The New West Symphony opens its 2011-12 season with a program called “Fire & Water,” performed in three concerts this weekend.
The show will open at 8 p.m. Friday in the Oxnard Performing Arts Center followed by performances at 8 p.m. Saturday in the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza and at 4 p.m. Sunday in Barnum Hall in Santa Monica.
The program, conducted by Sarah Ioannides, the Australian-born music director for the El Paso Symphony Orchestra, and featuring violinist Lara St. John as guest soloist, consists of three works: the Violin Concerto No. 1, Australian Postcards by Australian composer Matthew Hindson, Claude Debussy’s impressionistic tone poem La Mer and the suite prepared by Igor Stravinsky in 1919 from his 1910 ballet The Firebird.
Hindson, who was born in 1968 in the charmingly named Australian town of Wollongong, was educated at the University of Sydney and the University of Melbourne. He is chair of the Music Board of the Australian Council for the Arts, chair of the Composition Unit of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and guest music curator of the Campbelltown Arts Centre.
Hindson had this to say of his concerto: “The approach that I implemented in this piece was that of ‘Australian Postcards’ — i.e., a set of movements that in some way reflected an Australian place or outlook. I decided that each of the ‘postcards’ would portray contemporary rather than historical Australian culture. There are three movements. The first is based on a physical object, the wind turbine at Kooragang Island, near Newcastle [in New South Wales].”
The slow second movement is a bittersweet portrait of the backwater town of Westaway on the island of Tasmania. “Sometimes it would seem to be an idyllic existence living in a country town — no traffic or parking hassles, a clean environment with a strong sense of community amongst its residents,” Hindson said. “However, unemployment and a general atmosphere of boredom are possibly closer to the everyday reality. In Westaway, it seemed that every house had a for sale sign on it.”
And the third movement celebrates the Australian obsession with athletics and fitness. “Sport is an integral part of Australian life for most people, and one of the greatest celebrations in the yearly calendar is Grand Final Day,” he said. “The Grand Final in whatever sport is hyped up to be the greatest game of the year — a day of high emotions and high drama, of acrobatic feats and legendary skills. Parades are held before and after the big match. The thrill of your team winning the greatest prize of the year is unsurpassed.”
There is a section of Debussy’s La Mer called “From Dawn Until Noon on the Sea.” After composer Erik Satie attended a performance of the work, he remarked, “I liked the part at quarter to 11.”
Tickets to this weekend’s concerts can be ordered by phone at 800.New.West. Outside area codes 805 and 818, call 866.776.8400.
— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor.