anxiety and tiredness. I am also keeping up and expanding while I am able my exercise routines and making sure I have a list of things to do that I enjoy.

Avoid blame and finger pointing

Beyond a certain point, spending our energies pointing out what others are doing wrong, where they are acting inconsistently or not meeting our expectations is not productive. Leaving aside those in the health sector whose working lives have by their very nature changed in a moment, we should keep in mind that our Premier, senior ministers, business and community leaders and Prime Minister will be working extraordinarily long hours under exceptional pressure. These people are human and thus imperfect – just like us. They also have families and loved ones they will be hardly seeing and no doubt worrying about – just like us. Now is not the time to fight arguments on social media and relentlessly criticise others, particularly those with “Big L” leadership roles. Now is the time for our community to seek unity and goodwill and ensure that the majority of our citizens, including the poor and needy, come through this as best they can.

Look to and plan for the future

All Auras Touch

As I noted, WWII came to an end as did WWI and the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1919. Humankind is resilient and creative. We can choose to be our best in a crisis or choose the opposite.

The arts have a crucial role to play in our society, even when governments and others in authority do not recognise, or seek to minimise, our contribution. We must plan now to come through this, and out the other side, stronger and more resilient if and as we are able. Some will struggle. Some are struggling now. It should not be a matter of survival of the fittest, but of seeking to bring as many people and organisations through as possible. That should be our pledge to each other and to society at large.

Philip Pogson FAICD, Director, The Leading Partnership

Joint Managing Director The Marais Project, Elysian Fields and Da Vinci’s Apprentice


“Art proves it value by still mattering to people who have been deprived of every other freedom.” – Clive James

Leadership’s unlikely candidates

In 1995 painter Arthur Boyd was named Australian of the Year for his “extraordinary contribution to Australian art and his great generosity to the Australian nation.” Particularly admired in the UK and Australia, Boyd is so celebrated that one of his tapestries is on display in the Great Hall of Parliament House, Canberra. In 1993 he gifted to the nation several thousand artworks from his personal collection. He also donated to the Australian people his property, Bundanon, on the Shoalhaven River near Nowra, several hours south of Sydney. Bundanon is managed by Bundanon Trust as a not for profit artists’ retreat complete with accommodation, galleries and concert venues. Those who visit cannot but be inspired by the scenery, the artworks on display and the generosity of the artist in signing away something that must have been precious to him and is family.            Continue reading ARTISTS AS LEADERS : CELEBRATING THE ROLE OF HEROIC ANTIHEROES


“Here is a sound so disorientating it’s like dreaming someone else’s dreams…this time-bending, mind-bending project makes music that sounds modern and hundreds of years old simultaneously. (Sydney Morning Herald)

 “Masterful musicians at play in the creation of new works and soundscapes that feature and incorporate Jennifer Eriksson’s electric viola da gamba.” (Loudmouth)

Jenny with her Ruby electric viola da gamba – the only one in Australia

It’s not very often that a new instrument joins the music scene but Jenny Eriksson’s electric viola da gamba, the only one in Australia, has been raising musical eyebrows over recent years. Having spent 30 years establishing herself as a leading expert on the baroque repertoire written for her 7-stringed, fretted and bowed instrument, Eriksson and Elysian Fields are charting new territory for Australian music in blending the special qualities of the viol with elements of jazz, classical and world music. The uniquely configured line up (sax, voice/violin, electric viola da gamba, piano, bass guitar and drums) returns to Foundry fresh from the launch of their highly regarded debut CD, “What should I say.”

Driven by the ongoing creative efforts of band members, Elysian Fields brings to the table an ever shifting and expanding set list. This gig will feature the second ever performance of bassist/composer Siebe Pogson’s specially commissioned song cycle “The Tragedy, The Journey, The Destination” along with original charts by Matt Keegan, Matt McMahon and Jenny Eriksson. Tickets

What:                        Elysian Fields plays Foundry616

When:                       8.30pm, October 10, 2019

Where:                      Foundry616, 616 Harris St, Ultimo

Tickets:                     From $20 at Foundry616

Sydney Arts Guide has two double passes to give away to the concert. Email with Elysian Fields Promotion in the subject heading. Winners will be advised by email.

Editors Note : This promotion has now closed and the winners have  been advised


On May 31, 2019, the great viola da gambist and composer, Marin Marais turns 363. From the point of view of Sydney, Australia, where I live and work, what are we to make of him and his legacy?

