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Wesley Music Scholars’ New Pieces Program

This weekend, I attended a concert given by our Wesley Music Scholars. This is a joint program of Wesley Uniting Church and Wesley Music Centre in Canberra, which aims to support emerging professional musicians, many of whom study at the Australian National University.

The current cohort has been brought together with intentional diversity so that between them they may form duets, quartet, and accompany each other. And a number of the scholars are as proficient in one or two further instruments as they are in their nominated scholarly instrument.

The scholars give regular concerts for the Centre, and each give time through the year to bring music to worship gatherings for the congregation. This year we have further grown the offering from the scholars across the diverse breadth of our worship styles and gatherings, whereas previously they had been limited to classical offerings in our more traditional style worship.

There have been 134 scholars through the program so far, as well as about ten students per year in the ACT Organ School, administered by the Wesley Music Centre. Our scholars have gone on to varied careers as performers, teachers, church musicians, in Australia and beyond. There is a sense of real joy when former scholars come ‘home’ to Wesley. So many have built rich relationships with the congregation as a whole and with individual members, as well as with Centre staff, board members, and volunteers. And, one former scholar is now our congregation’s Choir Conductor and Music Coordinator.

music notes and Christmas bauble

This blog category is where I ‘review’ theatre, film, music, and books. I haven’t posted here much, and so hope to share more of the stories and art that nurtures my soul in future. So, to the concert.

As I told the musicians afterwards, I sat in my seat beaming throughout the concert. Not so much with the pride one might feel as ‘their’ minister, although there was some of that, I admit. More, however, I was beaming with joy at the music, joy as my soul bathed in it. These musicians played with skill and feeling that was a delight. This reflection on a music concert is going to be me telling you what, how, I felt.

1. Zoë. Mozart’s Oboe Concerto in C Major

I felt awe at Zoë’s technical facility. As an amateur woodwind player, I am always a tiny bit jealous of the skill of those more proficient, dedicated, gifted. More, though, I am at least proficient enough to appreciate what such a player is doing, and enjoy it. Thoroughly enjoy it. The pace and rhythm and melody of this piece made me feel as though my soul was dancing!

3. Anika, Brad, Yona, and James. Holst: St Paul’s Suite in C Major.

The four movements from this suite (V, VI, VII, VIII) were dynamic, energetic, complex, and brilliantly played with skill and feeling by this quartet. It took my breath away. And the way they were present with each other and in the music was part of the delight for me.

5. Yona. Hill’s Viola Concerto in A Minor.

I have this feeling with music sometimes, that I am sinking into a hammock and breathing a deep sigh. As Yona played the second movement of this Concerto, I leant back into the depth of resonance of both the piece and the instrument.

7. Martin. Piano pieces

Jazz. One of my real happy places. More sighs of grateful joy as Martin played Portrait of Tracey (Jack Pastorius) and I Remember You (Nat King Cole). I was transported to a 1920s or 30s jazz lounge. Loved it.

9. Brad and James. O Come, O come, Emmanuel

The Piano Guys’ arrangement of this piece is sublime. Brad and James’s playing of it: sublime. Close my eyes, and it could have been The Piano Guys themselves. Can’t give higher praise than that.

2. Elsa. Three songs.

Purcell’s ‘Sweeter than roses’ (Pausanius, the Betrayer of his Country) seemed light to me. It made me smile.

‘Asturiana’ by Fall (Siete Canciones populares Españolas) was heart-rending. Elsa stood back with her hand on the piano, as if the singer of this song needed to hold on to something for surety, expressing sorrow.

‘As it is, plenty’, from Britten’s On this Island, was fun, and in singing it, Elsa exuded joy.

Across these three songs, Elsa sang with emotional expression from joy to sorrow and back to joy, and I absolutely went with her through that range.

4. Emma. Madrigal by Gaubert.

I marvelled, as I have before, at the quality of tone Emma evokes from her flute. The auditorium at Wesley Music Centre is of course a custom-built acoustic gem, and I noticed the gift that is to the music with the way Emma’s flute floated that madrigal into the room around us.

6. James. Dialogo by Ligeti

This first movement of the Sonata for Solo Cello is a technical delight. James seemed to thoroughly enjoy playing it, and playing it for us. If I am right, and the title refers to ‘conversation’, this did feel for me like that back and forth of dynamic, engaged, conversation. Superb. An unexpected delight.

8. Jess and Martin. My Funny Valentine

Still in the jazz lounge, enjoying two fabulous musicians enjoying the music, improvising, having fun with it, making it their own. gorgeous.

Sound Unforgettable

I am, after all, proud. Proud of the Music Centre and the Congregation members and staff who bring these students into our scholarship program. Proud of these musicians who belong with us for a time. Proud – or delighted; filled with joy that this happens, that we get to enjoy such music, and that we commit to supporting musicians who are and will go on to bring the gift of music to so many through their careers. And I am looking forward to more great music in 2022.

If you would like to find out more about Music at Wesley or the Scholarship program, do check out the Wesley Music Centre.