Sunday 1 May, 2011

michelleleonard96x144Michelle Leonard, is the founding Artistic Director and conductor of the Leichhardt Espresso Chorus, the Moorambilla Voices Regional Children’s Choirs and Festival Director of the Moorambilla Festival. This is the fourth and final instalment of her blog!

Well it has been an AGE since i have written - please accept my apologies - but I have done a festival program, two major concerts and a tour since!

Since I last was online I have seen over 1900 children in workshops for Moorambilla Voices, Some of the funniest moments this year happened either on the road or in the schools (a very large black snake insisting on getting in to sing was one of them in Coolah!). This was such a wonderful way to reinforce the capacity of teachers to effect real change in the lives of students. Schools were so very happy to have us this year, and the standard of concentration in workshops, and calibre of singing has never been stronger. I was in tears on more than one occasion looking back at how far we have come in just 6 years! So many, many communities are now looking upon music in the classroom and in the wider community as something that "we need to get back". This is again a huge change in attitude from 6 years ago. I feel a great deal of credit for has to go to the continual positive campaign run by the music in communities network... if you were ever doubting it - ITS WORKING!



First round offers are now going out  for our program this year- and the festival flyer is up on the website ( - its been a busy, busy time - but so worth it!

The LEC did an absolutely wonderful job with their performance of Haydn’s Heiligmesse at St James Church, King Street (in Sydney). Our mentoring with 5 SYO players and one viola player from Trangie (in central west NSW) went so well with our professional SSO musicians that we are committed to doing it again for ALL future concerts! .To think this work has not been performed in Australia in 70 plus years has made it even more special. The post concert celebrations lasted as long as one would expect. ;-)

If you want to know more about the concert - or see the rather lovely golden program go to it has some nice pictures as well! 


Commissioning New Works - You've got to be crazy to do it but you're mad if you don't!

In my previous blog people were asking about the issues (like how ,why, when etc)surrounding commissioning new works for an ensemble particularly a community choir.

I suppose the short answer has a lot to do with artistic leadership - what you are hoping to achieve if you (and your singers, and committee) decide to go down this very exciting path.

It really is an adventure because you are not totally sure of what you will get - its an educated guess, and you will need luck, good management and a long term view, because not everything ‘fits’ every time.

To quote a very old saying: "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue." Many of us commission new works because we want to support the development and repertoire of Australian choral works. Others want a new artistic challenge. Sometimes it comes from the singers themselves who would like to become involved in the process, or who know of people who could write, or are interested in doing so themselves.Others still have heard of it being done and feel it is a natural progression in the life cycle of an organisation. Others want a new style or musical experience. All are valid motivators in my opinion.

Whatever your reason my advice is LISTEN, LISTEN and LISTEN some more to as many composers as you can. See what you can find out about their style of creating works. Some want text only and instrumentation, others really need to know the group. Others are motivated by fee, exposure or opportunity. Some like to draft, and redraft up until the last rehearsal(!) and others hand you a completed work and will not change a note. Timeframes can be SUPER flexible so be prepared in advance and try and make it work for the way your ensemble and most importantly you as the director prepare. I have found it does help to if you work well under pressure.

All of these aspects need to be considered BEFORE you start. Ultimately you as the director will be ‘steering the ship’ as it were. This is just one piece on a  concert program so you need to find others works to perform with it that work stylistically. Don’t forget you’ll need time to rehearse them all. ;-) Working well under pressure comes in handy here too!

My final word of advice is - be as upfront as you can about the fee. You may need to do more than one sausage sizzle to get the funds together! Keep an open mind. You are creating art, not purchasing something off a shelf. It is one of the most exciting things you can do. Its messy, unpredictable, and the process is full of human emotion and ego. Go gently and positively and you will be so pleased with the results. The process can often be far more exciting than the finished product. And most importantly - after all this work make sure you perform it more than once!