Our first Australia Tour took place in February 2020. Each member of the touring party contributed a blog post – we hope you enjoy reading!
- Wednesday 12 February 2020 — Guy James
- Thursday 13 February 2020 – Mike Craddock
- Saturday 15 February 2020 – Josh Cooter
- Monday 17 February 2020 – Sam Mitchell
- Tuesday 18 February 2020 – Joseph Wicks
- Thursday 20 February 2020 – Owain Park
In all of the three cities we have visited during our tour we have been seduced by an array of options for a delicious brunch. Most of us headed to a delightful Asian fusion cafe called Humble Rays, where a ‘Belly Dancing’ stack of pancakes sat quite at home next to a seasame dukkah mushroom on toast. Culinary desires satiated, we located an excellent flat white from The Queensberry Pour House, before visiting Andrea Katz, Tutor in Music at Melbourne University and artistic director of Songmakers Australia, at The Ian Potter Southbank Centre, the new home of Melbourne’s Conservatorium of Music.
Situated in the heart of Melbourne’s Arts Precinct, the Conservatorium is home to a host of designer teaching spaces and practice rooms, not to mention several first-rate recital halls. We sang William Byrd’s Miserere mihi Domine on stage at the Hanson Dyer Hall. Normally we find this music works best in a church or cathedral, but it is thrilling when the sound works in a concert hall that has been meticulously designed with voices in mind.
After recording a travel blog segment for our upcoming podcast, we headed to Brunswick for our rehearsal at Tempo Rubato, the venue for our collaborative concert with Songmakers Australia. With our sound check complete, Mike and Guy took charge of front of house, welcoming our audience members and providing them with a stamp, as if they were entering a nightclub. With the promise of a complimentary beer from the house subject to good behaviour, spirits were high. Songmakers Australia opened the performance with Mozart’s Six Notturni for 3 voices and piano, which we then followed with a sacred set of pieces that included works by Tallis, Poulenc, Bednall, and my setting of Phos hilaron.
All profits from Tempo Rubato go to Piano Project, a Melbourne-based charity that sponsors piano lessons for children who are new immigrants. After the interval, during which we were sorely tempted to begin our charitable contributions, we returned to the stage to perform a secular set, with folk songs from around the world. We rotated the strike with Songmakers Australia, who sang works by Mendelssohn and Schubert, before joining forces to perform Brahms’ Ziegeunerlieder Op. 103, followed by Calvin Bowman’s beautiful setting of words by Alfred Lord Tennyson, Crossing the Bar. It was an exhilarating end to the concert, and with little encouragement, we joined the audience in crossing to the bar, taking great delight in handing over any final per diems in exchange for delicious local pours.
The final few moments of our tour can be briefly summed up: a 24-hour Greek restaurant, two productive meetings in Melbourne, travelling to the airport listening to our ABC broadcast in the car, and a tiring 23-hour return journey via Singapore. We have now returned to our respective homes and, although a little groggy and bleary-eyed, I have had some time to reflect on the past 10 days.
Our first tour to Australia has been a fantastic experience. We have performed live to over 2000 people, and reached many more through our ABC broadcasts and social media channels. We have had an enormous amount of fun, and it has been heartening to discover common ground with audience members and performers on the other side of the world through our music-making. I would like to thank all those who made the tour possible, including the team at Hazard Chase, our festival and performer contacts in Australia, and of course the G6 chaps who have been such great company throughout. We are greatly looking forward to our future tours, the first of which takes place in the UK during Holy Week (2-10 April 2020). The next episode of The G6 Podcast includes a segment about our trip to Australia, focusing on the collaborations, favourite food and more about our cricketing endeavours. #G6inAus – Out!
After a very efficient hop over from Adelaide lasting barely more than an hour (the exceptionally clear weather for which enabling an extraordinary view of many dried out river beds and lakes), we ventured out once more into the searing heat of a taxi pick up zone, this time at Melbourne Airport.
We had a fair journey to take in order to reach our city centre hotel, and this only served to inform those of us who were first time visitors (of which I am one) just how vast Melbourne is compared to Adelaide or even Perth. We had landed in the early afternoon, giving us plenty of time for a relax/acclimatise (can someone please explain to me why there are time zones only 30 minutes apart?) once we had checked in, before heading out for our first rehearsal here (more on our Melbourne collab project later).
As if we had thought this through beforehand, we then managed to arrive at the stunning St Kilda coastline just as the sun set. The rest of the lads were keen to head to the end of the long breakwater, merely (I thought) to get a good picture of the sun setting. Once this opportunity quite literally faded away, I gave up running, deciding to save my feet and lower legs from flip flop induced amputation, instead observing the sky change colour constantly (getting some excellent pictures along the way with my new phone – a long overdue purchase).
