SXS TALKS: Playing live again

After a big break from performing in front of a live audience, we are excited and ready to return to the concert hall stage. Five of the Southern Cross Soloists share what it means to play for a real live audience again in SXS RETURNS.

Photo: Stephen Henry

Tania Frazer, Oboe/Artistic Director

After this period of COVID restrictions, what significance does returning to the stage for a live audience hold for you and the Southern Cross Soloists?

We are so grateful to be able to play live for our audience again, after all these months. Little did we know back in February after our first concert with Miroslav Petkov, that a matter of weeks later, the whole world would be turned upside down and performing live would become impossible. It certainly has been eye-opening to see that things we normally take for granted could become so special and rare. Our originally scheduled program with Slava Grigoryan will now be performed in February next year, when everyone will be able to attend, which is great. We are so excited to present our special guest artists: Chris Williams (our new Artist in Residence), who will perform Sean O’Boyle’s acclaimed Didgeridoo Concerto, in an arrangement Sean has made especially for this concert, and one of Queensland’s brightest young opera stars, Rebecca Cassidy from the Opera Queensland Young Artist program. We are also pleased to be joined on the stage by a fabulous group of guest musicians including bassist Doug Rutherford, violist Nicole Greentree, cellist Daniel Chiou and our 2020 SXS Next Gen Artists Dario Scalabrini, Francis Atkins and Helena Wang.


Can audience members feel safe attending live concerts again?

We are extremely appreciative to QPAC for the use of the Concert Hall in full mode so that we can safely socially distance our audiences and perform live for you all again, especially in our 25th year. In line with COVID Safe requirements, QPAC has introduced a new system of gathering the contact details of all patrons at the time of booking. To ensure distancing inside its theatres, QPAC will ensure two spare seats between each booking group (family or social group), with all patrons directed by QPAC staff in a staggered manner to ensure social distancing between patrons is maintained. Under its COVID Safe Plan, QPAC is ensuring more frequent and intense cleaning of all facilities within its venues. Patrons will also have regular access to sanitizer and QPAC is encouraging contactless interactions and payment wherever possible.


For more info view QPAC's COVID-19 Safe Plan.


Jonathan Henderson, Flute

When was the last time you played for a live audience? What have you missed most about it?

It has been seven months since I performed a concert for a live audience, and I have sincerely missed it. One of the most appealing elements of performing chamber music for me is the closeness one feels between performer and listener. That intimacy and a sense of connectedness is something that I thrive on when playing a concert. There is a wordless dialogue in a concert space - an exchange of energy, of appreciation and communication. It is something that simply cannot be replicated in a recording scenario or live-streamed performance. I also very much miss the social aspect of meeting with the audience after a concert, hearing first hand what people thought and felt during the concert we just presented. That immediate feedback and being able to personally thank our audience for giving up their time is meaningful to me and I have missed it very much.


Alex Miller, French Horn

Why attend a live concert when you can watch from home? What is different about sitting in the hall versus watching online?

There are so many elements that make up a concert performance—the music, the visual and personal connection between the performers, the interaction of the acoustic, the fixity of time and place… these all just to name a few—and these elements are valued differently by every individual, with the result that no one attends a concert for uniquely the same reason as anybody else.

The aural experience of live music is so different from that of recorded music. It’s important to keep in mind that when you hear a Bach dance suite, a Beethoven string quartet or a Strauss tone poem live in concert, you’re hearing it in through the media the composer originally intended, around which the composer marshalled their creative genius. Ultimately, we are appreciating a substantially different work when we listen to a recording, limited in its dynamic range, more homogenous with regards to colour, and lacking in the spectacular detail that characterises live performance. This is not to say that I don’t think there’s a place for recorded music or online concerts: I’m thankful every day for the existence of recorded music. Technology is a lifesaver for those who aren’t able to leave the house, whether due to a pandemic or otherwise. But ultimately, I’ll take the real thing any day of the week: the richness of live performance is more than worth the trip from the couch to the concert hall.


Alex Raineri, Piano

What is the difference between performing a live-streamed concert versus a live concert? Is there a big difference between the two and which do you prefer?

I think it's really exciting how this new sweep of digital artistic activity (albeit spurred on by unpleasant circumstances) has had some really positive effects. Artists are able to powerfully and much more immediately share our stories with the world, connecting us all through the powerful medium of music. Whilst I don’t believe that anything can replace the magic and thrill of engaging with a live sound in a beautiful acoustic, there are huge benefits to both live concerts and digital concerts, and I look forward to seeing how the arts industry embraces balancing these two modes of presentation into the future. I don’t have a preference either way. Music is music and it's a privilege to be making it, especially in these very strange times.


Alan Smith, Violin

Do you anticipate any challenge in the shift back towards live concerts?

Nothing beats the buzz of playing for a live audience. A large part of the thrill of being a professional musician is communication. It’s much harder to feel this connection when the listeners are not there in person. In a way, performing in this manner creates extra pressure, because the atmosphere feels more sterile. I’ve just performed my first live concerts in six months as concertmaster and soloist with the QSO. I felt unusually nervous beforehand, but once I walked out onto the stage I felt I was back where I belonged. My first performance back with the Southern Cross Soloists will be a particular highlight as I love the joy and intimacy of playing chamber music and I can’t wait to see all the familiar faces in the audience.




Southern Cross Soloists will perform SXS RETURNS live in the QPAC Concert Hall Stage on Sunday, October 18 at 3pm. For full details and ticket bookings, visit the QPAC website.

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