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.
The latest CD release on Move Records, The Garden Party (MCD 592) from The Marais Project is the group’s seventh to date, celebrating its twentieth anniversary. For two decades, viola da gamba player Jennifer Eriksson has passionately led this early-music-ensemble-with-a-difference. The Marais Project’s long history of concerts and recordings have delighted audiences and attracted a huge range of performers as it has worked on its aim to present all works in Marin Marais’ oeuvre.
A very exciting and quite intriguing concert formed the latest of the Prelude in Tea series, The Marais Project and Elysian Fields in TIMES AND SEASONS .
The first half celebrated the twenty years since The Marais Project was founded and also heralded the release of a new CD on Marin Marais’ 363rd birthday on May 31. (1656-1728) From humble beginnings in 2000, The Marais Project has become a national leader in the creative presentation of music for the viola da gamba. Led by Jennifer Eriksson, while specialising in the French baroque period, the ensemble’s repertoire has expanded to include new Australian works and sophisticated arrangements of folk music as documented in 6 CDs, several of which were launched at The Independent Theatre .For this performance the Marais Project consisted of Belinda Montgomery ( soprano), Leif Henrikson ,( viol) Tommie Anderson ( lute/theorbo), Jennifer Eriksson ( viol), Catherine Upex( cello) and Susie Bishop ( soprano, violin) . Continue reading PRELUDE IN TEA : MARAIS PROJECT : TIME AND SEASONS→
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’ Suitted’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→
“I didn’t think we would last 12 months, let alone two decades”, says Jenny Eriksson, founder of The Marais Project, one of the few Australian ensembles built around the viola da gamba, a rare 7 string cello-like instrument with frets, interest in which peaked in France around the time of King Louis XIV. The Marais Project’s output over the past 20 years has been impressive: 6 CDs and a 7th recording with Eriksson’s electric viola da gamba group, Elysian Fields. There have also been appearances at festivals, a tour to New Zealand and numerous media interviews and studio performances. Along the way Jenny has commissioned and premiered more than 25 new Australian compositions and given some 3000 performances with Musica Viva in Schools.
As the name implies, the 20th Anniversary CD has a festive theme andincludes several world premieres, not the least of which is Eriksson’s own composition, The Garden Party. In addition, there is a superb arrangement of a Marais suite for viola da gamba and piano accordion by Emily-Rose Šárkova. As well as playing the piano accordion on the recording Šárkova also arranged the two extroverted South American songs which close the recording.Continue reading MARAIS PROJECT 20TH ANNIVERSARY CD LAUNCH : GIVEAWAYS→
The release of WHAT SHOULD I SAY, by Elysian Fields, Australia’s only electric viola da gamba band, heralds the creation of a new and unique musical voice.
Elysian Fields is the brainchild of viola da gambist, Jenny Eriksson, and leading jazz musicians, Matt Keegan, saxophones, and Matt McMahon, piano.
The album takes its name from the central piece, a remarkable new song cycle by pianist and band member, Matt McMahon,
which sets four poems by Thomas Wyatt – courtier and lyric 16th century poet at the court of King Henry VIII – reputed lover of Queen Anne Boleyn, to music. Also featured is ‘Elysium’, an epic work by Matt Keegan and an original chart by bassist, Siebe Pogson.Continue reading SUPERB LISTENING: ELYSIAN FIELDS’ DEBUT CD→
Any concert event from The Marais Project is joyous as well as being a richly educational and diverse entertainment. ‘A Bass Affair’ at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music celebrated this tradition and historically informed performance goals. Gambist Jennifer Eriksson once more assembled early music performers of high calibre and nicely contrasted music from the seventeenth and eighteenth
The music was presented for us using a wealth of timbres from the combination of guest Tim Blomfield’s bass violin, Jennifer Eriksson’s viola da gamba, Josie Ryan’s soprano voice, and from Tommie Andersson playing no less than two lutes, baroque guitar and theorbo.
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’→
Above: (left to right) Susie Bishop, Tommie Andersson and Jennifer Eriksson perform a bracket of Swedish Music. Photo credit : Geoff Sirmai. Featured image : (left to right) concert ensemble members Emily-Rose Šárkova, Susie Bishop, Jennifer Eriksson, Steve Elphick and Shaun Ng. Photo credit Philip Pogson.
In her programme notes, founder and director of The Marais Project, Jennifer Eriksson commented that it is ‘hard to know how to add anything to the mix’ of Christmas concerts. During the final ‘Prelude in Tea’ chamber music concert at The Independent Theatre in North Sydney, such concern was shown to be totally unwarranted. Not only was a highly international programme presented capturing the history, essence and celebratory nature of Christmas, but key goals of any Marais Project concert were also satisfied. Continue reading THE MARAIS PROJECT: A CHRISTMAS ADVENTURE @ INDEPENDENT THEATRE→
Above: Paul Cutlan, composer of the recording’s title track, Spinning Forth. Featured image : Jenny Eriksson, viola da gambist and founder of The Marais Project
‘Spinning Forth’ (Move Records, MCD564) is the latest recording from The Marais Project. Founder of this project, Jenny Eriksson, has once again guaranteed that as well as providing a beautiful listening experience this is a CD which is rich in contrast.