However, once I arrived at the end of the breakwater, I realised what all the fuss was about… WILD PENGUINS! ?
There followed one of the most magical 30 minutes of the tour certainly for me and I imagine for the rest of the lads too, observing the mini penguins arriving ashore on the rocks to malt their feathers, having been out all day in the sea fishing. There was quite the throng of people turning out to see them, and it was good to see several wildlife protectors out to ensure the safety of the penguins by keeping folks back from the path edge nearest the off-the-scale-cute animals. Following this truly enchanting bonus adventure, we adjourned for a delicious Italian meal, after which Owain, Guy and Mike managed to take in a rooftop bar for some stunning panoramic views of the cityscape skyline.
The next morning was a relaxed one on our schedule, but unfortunately the weather turned a little electric, harbouring most of us to the exceptional coffee shop scene in the city.
Not so for me! Keen followers of the group will know of the collective cricket craze, but I fly the flag almost exclusively for all things Formula One. As a trip to Perth could not be done without a trip to the WACA for most of us, a trip to Melbourne (for me at least) could not be taken without checking out the Albert Park Grand Prix Circuit which hosts the season opening Australian Grand Prix every March. The track (although open year round as public roads) was a hive of activity as barriers and grandstands were being constructed and gravel traps laid. My taxi in fact dropped me off in the pit lane which was very firmly behind some sort of invisible security cordon (my apologies to security for that), and I was also amused to see some black swans crossing the track/public highway, causing traffic to stop and for a truck driver to have to get out and shoo them off! At over 5km long, it’s one of the longest tracks on the calendar, but I had to call it a day a third of the way round at Turn 4 (which is in fact a car park most of the time) when the heavens opened in a big way. Still, a very exciting and eye-opening experience for me: the 20 minute walk I undertook is achieved by F1 cars in 20 seconds!
We are delighted to be collaborating with the brilliant Songmakers Australia in repertoire the like of which G6 has not performed before, principal among which are the fantastic Zigeunerlieder of Brahms. Combining this cheeky romanticism with some Mozart from the Songmakers and some of our home rep has been a truly eclectic collaboration and one that will live long in the memory for us!
After a successful lunchtime concert it was time to set off again to our next stop, Adelaide. As someone who had never ventured into the Southern Hemisphere, the four-hour flight from Perth to Adelaide gave me some real perspective as to how enormous this country is. In fact, as I learned from Guy earlier, the moon can fit through Australia itself!
With a pleasant flight behind us, we were picked up and taken to our accommodation, which was set amongst beautiful rolling hills packed with vineyards and where kangaroos roam free. Sadly no such creatures were seen, probably due to the previous wet weather, but it was lovely to perform with such a beautiful vista behind us.
After our concert we were taken to another lovely hotel, this time right by Adelaide airport, where we could enjoy a competitive yet convivial game of pool, bringing quite a tiring 48 hours to a relaxing conclusion.
The next morning was spent watching Joseph being swallowed by the electric massage chair as we waited to board the plane to Melbourne, where we await a feast of Brahms, beaches and botanical gardens. This is the life!
With our stomachs full from brunch we headed to our venue, Winthrop Hall, a gorgeous space situated in the heart of Perth University for the preparations for our concert which we were able to perform in the round to a sold-out audience. Our concert, and Australian Debut, featured a huge variety of music. Not only did we perform Thomas Tallis’s ‘Spem in Alium’ and local composer Cara Fesjian’s ‘Ode to Ode’, both requiring 40 singers, but we also had the great opportunity to be involved in William Barton’s piece ‘Kalkadunga Yurdu’ featuring his virtuosic didgeridoo playing.
It’s been hugely rewarding working with The Giovanni Consort and Voyces during our time in Perth and it was great to socialise with some of the choral scene of Perth with a celebratory beer, or two, after the concert. However, with the awareness that we still had a lunchtime concert looming the next day, we bid our farewell to our new friends to get some well-needed beauty sleep.
Maybe it was another hit of jetlag, or possibly because we were close to the end of our stay in Perth and we just didn’t want to leave the comforts of our lovely hotel beds, but it seemed that this beauty sleep was well needed as arising early the next morning seemed harder for some of us than others. However, once we were all rounded up by our ever trusty Artist Liaison Officer Jenna Costello, who has been nothing short of amazing during our stay in Perth, we headed back again to Winthrop Hall for our second concert of Perth Festival to perform pieces from our English Motets programme. After a cracking concert for one of our members, it was lovely to have a chat to the people coming to our concerts. Especially nice was the surprise of Joseph being reunited with the couple that were sat next to him on the flight over to Australia and who’d decided, on a whim, to use up some of their holiday in order to come and see us.
