Ensemble Offspring Avante Garde House Concert

Rebecca Varidel
5th Mar 2023

Sydney contemporary music fans were enraptured with the intimate offering provided by Ensemble Offspring in the February house concert Avante Gardens 1 in Redfern. Now an annual Sydney musical experience, Sydney Scoop hurried to buy our tickets before they sold out. We will be back again for the March episode of Avante Gardens 2 for sure.

It's always a privilege to be invited into someone's home, don't you think? Words probably can't describe adequately just how marvellous it was to enjoy an up-close soiree in the home setting, wrapped in music and art. And it gets even better with a program that is so well considered and delivered.

Performing last Sunday afternoon were Claire Edwardes (Artistic Director, percussion), Jane Sheldon (soprano) and Lamorna Nightingale (flutes).

The program started with Mungala (Clouds) 2018 a piece by local Indigenous composer Brenda Gifford from the South Coast of NSW, performed by Larmona on the alto flute and Claire on percussion. As the name suggests the music evokes that experience of laying on the grass as a child, looking up at the sky and watching the clouds. Was that a favourite game of yours too?

Next was a new work and World Premiere that was commissioned by Ensemble Offspring, and the young Conservatorium student and composer Courtney Cousins was with us in the audience. This is the first of the afternoon where we hear the five-octave marimba, which in a rare treat for us, Claire Edwards explains doesn't get to leave her house much. It truly is a beautiful musical instrument. Jane Sheldon joined Claire and Larmonato complete the trio. We then heard two pieces that were arranged this year Toward The Sea (1981, arranged 2023) by Japanese composer Tōru Takemitsu which combined silence and space into the piece. I look for this space in a busy life, and his fusion on occidental and oriental washed waves of calm and presence over me. Indeed, yes I could imagine the sea.

Throughout the 60 minute program of seven pieces, water was a theme and later we heard three movements from the 1986 Reflections on the Nature of Water by Jacob Druckman which was my favourite of the day, particularly the third movement performed, movement VI - which evoked those recent rainy days looking out at my back verandah at the torrential rain, listening to it pelting down on the corrugated verandah roof.

At the heart of the Avante Gardens 1 was the kind of music I haven't previously experienced live, a truly avant garde composition Beat Furrer - auf tönernen füssen.

Described as "a unique brand of living new music up-close", there were still a few tickets left for the next Ensemble Offspring Avante Gardens 2, this month - 25 and 26 March. A highly recommended musical experience.


Also highly recommended, Ensemble Offspring will also be performing at the intimate 70 seat space at Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre later this year.