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Melbourne String Ensemble's Benchmark Concert

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by Anna Matina (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer living in Melbourne who enjoys food, travel, art & literature.
Performing Vivaldi's Four Seasons with Jennen Ngiau-Keng
This month, The Melbourne String Ensemble held their annual Benchmark Concert. This year, the benchmark soloist was Jennen Ngiau-Keng who performed Vivaldi's Four Seasons accompanied by the Melbourne String Ensemble (MSE).

The Melbourne String Ensemble
The Melbourne String Ensemble

Jennen was born in Melbourne and started playing violin at the age of six. An Australian National Academy of Music alumnus, Jennen went on to win hundreds of awards and prizes in music competitions and has performed over 50 concertos with orchestras and been guest concertmaster of various orchestras (including the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra and the Victorian Opera Orchestra). He has also performed as a guest principal with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra and Orchestra Victoria, has toured Australia and overseas with the Australian Chamber Orchestra and obtained a Master of Music Performance degree from the University of Tasmania; and all this by the age of 31!

Jennen Ngiau-Keng rehearsing with the Melbourne String Ensemble
Jennen Ngiau-Keng rehearsing with the Melbourne String Ensemble

By far Vivaldi's most famous concerto, The Four Seasons was first composed in 1725 and is made up of four violin concertos: one for each season. Spring is perhaps the most well-known; however, winter has always been my favourite and I was not at all disappointed by this wonderful performance. The concert was spectacular and moving; Jennen's playing was awe-inspiring and full of emotion and you could see that the more junior members of the ensemble relished the opportunity to perform with someone of Jennen's calibre. I was taken aback by the amazing talent of both Jennen and the Melbourne String Ensemble that is comprised of secondary and tertiary students.

Jennen Ngiau-Keng performing with The Melbourne String Ensemble
Jennen Ngiau-Keng performing with The Melbourne String Ensemble

The Junior Melbourne String Ensemble (comprising string players from ages 9 through 12) also performed on the night playing three wonderful pieces. My favourite was "Fright Night", an arrangement by Leroy Moore that is a medley of popular 'scary' music including Jaws, Psycho, The Addams Family, The Sorcerer's Apprentice and The Phantom of the Opera to name a few. It was a fun piece and was played superbly by the junior members. Again, I was blown away by the talent of these young and aspiring musicians.

The Junior Melbourne String Ensemble
The Junior Melbourne String Ensemble

The concert program also included Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis by Ralph Vaughn Williams, Three seas by Karen Kyriakou, Brook Green Suite by Gustav Holst and Gioachino Rossini's Sonata No. 1 in G Major for String Quartet.

The MSE has an annual program typically consisting of a benchmark concert and concerto concert as well as an interstate or overseas tour. The MSE also tours and performs jointly with interstate and overseas youth orchestras.

Their next performance will be a chamber concert in December. Information regarding this and upcoming performances can be found on their Facebook page and for enrolment enquiries, please email
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*Anna Matina was invited as a guest
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