It was, however, sadly time for us to say goodbye to Perth. For those of you who haven’t had the chance to experience Perth Festival it really is quite special. From Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas played under a canopy of trees to a Brass Quintet concert happening in the midst of a well-needed rain shower whilst onlookers played croquet, everywhere you look there is something fascinating happening and we feel immensely fortunate to have been invited to be part of it. We hope that we can come back soon!
Day 3 in Perth began early for yours truly, as I continued valiant and potentially futile efforts to stave off jetlag with an early morning swim and gym. Following these exertions we headed for a second visit to the delicious cheese toastie cafe Toastface Grillah, and coffee shopped around the city before heading to what would be one of the real highlights of our visit for me – a tour round the WACA, Perth’s iconic cricket ground.
Joseph, Owain, Guy and I had the full WA experience, getting to walk out to the middle, do a run up in the nets, and explore the inner workings of a ground I have watched England get pasted into the dirt more times than I would care to remember. Shout out to Roy, our tour guide, who put up with all kinds of inane questioning from resident anoraks Guy and yours truly.
Post the WACA, and some very spicy thai food at the State Buildings, we headed off to UWA for our second rehearsal with the Giovannis and Voyces, which only fanned the flames of our excitement further for Friday night’s concert, as we put the final touches on Spem in Alium.
Thursday night’s food showing was excellent, as we headed off to late night diner spot the Moon, where a smorgasbord of deliciously unhealthy food and pleasingly cold beer was consumed. We needed a good sleep, as the next morning our man on the inside at the cricket facilities at Trinity College, Rob Braham of Voyces, had arranged an early morning net for us.
We arrived at 8:30am on Friday in various states of lucidity and limberness, but after everyone had got the pads on and faced a few deliveries whistling past the nose, instincts kicked in and everyone carried themselves magnificently. Sam “Whispering Death” Mitchell whispered his death with a full bunger into my hip, which has turned a lovely shade of purple, and I have not quite forgiven him for.
All in all cricket was the winner, and our physical health and wellbeing was definitely the loser (we’ve been slacking on our off-season training). After a quick jump in the infinity pool back in the ranch to de-stress, we headed off to the artists’ brunch at Government House. It was brilliant to meet some of the other musicians at the festival, and continue Perth’s fine track record of outstanding food and drink – I needed a lot of uuice as by this point the mercury had hit 37 degrees!
We’ve really crammed so much into our all too brief stay in beautiful Perth, and i haven’t even got on to talking about the concerts yet. Come back for our next post to read Josh’s musings on our two gigs at the Winthrop Hall, and journey across Oz to the Adelaide Hills. Mike out!
Greetings from Perth, where I sit with the whole gang after a very long second day down under. Battling jet-lag we have spent a lovely day leading a choral workshop and starting rehearsals for Ancient Voices. The weather is beautiful here, and we can sit outside late in just our tour polo shirts. I woke far too early and surprised myself by going to explore King’s Park with a famously excellent Australian coffee, seeing some Jellyfish and local flora on the way. Yesterday after arriving we explored the Quayside and enjoyed some cold schooners of local refreshment at at the famous Lucky Shag. The sunset was beautiful and after a short walk, some falling asleep in restaurants and some accidental damage to keys (looking at you, Sam), we were all off to get some much-needed sleep.
It’s hard to say that we enjoyed the 16-hour flight, but it was a humbling experience to travel all the way past Berlin, Kiev, Kolkata and Phuket before the Australian West cost sailed past us.
Everyone at Perth Festival has been incredibly kind and accommodating, it’s such a tonic to see so many young people so passionate about the nitty-gritty of making classical music happen.
Before leaving England we performed English Motets in the Round Church in our spiritual home of Cambridge, and then sadly had a concert in Malvern Priory cancelled due to Storm Ciara. Stranded in London, we decided to try to make it up a little to the disappointed Malvern public by doing a Facebook live concert. Venue sought and found, it was lovely to perform to a virtual audience and to be able to reach many people who had been stuck at home by the terrible weather.
Tomorrow will include tours of famous cricket grounds, some time on the famous beaches of WA and lunch at team favourite Little Creatures before more rehearsals in the evening. I shall leave you now to get to bed. Perth is a wonderful city, which is changing fast, and it’s a joy to be here and to work with local singers. Bring on the first two concerts of the tour!