This year, May 31 takes on special importance for The Marais Project as on this day we release our 20th Anniversary CD, The Garden Party. This recording is, in part, a celebration of the great man and the role he has played in our lives. The disc includes an Australian-first recording of a Marais suite arranged for viol and piano accordion as well as an original composition of mine, The Garden Party, inspired by Feste Champêtre from Marin Marais’ Suitte d’un Goût Étranger.

From the comfort of hindsight, however, we are easily given to idealized notions of life prior to the 21st century whirl of cars, planes, computers and mobile phones. The hard reality of life in past epochs cannot be avoided. In 1800, 50 years after Marais death, the average life expectancy of a French citizen was a miserly 30 years.  A typical Western European of the time weighed in at a petite 110 to 130 pounds and stood only 5 feet 5 inches tall.  Continue reading ON TURNING 363 : REFLECTIONS ON THE LIFE AND TIMES OF MARIN MARAIS


Music for bass viol and bass violin

Jenny Eriksson

Most early music fans are aware that the viola da gamba is also known as the bass viol. It is less well known, perhaps, that there is also such an instrument as the bass violin, also known as the ‘basse de violon’. The bass viol and bass violin were mainstays in French baroque music and featured in the Court orchestra of King Louis XIV. For this concert The Marais Project welcomes Tim Blomfield, one of Australia’s finest bass violinists and co-founder of Sydney’s long standing and highly respected early music ensemble, Salut! Baroque.  The Sunday afternoon program will feature a cantata by Montéclair, music by Marais – with the bass violin providing the continuo – and other works that show off the complementary and contrasting aspects of the two instruments. Continue reading THE MARAIS PROJECT PRESENTS ‘A BASS AFFAIR’

Elysian Fields – The Scandinavian Project

Elysian Fields

Since their first performance three years ago, Elysian Fields, Australia’s only electric viola da gamba band, has carved out a growing reputation for performances that blur the boundaries between jazz, chamber music and world music. Drawing largely on the compositional and arranging skills of its multitalented members, the six-piece band’s charts shift effortlessly from stately, baroque-like solemnity to multilayered improvisations and driving, pulsating rhythms.  And then there is the unique sound of the electric viola da gamba! Continue reading Elysian Fields – The Scandinavian Project


This image: Elysian Fields – featuring electric viola da gamba
Banner image: Viola da gambist Jenny Eriksson

Early music specialists, The Marais Project, and electric viola da gamba ensemble, Elysian Fields, both led by the versatile Jenny Eriksson, return to The Independent Theatre on January 28, 2018 in a once off program titled, “My heart so grieves”Continue reading MY HEART SO GRIEVES: PART OF ‘PRELUDE IN TEA’


Grant Fraser

Master and Pupil: Philip Pogson interviews James Fraser – actor, writer and director

The interaction between master and student is a complex and fascinating one.  The famous French novel and film “Tous les matins de monde” (All the mornings of the world) is an acutely sensitive, fictional exploration of the relationship between two great artists: the famed viola da gambist and composer, Marin Marais and his distinguished mentor, Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe, along with Sainte-Colombe’s two daughters.  

Never one to stand still, The Marais Project’s founder and director, Jennifer Eriksson, has put together a collaboration with leading young Australian actor, writer and film maker, James Fraser (The Water Diviner, The Devil’s Playground and The Turning).  Together, they have created a series of reflections on Tour les matins du monde in words and music.  James answered a few questions in a recent interview.

Q: James, your favourite Actor?

A: This changes frequently, but right now – Tom Hardy.

Q:  And your favourite movie?

A: Mmm…that also changes frequently, but today I’ll say “Seven Samurai”.

Q: What was it like working with Russell Crowe?

A: Russell expects 110% from himself and everyone around him, always. It can be exhausting if you’re not totally prepared but it’s also inspiring. Whatever it is that drives him, I want some.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your appearance in the film version of “The Turning”?

A: Tim Winton’s book “The Turning” consists of 18 short stories from 18 different directors. Making the film was therefore a massive project! Being the lead in my segment, I was treated with the same narrative significance as those characters played by Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Richard Roxburgh and Rose Byrne – all idols of mine. So that was amazing – to be given the same story-telling responsibilities they had.

