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Peninsula Summer Garden Party showcases new musical talent
If the musical talent on show at the Peninsula Summer Garden Party is anything to go by, Australian music has a very bright future. Billed as 'an exclusive event showcasing the rising generation of Australia's musicians', the garden party was held in the beautiful grounds of Elgee Park Winery, Dromana.
Patrons were treated to some top drops (the pinot noir was a standout) and matching canapés, as well as to an interesting programme that included a selection of Bach inventions, a smattering of Bach-inspired improv by young performers Emily Sheppard (violin) and Robert Manley (cello), and a work by little-known Australian composer of the 1950s and 60s Don Banks demonstrating the discernible influence of Bach in the 1950s Australian musical landscape.
The combination of violin and cello is cellist Robert Manley's favourite formation, rather than the more common trio or quartet, and the interplay between the two instruments served as a reminder of the 'call and answer' nature of most musical composition. Their performance was simultaneously sympathetic and dynamic, and well-received by the 'exclusive' audience. The cost of the tickets included a substantial donation which, though well-intentioned, may have inadvertently added to the 'exclusivity' of the evening. It would be great to see an optional donation introduced.
Minor quibbles about ticket prices were swept aside by the arrival onstage of Weekend Notes' favourite harpist Marshall McGuire, a safe pair of hands to lead the audience home. In line with the prevailing Bach/Australian theme of the evening, he started with an aria from Bach's Goldberg Variations, followed by works by Paul Dean and (largely unsung) Australian composer Peggy Glanville-Hicks. The audience favourite, judging by the scarcity of dry eyes in the house by its conclusion, was from what McGuire calls the "Nymphs and Shepherds" period of harp music: a little heart-breaker by the name of La Source by Belgian composer Alphonse Hasselmans.
The evening was concluded by an even bigger heart-breaker performed by Emily Sheppard and Marshall McGuire: The Meditation from Massenet's opera Thaïs. The spectacle of young Emily playing a piece that she loved, accompanied by an unrehearsed McGuire whose breadth of experience and professionalism was more than equal to the task, was somehow symbolic of the spirit of nurturing and supporting our emerging musical talent that prevailed throughout the evening.
Why? An exclusive event at one of the Peninsula’s most unique properties, Elgee Park, showcasing a new generation of Australia’s musicians….and introducing the world’s greatest champion of new music for the harp: Marshall McGuire.