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SXS Triumphs Against The Odds

Updated: Jun 6

Unpredicted programme and line-up substitutions, as well as a change in artistic leadership, the Soloists rose to the occasion and delivered a programme that showcased their virtuosic skills and versatility.

Sunday afternoon's concert Perfumes of the East, started with a powerful Welcome to Country by Wakka Wakka man, and SXS Didgeridoo Artist in Residence, Chris Williams, followed by the World Premiere of Juwoon, Tu, Ngyin’anga (Country, Heart, Life). This World Premiere performance was commissioned by SXS as part of our ongoing SXS Didgeridoo Commissioning Project 2022 - 2032 and co-composed by Stephen Leek and Chris Williams. This is the first time the project has commissioned a new work to include voice, which was sung by rising star, Koa, Kuku Yalanji, Wakka Wakka soprano, Nina Korbe. This was a poignant moment for Korbe as she sang in Wakka Wakka language. Cultural consultancy was conducted by Wakka Wakka Elder Professor Kevin Williams.

Suzannah Conway stated:

"This piece proved to be a major highlight of the concert – the haunting sound of the didgeridoo matched expertly by the text of traditional songs, played passionately by SXS woodwind and strings. Lyrical and melodic, this evocative and ravishingly beautiful composition showed off Williams’ finely crafted, powerfully executed didgeridoo. Korbe’s ethereal and soaring vocals were rich with meaning, while her warm and powerful soprano rose easily above the excellent accompaniment by strings and woodwind."

Acting Artistic Director, Dr. Ashley Smith, then announced the unfortunate news that international pianist and SXS Artist in Residence, Konstantin Shamray, was unable to play in the concert due to illness. The Soloists rose to the occasion by adding two Mozart works (Don Giovanni's overture, and the Clarinet Quintet in A major) in lieu of the programmed Saint-Saёns Piano Concerto No.5, The Egyptian.

SXS then delighted the audience with Ravel’s Vocalise-étude en forme de Habanera, followed by Ravel’s Cinq mélodies populaires grecques, and finally Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Nightingale and the Rose, Op.2 No.2.

Originally a vocal work, featured guest violinist, Amalia Hall, played the technically demanding vocalise showcasing her virtuosic skills. Nina Korbe then joined the ensemble for a new arrangement of Ravel's Cinq mélodies populaires grecques by John Rotar. "Korbe sparkled, showcasing her burgeoning vocal talent" (Dr Gemma Regan, Limelight). From weddings to moments of reflection in the song cycle, Nina took us on a journey through Ravel's interpretation of Greek peasant life. To finish this musical bracket, 2nd violinist Courtenay Cleary, joined Korbe for an intimate performance of Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Nightingale and the Rose, Op.2 No.2.

Vivaldi’s Concerto for Viola d’amore had SXS core violist James Wannan cheerfully dancing between Amalia Hall (violin), Courtenay Cleary (violin) and Andre Duthoit (cello). Wannan's energy and unique instrument amazed the audience.

One of the biggest highlights was the last minute inclusion of Mozart Clarinet Quintet, chosen by Dr Ashley Smith as his favourite piece from his favourite composer. A delightful performance, this offered SXS core clarinettist an opportunity to show why is he one of the leading clarinettist in the country.

"What is entrancing about this group is their ability to perform whilst standing, cello and piano an exception of course, so there is additional invigorating and expressive choreography to the performances to view, well capturing the phrasing and personal interpretation of the music at hand, and with body!" - Brian Adamson, Stage Whispers


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