On top of that, my piece, “Big World”, was directed by Warwick Thornton. Warwick also directed one of my favourite Australian films, Samson and Delilah, so working with him was a privilege in itself.  Plus they ended up taking a still from our part of the film for the poster. So that back you see on the DVD cover, that’s my back!

Q: What has been interesting for you about getting to know the book and film about Marin Marais, “Tous les matins du monde”?

A: The book argues two sides to a debate about art that I’ve often mused over myself. Is it wrong for an artist to want recognition? Are the rewards of art in the execution or the reception?

The younger Monsieur Marais wants his music to reach people. He wants to touch an audience and be respected for it. He wants people to know his work. The older Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe, Marais’s teacher, believes music should be kept between the musician and the supernatural, he plays almost exclusively in solitude and feels that sharing it with people tarnishes the magic of its expression.

In a society so obsessed with turning artists into celebrities, it can sometimes feel like the only way of maintaining integrity is to keep it to ourselves. On the other hand, engaging with an audience is the point of art. I guess the trick is finding the right viewers.

Q: What are you looking forward to in the upcoming performance of “Master and Pupil”?

A: I haven’t performed on stage for a couple of years now. It’s going to be great to act for a live audience again.

Q: What is the next project you are looking forward to?

I’m currently writing my next short film which is a mockumentary called “Batboy”. It’s a metaphor for what it means to be an actor caught in the limbo of pursuing work. It’s about the craziness of this pursuit, the powerlessness, the monotony, the struggles, but also why we stick at it despite all of that. It’s a very personal project and I’ve already shot some of it while in LA earlier this year – I even bought a $600 leather Batsuit! It’s great to be able to explore your thoughts and struggles through art, turn them into something tangible and of worth. I think Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe would be proud.  Provided I don’t show anyone when it is all done!

Details : –

Concert: Master and Pupil

Date: 3.30 pm Sunday 29th May

Venue: The Independent Theatre, 269 Miller St, North Sydney

Tickets: $45 adult, $30 concession, $20 student, and $15 child; bookings ph 02 9955 3000; on-line at:  Afternoon tea is included in the price and available from 2.30pm.


  • James Fraser – actor and writer
  • Belinda Montgomery – soprano
  • Tommie Andersson – theorbo
  • Jennifer Eriksson and Catherine Upex – viola da gamba


Elysian Fields – Australia’s first electric viola da gamba band

Jenny Eriksson
Jenny Eriksson

It’s not often that a totally new instrument enters the Sydney improvised music scene but in what is believed to be a local and a national first, band leader Jenny Eriksson is proud to launch Elysian Fields featuring the electric viola da gamba and a star line up of local jazz  artists including: Matt Keegan, Matt McMahon and Steve Elphick.

Eriksson is widely recognised as one of Australia’s leading acoustic viola da gambists – a 7 string, bowed instrument about the size of a cello with frets – and one of her instruments great risk-takers. She has performed and recorded with jazz and world music artists for many years alongside, and as a part of, her highly regarded classical chamber music performances. Continue reading Elysian Fields – Australia’s first electric viola da gamba band

Monash Art Ensemble presents Beyond Borders @ Verbruggen Hall Sydney Conservatorium

Paul Grabowsky – photo by Matthew Denton

Given the moderate resources available to support jazz and improvised music in this country any cross-border movement of artists and ensembles is welcome. Interest is further amplified when the group heading north of the Murray River is of “big band” size and led by a composer, band leader and educator as esteemed as Paul Grabowsky. The presence of international guests Mark Helias (bass) and Nasheet Waits (drums), added further expectation to the good-sized number of attendees there to welcome their Melbourne cousins. This one-off visit to Sydney by the Monash Art Ensemble is part of a series of concerts celebrating the 50 year anniversary of the Sir Zelman Cowan School of Music at Monash University.

The performance kicked off with the Rob Burke Sextet presenting Bela (inspired by the music of Bela Bartok) by Burke which preceded Grabowsky’s Abandon. After a full horn introduction Bela rapidly moved to an enormous piano solo by Grabowsky which was difficult to hear as the piano was un-amplified and the bass and drums dominated. Designed as it is for acoustic classical music, the cavernous Verbruggen Hall muddied the mix somewhat although the quieter sections of Bela gave insights into the nuanced sensitivity of the band and Burke’s full toned tenor sax. This is a piece likely to benefit from repeated hearing in a more sympathetic acoustic. Continue reading Monash Art Ensemble presents Beyond Borders @ Verbruggen Hall Sydney Conservatorium