For more than 30 years now I have been exploring the music of the French baroque, and particularly the music of that era written for the viola da gamba. This is not the kind of artistic passion that brings with it a huge audience, but it is my calling!
Although I trained in Europe, I live in Australia and I have always sought to engage with my country of origin and the music of our times, not just that written hundreds of years ago. I am part of the Historically Informed Performance (HIP) movement, but I also look beyond it. This is the case with my acoustic ensemble, The Marais Project, my electric viola da gamba band, Elysian Fields, and with my Music Viva in Schools group, Da Vinci’s Apprentice. The latter, for example, tours a musical theatre work for children composed by the Australian composer, Sally Greenaway, and performed on historic instruments – cornetto, theorbo, and viola da gamba.
Old meets New when The Marais Project launches its 2021 season. Fresh from a successful appearance on Melbourne Digital Concert Hall, and the release of their new recording, ‘Two’, The Marais Project launches its 2021 Season with a distinctive pairing of the Old World Europe and music from the Australian continent when it presents ‘The Art of Monody.’
‘Around 1600 Italian composers decided to break free from composing polyphony (music for many voices, often written for the Church) and started to write for a single voice with instrumental accompaniment,’ Marais Project Artistic Director, Jenny Eriksson commented. ‘This new style of music was called monody, ‘mono’ meaning one voice. It was the beginning of opera as we know it, but it was also the commencement of the kind of songcraft that developed during the baroque and classical eras and continues to this day.’
The concert’s title also refers to a new work written for the group by Australian composer, Gordon Kerry, titled ‘Christchurch Monody.’ A setting of texts from the books of Ecclesiastes from the Old Testament, Christchurch Monody was, according to Kerry ‘A response to several recent appalling acts of violence.’ We were supposed to premiere this important piece in 2020 but our season was cancelled of course,’ Eriksson reflected.
Also on the program is a suite by Marin Marais, arias by the Italian master, Monteverdi as well as two songs by Isaac Nathan, the early 19th century father of Australian music – a quite special coupling. Tommie Andersson’s arrangement for gallichon (bass lute) of pieces from Handel’s ‘The Musical Clock’ also features as does Llew and Mara Kiek’s version of ‘The Streets of Forbes’. Commissioned by Eriksson several years ago, this folksong tells the story of the infamous Australian bushranger, Ben Hall.
This the kind of diverse, ‘not to be missed’ program for which The Marais Project has developed a national reputation!
PLUS! On 14th April 2021, the new Marais Project recording, ‘Two’ will be released on MOVE Records. | Available from MOVE Records, Buywell Music, iTunes, and streaming platforms including Apple Music and Spotify
Featured image : The Marais Project. Photo by Christopher Hayles.
Sydney Arts Guide has three CDs of the Marais Project’s new CD entitled ‘Two’. Email email@example.com with THE MARAIS PROJECT TWO PROMOTION in the subject heading and your postal address in the body of your email. Winners will be advised by email.
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: http://www.theindependent.org.au/ 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
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→
Founded in 2000, The Marais Project recently turned 15, and each year presents Early Music with a number of highly regarded concerts making it Australia’s longest continuously running “viola da gamba” ensemble.
2014 is a special year for viola da gambist, Jenny Eriksson as her group The Marais Project celebrates 15 years of continuous operation. The theme for The Marais Project’s anniversary year is Re-imaginings, which is also the title of their final concert for 2014.