It contains successful and striking juxtapositions of style, mood,
instrumentation, and blends different compositional homelands or time periods. From the project that is working its way through the oeuvre of gambist Marin Marais, we are here treated to new Australian music, able to access Swedish music and hear the viola da gamba explore music from colonial Australia in arrangement for early music instruments.
The work by Marais featured on this CD is a stunningly solemn arrangement for the penultimate track. Jennifer Eriksson’s nicely balanced arrangement for two viols da gamba and theorbo of the Tombeau pour Marais le Cadet (from Pièces de violes, Book V, 1725). In the renamed Tombeau for John Dowland, first performed at a concert in 2013 for the 450th anniversary of Dowlands birth, Eriksson is ably joined by Catherine Upex on the second viola da gamba and Tommie Andersson on theorbo. The arrangement gives a full and even sound, celebrating the expressive skills of both Marais and the group of Sydney-based early musicians. Continue reading CD REVIEW : THE MARAIS PROJECT – ‘SPINNING FORTH’→
“You’ll never make a living playing the viola da gamba in Australia!”
Jenny Eriksson can’t remember how many times she received this advice in the years after she gave up her career as a promising cellist and sold her two cellos to fund overseas’ studies on the viola da gamba.
Discarding all logical guidance, she caught a plane to Holland and stepped “into the abyss” to create a future for herself on an instrument few music lovers in her home country had heard of and ever fewer seemed to like.
This was a joyous collaboration of two passionate and committed local early music ensembles. It took us back to a time where monarchs and patrons craved the French musical style which was de rigeuer internationally.
In this concert the Marais Project’s Jennifer Eriksson and TheMuffat Collective (Matthew Greco and Rafael Font-Viera -violins, Anita Gluyas-period cello /bass viol, Anthony Hamad-harpsichord and guest violin Stephen Freeman) combined their performance experience and specialist training to supply a beautiful and exciting stream of instrumental music from the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
The six accomplished musicians explored the work of five composers through short works, excerpts from dramatic formats of the day or dance-inspired concert suites.
Over the years Sydney Arts Guide has keenly followed the progress of this eclectic group. Next Sunday, The Marais Project begins its 2017 season with the concertIT TAKES TWO : A VIOL SPECTACULAR, the first of three very diverse events in its 18th year of fine, distinctive musicianship.
Since its founding by Jennifer Eriksson in 2000, The Marais Project has released 5 CDs, three of which have been selected as “CD of the Week” on ABC Classic FM. A 6th CD will appear in 2017. The group regularly features in national and local studio broadcasts and radio interviews. They have performed across Eastern Australia and as guest artists in New Zealand.
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
The tension between master and student is a complex and fascinating one as the upcoming generation learns from, and sometimes pits themselves against, the established leaders of their field.
The famous French novel and film Tous les matins de monde (All the mornings of the world) which starred the legendary actor Gérard Depardieu and featured virtuoso viola da gambist Jordi Savall on the sound track, is an acutely sensitive, fictional exploration of the relationship between two great artists: Marin Marais, after whom The Marais Project is named, and his distinguished mentor, Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe. The latter was a composer, teacher and innovator without peer, while the former became known as perhaps the greatest viola da gambist of all time. Adding spice to the mix was a “love triangle” between Sainte-Colombe’s two musician daughters and the ambitious Marais. Continue reading THE MARAIS PROJECT 2016 CONCERT 1 : MASTER AND PUPIL @ INDEPENDENT THEATRE→
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→
Classical music lovers have the opportunity to partake in an afternoon of fine French baroque music with The Marais Project’s upcoming concert succinctly titled, “Marais and the operatic muse”
The Marais Project turns their attention to Marais’ long-neglected operas which were much acclaimed at the Court of Louis XIV. On the menu will be excerpts from Marais’ best known opera, Sémélé and a cantata by another favourite composer, Michel Pignolet de Montéclair.
Regular Marais Project soprano and French music specialist, Belinda Montgomery, will be joined by up and coming baritone Alexander Knight for an afternoon of the kind of musical rarities The Marais Project is renowned for.
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.
The striking setting of Sydney University’s Refactory suitably housed this special tribute to composer John Dowland. The aesthetic suited the styles of the music, and the acoustic was a true gift for this birthday bash.
Special guests attended this party. Virtuosi Tommie Anderson (lute) and Daniel Yeadon (treble viol) augmented the solid ensemble. Soprano Belinda Montgomery beautifully brought Dowland’s emotional and joyous intensities to life, and freshly to our time, above a range of accompaniment textures.