Melbourne Recital Centre, Monday 10 July at 7:30pm
Westlake – Flying Dream
Westlake – Spirit of the Wild, featuring oboist Diana Doherty
Westlake/Lior – Compassion
Australian Youth Orchestra conducted by Nigel Westlake
Lior and the Australian Youth Orchestra erupted with the energy and optimism of young professional musicians intent on sharing their artistry with the world. Indeed, each of the three pieces in the concert program explored three significant issues that concern young people today: finding solace and triumph in pursuing a dream; protecting the Earth’s natural places; and seeking peace and reconciliation across cultural divides. Conducted by the composer, this inspiring program featured Nigel Westlake’s Flying Dream, Spirit of the Wild for oboe and orchestra, and Compassion for vocalist and orchestra.
Flying Dream is a short orchestral piece based on Westlake’s soundtrack for the 2015 Australian film Paper Planes. In the film, 12-year old Dylan, who is grieving over the recent death of his mother, immerses himself in making and flying paper planes, leading him to the World Paper Plane Championship in Japan. The film captures the essence of youthful resilience and passion, as lofty dreams become reality. Undoubtedly, resilience and following a dream are themes that musicians of the AYO could relate to as they soared their way through Flying Dream. Each year, the AYO brings together the finest young musicians from around Australia to help launch their musical careers with an intensive training period leading up to a concert series. Lior and the Australian Youth Orchestra was part of this year’s concert series. Charged with fresh passion and professionalism, the AYO’s performance was exciting, vivacious and authentic.
Another Australian musical icon who breathes excitement and energy to classical music is principal oboist of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Diana Doherty. Her solo in Spirit of the Wild seemed effortless, despite the fiendish tempo of many sections of the piece. The perfectly cascading melodies and runs that arced around the concert hall were a delight to listen to as much as they induced amazement. These ascending and descending flourishes, inspired from Doherty’s freeform improvisations, are reminiscent of the pristine mountains and valleys of Tasmania’s World Heritage Area that gave Westlake the impetus to write the composition.
Westlake’s appreciation of the natural world can be heard in the immensely popular music from 1991 IMAX feature film Antarctica, which catalysed his career into writing music for film. Many will remember the Golden Globe winning film Babe: Pig in the City, and more recently in 2006, Miss Potter. In Antarctica and Spirit of the Wild there is a compassionate element of Westlake’s work that recognises the need for beautiful places, such as Tasmania’s World Heritage Area, to be protected and nurtured.
This sense of nurturing extends into advocacy for peace and reconciliation with Westlake’s collaboration with ARIA-award-winning, Australian-Israeli vocalist, Lior Attar, in creating Compassion. This exotic and mesmerising work, made up of seven songs with orchestra, is based on ancient Hebrew and Arabic spiritual texts. Musically and vocally expressing peaceful religious ideals from Judaism and Islam, Lior and Westlake bridge cultural divides by showing religious similarities and their potential for beauty and peace. Lior’s captivating intensity and smooth vocal quality were a superb match for the vigour of the AYO. Together they brought this incredible work to life, digging into the raucous sections framed by the percussionists having a ball, and then moving into entrancing bliss in the still, meditative sections.
As this cohort of AYO musicians progress through their careers, they will take with them the essence of this concert program. They will have absorbed the musical understandings of pursuing a dream, protecting the earth, and the importance of peace and compassion. They will have felt the power of delivering these human messages, so desperately needed in our world, in an artistic form that slips, almost unnoticed, beneath the barriers of their audience’s fears and inhibitions. Music is a back door into people’s feelings, perceptions and attitudes deep within. It can change the world by changing people’s minds and hearts. Wielding this incredible power, these promising young musicians can look forward to playing an important role in making the future world a better place.